Local Leaders Speak Out Against Toll Increase

Local Leaders Speak Out Against Toll Increase

Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) is the latest Loudoun County politician to express his opposition to the proposed toll increase on the Dulles Greenway, joining U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) and the Board of Supervisors.

In a Sept. 7 letter to the State Corporation Commission clerk Joel Peck, Marshall said the toll increase would unfairly burden county residents who rely on the Greenway for commuting.

"Most commuters can budget for a reasonable increase in the cost of transportation," he wrote. "Very few working families can budget for such a steep increase."

TOLL ROAD Investors Partnership II (TRIP II), the owners of the Dulles Greenway, has proposed a toll increase to a ceiling of $4.80 by 2012, $1.60 more than the current $3.20 peak hour toll. Drivers now pay $3 for nonpeak hours. A 20 percent higher rush hour toll would be put in place during three hours in the morning on east-bound traffic and three hours in the afternoon for west-bound traffic.

According to the scheduled proposed by TRIP II, by Jan. 1, 2009 drivers would be paying $3.40 during off-peak hours and $4 during rush hours. July 1, 2010 the tolls would increase to $3.70 and $4.50, respectively. The final increase to $4 during non-peak hours and $4.80 during rush hours would occur Jan. 1, 2012.

Marshall said that the proposed increase would make the Greenway one of the most expensive toll highways in the country.

"A toll of $4.80 on the 14-mile Greenway equates to 34 cents per mile," Marshall wrote. "It seems to me that when comparisons are made around the country, 34 cents per mile seems ridiculously high."

The State Corporation Commission sets all toll rates for the state of Virginia.

ON SEPT. 5, WOLF wrote a similar letter to Peck, urging the State Corporation Commission to reject the proposal.

"I also believe it is unreasonable for TRIP II to increase its rate of return by nearly 100 percent in less than six years," Wolf wrote in his letter.

The day after sending his request to Peck, Wolf wrote a letter calling for a local public hearing.

"For a matter so important to working families in Northern Virginia, I believe it is incumbent upon the SCC to hear from the public about the impact of such a toll increase."

The same day, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution opposing the proposed toll increase at its business meeting, also stating they believed it was important to give county residents a chance to weigh in.

The Supervisors asked that "the State Corporation Commission hold public hearings in Loudoun County at a time and place where affected Dulles Greenway users would be available to comment directly to the commission."

The board said it was concerned about the impact the increased toll would have on residents and commuters.

"Loudoun County business owners are likely to see a reduction of traffic to the county due to the toll increase," the resolution said, "and no provision is made in the proposed toll increase to institute distance-based tolling making user benefit equitable."

KEN SCHRAD, director of the State Corporation Commission's Division of Information Resources, said that the responses are all a part of the public input period, which does not end until Sept. 28. Schrad said public hearings would not be scheduled and a decision will not be made until the comment period is over.

"The request for comment and public hearing does not end until the end of the month," he said. "When it does end the commission will make a decision on what the next step should be."