The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board voted Wednesday to raise fees on the Dulles Toll Road through 2014, but held off on raising rates for 2015.
As expected, starting Jan. 1, 2013, drivers will pay 25 cents more at the main toll plaza and at on/off ramps for a total of $2.75. In 2014, the rates will rise to $3.50. But the board put off approving an increase for 2015, in hopes of securing alternative sources of funding.
In deciding not to set 2015 toll rates, the board noted that the potential for low cost financing afforded by a TIFIA loan, combined with the potential for additional financial assistance from the Commonwealth and possibly other sources, along with the potential for a competitively priced Phase 2 Silver Line construction contract at less than the estimated cost, could significantly reduce the size of toll increases needed in 2015 and future years.
If the availability of additional funding, along with the contract cost of Phase 2 construction, becomes known prior to June 30, 2013, the Board indicated it may revisit the need to establish rates for 2015 using the current public record.
However, any rates the Board then would set would not exceed the 2015 rates recommended by the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee ($3.00 at the main plaza and $1.50 on ramps).
The toll increases are necessary in part to fund construction of the Silver Line Phase 2, the Metrorail extension that will run from Reston's Wiehle Avenue to Loudoun County.
Currently, drivers pay $1.50 at the main toll plaza and 75 cents at on/off ramps for a total of $2.25. The new rates will take effect Jan. 1 of each year.
The first phase of the Silver Line was partially funded by $900 million of federal money. Phase 1, which will connect Falls Church to Reston, is slated to open in December 2013.
Toll revenue is expected to fund more than half the $5.6 billion cost of building the rail line.
The board also welcomed a new member, Elaine McConnell, a former Fairfax County supervisor. She replaces Dennis Martire, a labor official who stepped down from the board last month, after a confidential settlement was reached in a dispute with Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).
Several hundred people attended a series of public hearings, including one in Reston, on the toll increases.
Reston Citizens Association and its Reston2020 group have been very vocal opponents of rising tolls. The group says that many drivers will be forced to clog other roads to avoid paying tolls. They also predict tolls may rise exponentially over the next 20 years.
Terry Maynard of Reston2020 said having toll users pay for the bulk of Phase 2 is "unwise and wrong."
"The toll increase approved today by the MWAA Board of Directors was fully expected, if unwelcome," he said. "We appreciate that MWAA wants to line up the needed $1.7 billion financing for Phase 2 before they proceed to a contract award decision in mid-May 2013, but having toll road users service that debt is unwise and wrong.
"The-55 percent increase in toll costs over the next two years--more than $500 per year for a toll road commuter--far exceeds in expected gains in incomes. One small hope is that MWAA and its local funding partners, Loudoun and Fairfax counties, will garner some low-interest financing from the TIFIA program this year. We hope they do, but the funds available for loan is so small nationally ($750 million) and the number and size of requests nationally --totaling $27 billion--is so large, it is hard to imagine that any TIFIA funding for Metrorail construction will have a significant impact on tolls."
What do you think of the rising tolls? Will it change your toll road plans?
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