News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

They've Got Ideas: Virginia Lawmakers Mull Quarter-Saving Options for Toll Road Users (Maybe)

qbert_quarters.jpegWorried about Dulles Toll Road rates continuing to increase beyond the eminently reasonable 22 quarters it now takes to make a round-trip visit to the wonders of The Crystal Koons Car Valhalla Tysons? Don't worry, as the Virginia General Assembly has, as they say in the movies, a plan:

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow the state to back $500 million in bonds for the Dulles Rail project, reducing the interest rate on the borrowed money so that tolls wouldn't have to be raised by as much.

"I really want to protect our citizens from having tolls reach higher amounts than they should," said Del. Randy Minchew, R-Leesburg, the bill's sponsor.
Virginia lawmakers are also considering buying outright the Dulles Greenway, the privately built extension of the DTR that runs through the fertile particleboard nirvana of eastern Loudoun County, in order to keep tolls there from continuing to rise.
State leaders are now negotiating to buy the privately owned Greenway, a toll road west of Washington Dulles International Airport.

"I have to be able to negotiate an acceptable deal in terms of what we pay for it," said Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg, who is leading the push to buy the road. "I'm optimistic we're going to find a deal that works for both sides."

The Greenway could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, May said, but state ownership would be good news for commuters. The state is unlikely to raise tolls on the road, as its private owners are slated to do, he said. A trip down the Greenway now costs as much as $5.80 during peak periods.
As transportation ideas go, these are probably slightly less crazy (and slightly more realistic) than tolling the Fairfax County Parkway or building a fancy new outer outer Beltway. And they're definitely a lot less crazy than this cost-saving idea floated for the Silver Line itself last year. All they would take is money. Lots of money!

Ayn Rand -- and presumably her ideologically aligned fellow travelers in the Virginia legislature -- would weep over any of these ideas, so who knows if they have any likelihood of gaining traction. On the other hand, Rand really liked trains, so maybe it's kind of a wash.


  1. I did a few calculations and found that if the public had paid for the road when it was built ($350 million) and the prevailing public debt interest rate applied (3%), tolls of $1.50, from the start, with the actual traffic figures reported, would have paid for the entire road by 2013. That's right, Loudoun drivers -- you'd own it outright, and you wouldn't be ripped off for $5 a trip.

  2. Quarters? Who pays quarters? I either take mass transit, Route 7 or stop at the Dulles Exxon for gas thus bypassing all of the tolls.

    Only a fool pays the tolls.


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