according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), AAA Mid-Atlantic wants to reiterate clearly and loudly its opposition.
We understand that someone has to pay for the $6 billion cost of the construction of the Silver Line, but the overriding question in our mind is just who that should be. At last check, local motorists, via their tolls, are being forced to shoulder nearly 60% of the costs of this project.
The Commonwealth of Virginia, until pushed hard by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, had no cash in the pot—it sole contribution was to be the tolls paid by motorists. Now, after LaHood’s arm twisting, the state has $150 million in the pot--on a $6 billion project.
For many motorists, use of the Dulles Toll Road on a regular or daily basis is not a choice, it’s a necessity and the spiraling costs are hitting them in their pocketbooks very hard. Compounding this is the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority which seems to have a tin ear. From wanting to build a vastly more expensive station at Dulles, to trying to order up a new, lavish headquarters for its offices, it seems to not understand the cry of over-burdened motorists and commuters who are being nickled and dimed to death at the toll booth.
Since January of this year, motorists have been forking over $1.50 at the Main Toll Plaza and another 75 cents at the on-ramps and off-ramps. But let’s do the math, just as commuters and motorists are currently doing because they are being hit right and left as they travel through the toll plaza. On the top of that, the cost of a round-trip will increase next year and will soar eventually to as much as $9 by 2015.
Adding insult to injury, many Dulles Toll Road commuters also take the Dulles Greenway, where the peak tolls for a one-way trip are as much as $4.80. That’s a staggering fee for such a short road, making it one of the most expensive daily commutes in the country.
No less a figure than Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia 10th) has called these tolls “highway robbery,” and we concur.
Although we support the Silver Line to Dulles, and the use of toll revenue for transportation improvements along the Dulles corridor, forcing motorists to shoulder over half the costs is a disproportionate load, to say the least--it is not only draconian, it is also patently unfair. Drivers know it, and they are bailing out along both the Dulles Toll Road and the Dulles Greenway. With potential tragic consequences, so too are the drivers of large vehicles and trucks.
As Rep. Wolf has observed, “These outrageous tolls cause cars as well as large trucks from most area businesses to divert to side roads and residential streets.”
We say it again, as we have in the past, the latest round of toll increases probably will lead even more motorists to seek alternatives to the toll road, spreading congestion to nearby roads.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Board of Directors approved the three-year schedule for new toll rates back in November of 2009. Now the motoring public will feel the full brunt of the toll rates on their wallets and household budgets. By capturing the hard-earned money of motorists at the toll booth, MWAA is financing the construction of the 23-mile, 11 station extension of Metrorail from East Falls Church to Washington Dulles International Airport west into Loudoun County.
We urge MWAA, as it prepares for its latest round of hearings, to slow the escalation of these fees. The costs of a project of this magnitude that will benefit an entire region should not be borne so disproportionately by the drivers on the Dulles Toll Road.
It was a rotten formula at the start whose stench only gets worse with each passing year and the skyrocketing tolls that come with it. As the latest round of toll hikes for a round-trip on the Dulles Toll Road prove, they don’t call it the “Silver Line” for nothing, but we think it’s now more deserving of a new name: “Platinum Line.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs.