News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's the Difference Between an Above-Ground and Underground Metro Station at Dulles? 50 Cents a Trip on the Toll Road

The Metro station at Dulles International Airport could be located aboveground and cost $582 million or located underground and cost $912 million.jpeg

Buried deep in a story about the newest projected toll increases on the Dulles Toll Road is a fun little tidbit: the difference between building an above ground and underground Metro station at Dulles Airport works out to 50 cents per trip on our fun-filled expressway to the wonders of Tysons.
Ultimately, the decision to go underground at the Airport could lead to a .50 cent difference in tolls on the toll road according to a report given to the board.
We're going to use our fancy Fairfax County Public School math skills and assume they meant 50 cents and not one-half of one cent. Otherwise, if all that boring and tunneling and awesome miners helmets with the lights on them and whatnot is so cheap, they should just bury everything, including our beloved fake downtown gritty urban core! That way, Uno's could attract a bustling new clientele of Mole Men.

But we digress. Overall, Metro construction costs will lead to a steady increase in Toll Road fares going forward, as construction (hopefully) continues on the Silver Line:
Toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road may have to jump to $5.50 by 2015 and $10.75 by 2020. Right now, the cost of a full trip on the toll road is $2.

"That's right. That's always been part of the plan -- a regular series of toll rate increases," says Bryan Grote, Financial Advisor to MWAA. "You do have these construction expenditures coming up over the next several years, and that's what has to be financed."
But fear not! The airport authority has, as they say in the movies, a plan:
A group of financial advisors also urged the MWAA board to consider other tolling options on the toll road as a way to increase revenue. For example, charging more for drivers during peak hours, setting up a distance-based toll system and considering putting a toll on the Airport Access Road which is currently free.

The board has agreed to study a new transportation plan over the next six months. A better estimate for toll increases is expected after that time.
Whatever winds up coming of that, we'd better start looking under the couch cushions for quarters now.

The bottom line is that the region needs the Silver Line, and the underground station is what makes the most sense as a long-term investment in an economy that's likely to be driven in large part by IAD. But someone's going to have to figure out a way to pay for this that doesn't just involve a whole pile of quarters, a couple of quarters at a time.


  1. Raise prices on toll road, force people to use the Silver Line. I can deal with that

  2. @jayKay I'm theoretically OK with forcing them on to the Silver Line but I fear that many will just drive their cars in route 7 or I66 instead.

  3. I have no problem with a slight increase in the Toll Road but I do have a problem that I have not heard one proposal from MWAA to increase use fees at IAD to pay for the increased costs.

    I use IAD a lot so I expect that I'll be paying this fee no matter what but if the Airports Authority wanted METRO access, it needs to pony up in a more reasonable manner.

  4. The best way to fund it all is a meals tax on all the fancy schmancy new restaurants that will be beating a muddy path to get to the new Lake Anne.

    That revenue stream alone will be worth many many billions what with the demand for Lake Anne retail and restaurant space!

    Oh, we can charge to park there too -- since that's currently free and the good restaurants on their way to Lake Anne will surely validate the parking so there's nothing to worry about there!

    Now that we've solved this non problem, what's next on the agenda?

  5. HAHA -- economy "driven" by the airport!

    Almost as good as parking in the driveway and driving on the (potholed and park-less) Reston "parkway."

  6. I actually meant to post that forcing people onto the silver line with raised tolls was genius.

    I just feel bad for all property owners on the Silver line as crime is going to skyrocket once the DC Thug express opens.

  7. I am not a big fan of raising the tolls on the toll road for several reasons:

    a) The idea that toll road users are nothing more than selfish, Lexis driving, upper class Republicans who hate sitting amongst the commoners - who therefore need to be punished with ridiculous toll fees - is simply not true.

    DC has multiple metro lines covering a large swath of area (Doubly so when you consider that several of those lines like the red line circle back through DC). NoVa, in contrast, will have two lines that won't cover a wide area. Even if you prefer to use the metro, there will be a legit need to use your car to get to there areas metro doesn't cover.

    Additionally, you might want to use the Metro but can't find a parking spot in the weihle station. Therefore you will need to drive on the toll road to get to the next metro station.

    b) There is a limit on what you can charge. At some point, increasing toll fees will diminish revenues. Additionally, people paying the extra toll fees will have less to spend at Lake Anne restaurants and shops.

    c) A toll hike is a tax, albeit indirectly. I prefer roads be paid for by income taxes. I fear for the day when every road has a toll charge.

  8. In principle, Schmoe, I'm with you. The roads should be free for everybody to use.

    However, if we're going to have tolls, then let's use the tolls as much as possible to our advantage. We're putting in a subway system in order to encourage people to leave their car behind. Well, let's provide them a little more (or a lot more) incentive by keeping that toll painfully high.

    As for me, I've been rearranging my driving habits so that I don't have to use the toll road. Getting to DC is a pain, but that's just part of the Rte 7 and Rte 66 alternative.

    Thank goodness that I can use mass transit to get to/from work everyday.

  9. I can accept some level of toll charges. $1.50 maybe ($3 round trip). But $5 is unthinkable.

    If the toll hikes become too ridiculous:

    a) you have effectively instituted Lexus lanes, or Lexus road in this case. The Lexus drivers will have (practically) exclusive access to a road in a premium location that only they can afford. Perhaps they should add new form of payment - Grey Poupon jars.

    b) The toll road alternatives, Rt 7 and 66, will be even less viable, as more people will use these alternative routes.

    New toll hikes will reinforce the precedent that any new projects can and should be funded via toll road hikes.

  10. $5 tolls aren't unthinkable at all. I had to run out to Leesburg today, $4.45 for the Greenway one way. A great example of the private sector doing everything cheaper and better than government.

  11. Who will Metro to the airport? Local residents? Not unless they live spang up against the Metro station? Remember, there will be zero long-term parking at Metro stations anywhere, ever. Walk? With luggage? I can just see myself trundling two 40-pound bags of Scuba and underwater video gear a mile and a half through no-sidewalks, less desirable South Reston to the Wehile station.

    Bus? With luggage? For a 5:00AM flight? C'mon.

    OK, so only the few locals with easy access to Metro can Metro to the airport. That leaves us with out-of-towners. Folks that arrive from out of town without cars can skip the outrageous car rental or Washington Flyer taxi and Metro to their tourist/convention hotels. This will be a great boon to travelers, because they can spend less on the local economy.

    And they won't have to pay any toll road fees.

  12. Once the toll hits $5 for a one-way trip, you won't see my ass on the toll road, ever.

    If MWAA needs Congressional authorization to raise the fees on people who land at the airport, they should go get it. What's holding them back, anyway?

  13. I think that's what it will come down to, 5:01. At some point, the MWAA is going to price 267 out of everybody's range. Then, the only folks using it will the stupid and uninformed and the large commercial vehicles, which are currently banned from the TR.

    I can only say that I had to go to Falls Church and Arlington on Saturday an Sunday. On neither occasion did I patronize the toll road while driving to/from these places.

  14. I can't quite believe anyone hasn't mentioned what current conditions on the Orange line are like these days. The tunnel under the Potomac that connects Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom is so narrow it can only accomodate one train at a time. As a result, crowded Orange line trains literally crawl their way through that tunnel during rush hour.

    Back in 2005, Metro was predicting that at current growth rates w/o the Silver Line, Metro would be overcapacity by 2020:

    I have a friend who works at Metro, and he swears up and down that this extension was the last thing Metro managers ever wanted. Even at its current size, Metro strains to adequately service its facilities. Adding the Silver Line will stretch those resources to the breaking point.

    The big winners with the Silver Line will be the businesses and developers in Tysons now that potential employees and shoppers will be able to get to Tysons from downtown DC.

  15. I think a surcharge at Macaroni Grill (say $1 a person) ought to cover the underground station cost. What do you think?


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