Taking a Toll on Virginians

Virgimia's approach to transportation improvements.

Gov. Bob McDonnell came to Tysons Corner last week to participate in a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the opening for the 495 Express Lanes that took place on November 17. More than 500 people turned out to celebrate the opening of the first in Virginia high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes with demand pricing.

The level of the tolls will be indicated on digital signs when you enter the lanes, but the amount of the toll will depend on the number of people on the road that can continue their speed at 55 miles per hour. Persons with three or more in the car will not be assessed a toll as long as they have an EZ-Pass Flex that they can turn off. All users of the road must have an EZ-Pass or EZ-Pass Flex. For more details on how this technology-rich system works, go to 495expresslanes.com.

Waiting for the Governor on his way from the hotel was a small group of demonstrators carrying placards protesting tolls the Governor has proposed to put in place on I95 south of Richmond. The protestors brought a trailer truck that they had parked in the street with a billboard-size message on the trailer protesting the tolls. The realities of Virginia’s transportation funding crisis were evident that day. Funding projects like the public-private project improvements to the Beltway are only possible when tolls are collected to pay back the private sector costs with a return on investments. As unpopular as tolls are as the demonstrators expressed, the unfortunate truth is that tolling will increase in the future.

Tolls are not new to the residents of this area. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority that is building the Silver Line extension of Metrorail just voted last week to raise the tolls on the Dulles Toll Road to $2.75 total to help pay for the project. Improvements to traffic-congested I95 in Northern Virginia will be financed through a HOT lanes arrangement just like the Beltway. Tunnel improvements in Hampton Roads as well as roadway expansion are being paid for with tolls. Putting tolls on the interstate that brought out the protestors is viewed as a way to finance highway improvements.

The General Assembly has shown no willingness to raise the gas tax or other sources of revenue to fix highway congestion that in Northern Virginia has been found to be the worst in the Nation. The current gas tax rate is the lowest in the country and continues to produce less revenue as cars become more fuel efficient. Other sources of revenue are ear-marked for other government services. But the problem must be addressed! I am totally open to working with the Governor and other legislators in resolving this issue. Otherwise, the current direction is going to take an increasing toll on Virginians.

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David A. LaRock November 21, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Delegate Plum, I hope you'll get serious about standing up for your people soon and tell the Governor to get MWAA out of the driver's seat by retaking the Dulles Toll Road. MWAA will waste billions that will drive tolls out of sight. Michael O'Reilly, MWAA board member and former Herndon Mayor admitted "I'm thinking that McLean, Great Falls would get hammered if we went with [even higher tolls] in 2015". Reston will get hit even worse. Last week, the MWAA Board formally adopted the toll increases for the next two years, scheduled to start the first of the year. MWAA admits that the toll increases will force commuters off the DTR and onto already-congested local roads. When O'Reilly made the comment above, he was sounding the alarm for local elected officials to engage on behalf of residents. So what are you going to do Mr. Plum? You know Virginia is broke. People, please let Ken Plum know that inaction will not cut it. Please sign the NO TOLL INCREASE PETITION at: http://notollincrease.blogspot.com/p/sign-petition.html
Tammi Petrine November 23, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Ken Plum lobbied hard for and hammered through the Silver Line knowing full well that a rational, fair financing plan for it had been never been devised. Well now the toll increases than will hit all of HIS constituents hard in both the wallet and standard of living are less than 60 days out. What nerve to lay the tolls at the feet of MWAA when he custom-crafted that "plan." Does he offer any solution YET??? NO!!! Except to tell us that more tolls are in our future. Hey, Ken, we've been paying tolls on the DTR for OVER 30 years and the promise that this road would be toll-free once it was paid for is nothing but a huge lie. Come back to us, YOUR constituents, when you and the rest of the politicians who pushed through the Silver Line with no viable financing plan finally get to work and get the Silver Line cost OFF toll road users' backs. We are sick of your empty promises and poor judgment.
David A. LaRock November 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Great to hear some of Mr. Plum's history with this project. Seems he is another ribbon-cutter who is all vision and no planning. Elections ahead...1 year.
Burt Rosenberg December 03, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Toll Road tolls should not be used for ANY projects, including Silver Line, or anything else. We were promised no more tolls when the toll road was paid for. The whole flawed process (incl MWAA) of milking us as cash cows stinks to high heaven, and is totally unacceptable. Anyone complicit in this "legalized theft" needs to feel the wrath of irate citizens. That includes Ken Plum.
David A. LaRock December 03, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Lead, follow, or get out of the way. - Thomas Paine


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