News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another Public Hearing on Toll Road Hikes. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

pca_573_02_11v.jpgAs construction on Metro's awesome Silver Line extends out of the hellhole urban oasis of Tysons Corner and onto the Toll Road, you may have thought to yourself, "Gee, those endless rows of orange cones must have cost a bundle. Wonder who's going to pay for them?"

Who, exactly. Better dig out that jar of change.

Currently MWAA plans to increase the main toll plaza by 25 cents each year for three consecutive years, resulting in a total increase of 75 cents by 2012. It would also increase the on- and off-ramp tolls from 50 cents to 75 cents beginning Jan. 1, 2010.
The Reston Association has already voted to support the toll hikes. But some people are not happy! Among them, the Dulles Corridor Users Group, which was established in 2005 by Chris Walker, who developed Cascades Business Center and Parkridge Business Park closer to home in Reston. In August, his group sued to stop the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority from collecting tolls as a means of funding the Silver Line extension. While that little chestnut wends its way through the legal system, the MWAA is holding a series of public meetings on the toll hikes, including one next from 5-8pm next Wednesday, September 9, at South Lakes High School.

Yay! A public hearing, right here in Reston! The last one of those went so well, after all. For some reason, though, throwing a bunch of quarters into a filthy basket on an off-ramp hasn't engendered as much of an outcry as death panels and stabbing grannies in the back. At the first of these hearings in Ashburn, fewer than 50 people attended, and many of those that did complained about the format. Apparently they weren't excited about seeing the "exhibits about the Metrorail project, including details about the cost and financing of the rail project, details about the Dulles Toll Road, planned improvements, revenue projections under the toll increase scenario and information on how the money raised from tolls is to be spent." Maybe they should jazz those exhibits up with some, you know, rad '80s art.

Here's part of what the Dulles Corridor Users Group is saying on its "web-site," including a claim that tolls will eventually reach as high as $11 and change by 2047. Which is silly, since by then there will be no oil and society will have crumbled and we'll all be hiding in the post-apocalyptic rubble from our evil cyborg masters. But anyhoo!
Most local residents are unaware that Dulles Rail total costs include not only the estimated $5.3 BILLION CAPITAL COST but $18 BILLION or more in FINANCING COSTS to be paid by DTR users. Additionally, $8 BILLION or more in OPERATING COST DEFICITS could result from Dulles Rail operations during the next 40 years.

Under MWAA plans, unless financial structure changes are made, DTR toll revenues will increase from $65 million in 2009 to $110 million in 2012. The financing plan projects future tolls of $220 million in 2020 and over $500 million annually in the 2040’s with further toll increases likely to cover long overdue improvement and repair costs. As a result, you can expect to pay $11 or more in tolls each way from Herndon and Reston to Tysons Corner, even more if you are Dulles Greenway user.

The MWAA toll increase public hearing process is designed to prevent the public from learning about widespread opposition to planned toll increases.. A recent poll showed that over 90% of those voting claim present tolls are high enough already. Most Dulles Corridor residents and workers believe that DTR tolls collected during the last 25 years should be used to end tolling as occurred elsewhere in Virginia.

Can't find the time to painstakingly hand-letter an angry sign or block out a play in time for next Wednesday's hearing? You can learn more about the hearing process or comment here.

13 comments:

  1. so where do these poor folks go...???

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  2. The Bloke From Charter OakSeptember 3, 2009 at 12:57 PM

    As one of many Reston ---> Tyson's/Tegucigalpa commuters I'd personally like to say that the sooner I can take my sedan off of the Route 7 Conga Line and walk my hind quarters back and forth to the Metro station the better for my sanity! If the Silver Line were extended all the way out to Leesburg, then perhaps most of these newfangled Loudoun County soccer moms whining about the potential toll hikes after already getting raked over the coals by the GreedWay could also take mass transit?

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  3. <<< sorry for the first post above -- wrong thread >>>

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  4. I absolutely agree with getting the Silver Line in -- and yes -- get it all the way to Leesburg. I can't wait, to walk to a station and go downtwon...

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  5. The Bloke From Charter OakSeptember 3, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    I already serve as a designated driver for if and when a carful of my co-workers or friends want to enjoy the occasional Friday night outing in the District, so if we could WALK from my current abode (albeit ever so humble and earth-toned) to a new train station and back, that would really save me the trouble of constantly driving us to Fairfax or Falls Church and might let me enjoy a drink of my own! A year after the Silver Line opens I can GUARANTEE rush-hour traffic congestion on Route 7 decreases. Why wasn't this idea considered sooner---as in BEFORE Reston grew to become NoVA's largest community outside the Beltway?

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  6. The Bloke -- it's been on the plans for a few decades now. At least three I think and the plan from the beginning of Metro was to get it out to the Dulles Airport. It was mostly a matter of finding funding and getting through all the red tape.

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  7. I think also a lot of 'burbers were afraid of urbers coming and stealing from them.

    The only detriment to the Silverline is that there will not be express lines from the Airport.

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  8. Sigh...I just don't think this meeting at South Lakes High School about Toll Road fares has the same potential for entertaining street theater of the absurd as did the August 25 town hall meeting on health care reform. Wonder if the now-infamous (450,000 YouTube views and still counting) Officer Wesley "This Ain't America No More" Cheeks of the Fairfax County school security force will be there to once again offer his unique interpretation of the First Amendment, i.e., protest signs OK, protest signs with pictures not OK.

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  9. Anonymous 1:55 -- "I think also a lot of burber were afraid of urbers coming and stealing from them." Well, they're here. They live in the area near Hunters Woods Shopping Center and they're stealing from us. When you read the police reports that say "no fixed address" it can mean homeless, but it can mean "moving between addresses so nobody catches me, man"

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  10. The Bloke From Charter OakSeptember 4, 2009 at 8:48 AM

    In regards to the "burbers fearing the urbers" why is it that the most "desirable" (and correspondingly most expensive) rentals to be found in the region are clustered near to Orange Line Metro stations? Arlington has VERY heavy Metro traffic, and it doesn't seem to have suffered any sort of quality-of-life reduction because of it. Contrariwise it always ranks HIGHER on the "Best Places" listings than our own mauve wonderland. I actually have to laugh at some of Reston's old-timers who fear that Reston will become "Arlingtonized," as if to imply Arlington is a nefarious place along the lines of Gary, IN or Camden, NJ. I don't think I'll ever fully understand why so many here are in opposition to infrastructural measures that will permit Reston to become a much more walkable and sustainable community, much as was Bob Simon's original intention. Two other places that have heavy commuter rail usage? Hoboken, NJ and Greenwich, CT. Are these violent crime hotbeds with urbers preying on the burbers? Not exactly. Ditto Vienna. Ditto Bethesda. Shall I continue?

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  11. Bloke,

    I currently live in downtown DC and previously along the Orange Line in Arlington. So I obviously enjoy being in walkable, Metro accessible areas. That being said -- there is more crime here in DC and along the Orange Line in Arlington than there is in auto dependent SFH subdivisions in Fairfax County. Look at the crime stats -- Oakton, Great Falls, North Reston, etc etc etc -- all have much lower crime rates.

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  12. The Bloke From Charter OakSeptember 8, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    Also bear in mind that Arlington has over 200,000 residents. DC has in the neighborhood of 600,000, if I'm not mistaken. Reston has 65,000. Naturally there will be proportionately higher crime (in most instances) in more heavily-populated areas. My point is merely to counter the objections that many have over mass transit coming to Reston because they're afraid we'll see our crime rate skyrocket. Do you really think some thug from Anacostia will want to ride a train all the way out to Reston to break into a home when they could have done the same thing much closer to where they live?

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  13. A sure sign that summer is over: Traffic on Wiehle Ave. this morning was backed up well past the Lake Anne dam. All those folks from Sterling and points west along Rt 7 trying to get to the toll road and office bldgs alon Sunset Hills. I certainly don't begrudge these folks trying to get to work. Just another symptom of Reston outgrowing its infrastructure. And it is only going to bet better once the Metro comes to town...er... plannned community.

    Consider the rumored move by RA to vacate the covenants governing the I-zone (straddling the toll road and the to-be Silver line). Goodbye sterile office campuses and hello denser development. So RA, go for it and selectively vacate those covenants. Class-action anyone?

    How about roadways that can handle the traffic? Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, build out the roads and the traffic will fill them to capacity. And that is an argument to do nothing?

    While we are at it, how about putting some of that revenue for the increased tolls into subsidizing a comprehensive set of public transit bus lines that serve outside commuters headed for the Silver line and people trying to get cross-town within Reston itself. Use that money to get those bus lines up and running with routes and schedules that make sense to commuters rather than bean-counters. Bottom line: invest in establishing local and area bus systems with a sufficient ridership base so the system can pay for itself. This will take foresight. This will take time. And this will take wit, imagination, vision, and, bluntly speaking, the balls/ovaries on the part of our local and state leadership (which, sadly, is why I'm not inclined to bet on it happening). But hope springs eternal here in the planned paradise known as the DPRofR.

    While we are at it, how about well-lit sidewalks on both sides of streets throughout Reston? Don't get me wrong, the bike paths are wonderful to walk along (in daylight when unarmed). But they only provide for part of what is needed. For that matter, how about looking at how an expanded sidewalk/path system can encourage us to walk to the store up to a half mile or away rather than hopping in the car? How about funneling some of those toll revenues to improving the infrastructure for pedestrian traffic throughout Reston in addition to upgrading the roads? It all improves the traffic flow. So what if the rules might not allow it? If that is the case, change the rules or come up with a workaround.

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