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MWAA OKs More Toll Hikes for 2013, '14

Revenue necessary if Silver Line Phase 2 is going to be built, Airports Authority says.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board voted Wednesday to raise fees on the Dulles Toll Road through 2014, but held off on raising rates for 2015.

As expected, starting Jan. 1, 2013, drivers will pay 25 cents more at the main toll plaza and at on/off ramps for a total of $2.75. In 2014, the rates will rise to $3.50. But the board put off approving an increase for 2015, in hopes of securing alternative sources of funding. 

In deciding not to set 2015 toll rates, the board noted that the potential for low cost financing afforded by a TIFIA loan, combined with the potential for additional financial assistance from the Commonwealth and possibly other sources, along with the potential for a competitively priced Phase 2 Silver Line construction contract at less than the estimated cost, could significantly reduce the size of toll increases needed in 2015 and future years.

If the availability of additional funding, along with the contract cost of Phase 2 construction, becomes known prior to June 30, 2013, the Board indicated it may revisit the need to establish rates for 2015 using the current public record.

However, any rates the Board then would set would not exceed the 2015 rates recommended by the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee ($3.00 at the main plaza and $1.50 on ramps). 

The toll increases are necessary in part to fund construction of the Silver Line Phase 2, the Metrorail extension that will run from Reston's Wiehle Avenue to Loudoun County.

Currently, drivers pay $1.50 at the main toll plaza and 75 cents at on/off ramps for a total of $2.25.  The new rates will take effect Jan. 1 of each year.

The first phase of the Silver Line was partially funded by $900 million of federal money. Phase 1, which will connect Falls Church to Reston, is slated to open in December 2013.

Toll revenue is expected to fund more than half the $5.6 billion cost of building the rail line.

The board also welcomed a new member, Elaine McConnell, a former Fairfax County supervisor. She replaces after a confidential settlement was reached in a dispute with Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). 

Several hundred people attended a series of public hearings,

Reston Citizens Association and its Reston2020 group have been very vocal opponents of rising tolls. The group says that many drivers will be forced to clog other roads to avoid paying tolls. They also predict tolls may rise exponentially over the next 20 years.

Terry Maynard of Reston2020 said having toll users pay for the bulk of Phase 2 is "unwise and wrong."

"The toll increase approved today by the MWAA Board of Directors was fully expected, if unwelcome," he said. "We appreciate that MWAA wants to line up the needed $1.7 billion financing for Phase 2 before they proceed to a contract award decision in mid-May 2013, but having toll road users service that debt is unwise and wrong.

"The-55 percent increase in toll costs over the next two years--more than $500 per year for a toll road commuter--far exceeds in expected gains in incomes. One small hope is that MWAA and its local funding partners, Loudoun and Fairfax counties, will garner some low-interest financing from the TIFIA program this year.  We hope they do, but the funds available for loan is so small nationally ($750 million) and the number and size of requests nationally --totaling $27 billion--is so large, it is hard to imagine that any TIFIA funding for Metrorail construction will have a significant impact on tolls."

What do you think of the rising tolls? Will it change your toll road plans?

To read Patch's coverage of all things related to the Silver Line, click here.

Gene November 15, 2012 at 05:10 PM
My bottom line is this, it simply is not fair to suck this cost from me because I have to use the toll road. Like too many things these days we need to go back to doing things that are based on fairness, not based on expediency, convenience. I feel so helpless as a taxpayer and resident of Reston, we have no influence, they are ruining our neighborhood, driving up our Cost-of-living and the only people that benefit are the developers, construction companies, and politicians.
Gene November 15, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Also as regards this issue, do people realize these new electric vehicles are not paying road taxes and the hybrids (Gas/Electric) which use less gas are therefore contributing less. That too is not fair and cause a shortfall for road projects.
Rob Whitfield November 15, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Those who have read my prior posts may recall my mention of the Potomac Yard Metrorail station cost increases a couple of months ago. The Washington Business Journal reports this week that estimated costs for one station development scenario at Potomac Yards have now reached $538 million. http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/breaking_ground/2012/11/high-end-cost-for-potomac-yard-metro.html?page=all Cassidy Turley reported in August 2012 that office market vacancy rates in Alexandria and Arlington County may reach 30% during the next two years due to relocations of contractors and federal workers under BRAC.
Burt Rosenberg November 15, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Reverse the toll increases! Take the TollRoad away from MWAA, for their profligacy, corruption and ineptitude! Punish any politician at the ballot box who allows this outrageous money grab from toll road users for the Silver Line! We are not sheep to be shorn.
Gretchen Nogle November 15, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Agreed - but an apology would require the truth, and that is not on the Democrat agenda" . However, Agenda 21 is! For an apology request - here's her contact info: Howell, Janet D. (32-D) (804) 698-7532 (703) 709-8283 district32@senate.virginia.gov
Robert Mowbray November 15, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Despite its shortcomings, corruption, and waste, the problem is not MWAA, but rather the decision that the silver line should not be financed the same way the rest of the system was financed - by the entire metro region, the states of Maryland and Virginia, and the federal government. The entire region will benefit from the silver line and the entire region should pay for it - not just those of us who happen to live near it. On Nov. 6 Fairfax County voters voted in favor of a bond issue which will directly benefit one small neighborhood, presumably because it was the fair thing to do. It is only fair that the metro region pay for the silver line with assistance from the states and federal government which will benefit from it.
Rob Jackson November 15, 2012 at 11:19 PM
This is a silly statement. Tim Kaine was Governor when it was decided to finance the Silver Line on the backs of the middle class - the users of the Dulles Toll Road. And no elected official except then Senator Cuccinelli objected. No one complained even though the Silver Line does NOT reduce traffic volumes. It will trigger massive growth at Tysons and in Reston that will add to traffic. That's why Fairfax County says we need $2.3 billion (2012 dollars) over the next 40 years to build additional road capacity and bus transit to make Tysons work. But even then, once Tysons grows to 84 million square feet from today's 46 million, the entire road network reaches failure. Thus, any new auto trip must be canceled by a transit, bike or walking trip.
Bob Bruhns November 15, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Fair or not, that is probably what will happen. The toll road can not pay for such a large percentage of Dulles Rail, and the business tax districts in Fairfax County at least, were smart enough to lock in to the dollar value of their agreed percentage BEFORE the price really ballooned. Too bad the taxpayers of the counties, and the toll road drivers, were not able to do likewise, because here comes the Silver Line, to run us over after we fall over the fiscal cliff. I don't think it's right to talk about how other systems were financed. It was known all along that Dulles Rail did not meet the requirements for federal funding. The whole game was rigged to break the project into two phases, in order to get some money for Phase I. The federal government is not to blame for it - this region allowed this disaster to befall itself. We were told that there would be no federal money, and not much state money, for Phase II - but our so-called 'leaders' went through with Phase I and Phase II anyway. Blame them, why don't you. Blame Mr. Connolly, Mr. Kaine, Ms. Bulova, Mr. York, Ken Reid, etc. If you can remember the various pen names of the anonymous supporters of this mess, you can blame them too. I'm sure they will step forward now and identify themselves. Or not. By the way, the cost of that bond is pretty small compared to the cost of the double-priced ripoff known as Dulles Rail, also known as the Silver Line.
Bob Bruhns November 15, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Also, the problem with MWAA is that it happily handed us a double price for this rail project, while trying very hard to run the costs up even higher. Maybe the price estimators for this job were basing their estimates on some of the contract prices that MWAA liked to pay to one contractor who charged 1.3 to 3.3 times as much as the other contractors were bidding - because the estimates are remarkably high! We don't know why the estimates are so amazingly high, because our so-called 'leaders' won't call them out and demand that they explain those estimates. Instead, our so-called 'leaders' just keep saying that they are looking at ways to lower the tolls. Ya think maybe they are lying?
Richard Holmquist November 16, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Yes, I am a citizen, not that it matters. Swedish-English heritage, if you must know. Not sure what that has to do with funding rail. Are only citizens going to be allowed on Metro? Will only citizens be paying the tolls?
Another SR peasant November 16, 2012 at 03:18 AM
The history of incompetence/corruption in government contracting means that the MWAA handling of the silver line is no surprise. What is surprising is that the nation reelected The Won, a man who has never run anything but his mouth. I suppose everybody is confident that he will wave his magic wand and things like the MWAA mess will all turn out wonderfully.
Rob Whitfield November 16, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Fairfax and Loudoun County taxpayers should know that in 2001 WMATA Compact members at the completion of the initial 103 mile system agreed that they would not fund extensions of the Metrorail system. In other words, suckers from outside the Capital Beltway can pay for rail extensions which we "smart growth" residents from Inside the Beltway can use to get to Dulles Airport and Tysons Corner. Wait until DC and Arlington County ask Fairfax and Loudoun County taxpayers to help pay for their $10 to $15 billion plans for a second Potomac River tunnel between Rosslyn and Union Station. Then the horse manure will fly faster than you can say "smart growth." Another article in Friday's Examiner about MWAA nepotism. http://washingtonexaminer.com/dulles-rail-board-ignored-warnings-of-nepotism/article/2513625 Liz Essley reports that DC representative to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced a bill designed to force MWAA to use federal contracting rules. http://washingtonexaminer.com/norton-introduces-bill-to-clean-up-airports-dulles-rail-contracts/article/2513628
Rob Whitfield November 16, 2012 at 04:04 AM
See also the latest Toll Road News article about Dulles Toll Road toll increases. http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6276
Java Master November 16, 2012 at 04:54 AM
I stopped using the toll road a couple of years ago. Now I drive the local streets ( Hunters MIll Road, etc) almost exclusively if I want to go east to the Tysons area or the beltway. Traffic on such local roads has perceptibly increased, since others are clearly doing the same as I am. I will not drive the toll road except in critical situations, and never at rush hour, just on the general principle that it already costs too much and MWAA will not get any more of my money.
KB November 16, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I know that many have dirty hands in this but we need to stop pointing fingers and find a solution. MD and DC are not going to chip in, Fed Govt already paid their share. Tell me where/who/what/how we will find the money to pay for all of this? When I went to the MWAA Open Hearing at SLHS, I had a good conversation with one of their representatives who clearly explained that in order for us to have Rail NOW (the key word in all of this is "NOW) , toll increases was the only viable solution with obtaining bonds down the road.
Bob Bruhns November 16, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Delegate Norton is at the Congressional Hearing about the the US DOT Inspector General's report about MWAA misconduct. This hearing is happening as I write this (9:30AM 11/16/2012). The hearing is viewable by videocast here: http://transportation.house.gov/singlepages.aspx/1202
Bob Bruhns November 16, 2012 at 03:05 PM
The first thing we need to do is fight the excessive cost of this project, then we need to make the best arrangements to limit the pain of payment. Unfortunately, our leaders stand around whistling and looking the other way, and when we ask them about this, all they say is the same thing they always say: that they are "looking for ways to lower the tolls." And then they stop, and smile, as though their job is done. No investigation of the excessive contract prices is taking place, despite the stunning US DOT Inspector General report released November 1, 2012, showing widespread MWAA contract misconduct - including not only the use of, but the actual funneling of work to a contractor that was charging beween 1.3 and 3.3 times as much as other contractors charge for the same work. I have shown evidence of a double price for this rail project, the IG report adds evidence of contract cost excesses at MWAA, but our leaders are accepting an apparently excessive - actually massively excessive - price, and all people are saying is "Oh no, where can we borrow money to PAY these excessive prices?" Instead, people need to say "How can we push back against these massively excessive prices, so that we won't have to overpay for this project?" When will people wake up, and start demanding this? Rising tolls will push cars off the toll road and onto local roads, causing massive traffic jams. Then, taxpayers will be paying down the tolls - so they should force down the price NOW.
novatom November 16, 2012 at 03:26 PM
I hope some of those tolls will go to pay for the increased maintenance on Rt. 7, cause they're gonna need it.
Bob Bruhns November 16, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Today's Congressional Hearing about MWAA Board and Officer misconduct began at 9AM this morning, and it ended at 11:19 AM. It was very interesting, and it may be made available from the Congressional website for on-demand viewing.
Lilguy November 16, 2012 at 04:38 PM
In what world does your first sentence make any sense? In essence, the state "sub-let" its right to manage the toll road (granted by the USG which owns the land) to MWAA for 50 years. Moreover, it authorized MWAA to raise tolls as much as it wanted without review. This is no more a contribution by the state than my leasing a house or apartment means I've received the value of the property. Moreover, nothing in the agreement provided any state funds for the building of Metrorail "project", which is the source of the huge toll hikes we now face.
Lilguy November 16, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Not a chance! MWAA's only responsibility is for (a) managing the DTR and (b) building the Silver Line. Otherwise, it's in the aviation business.
Bob Bruhns November 16, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Unfortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia, under then-Governor Tim Kaine, gave the toll collecting authority of the Dulles Toll Road to MWAA. The supporters of the Dulles Rail project did not object at the time - but now that people see what that did to this region, we see some grumbling that Virginia should have contributed more. Go and complain to the people who pushed this project through, against the wishes of WMATA and the FTA, knowing that there would be only $900 million of federal money, and not much money from the Commonwealth of Virginia, back in 2008. Now that this project was pushed through even though our so-called 'leaders' were saying that they had no idea how they would pay for it, the supporters of this rail ripoff now want to change the deal. First we heard "Oh, it doesn't matter what the construction costs are, there will be so much money gushing out of buildings and paychecks all over the region that it just doesn't matter, its a no-brainer!" But now we hear a whole different story, don't we. "Oh, well Virginia should pay more money, this is a bad deal, it's somebody else's fault that we will have these awful tolls that we knew about long before we approved this project, etc, etc."
KB November 16, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Bob, your point to stop excessive contract prices is well stated and logical. Its too late to stop Phase 1, how do we stop Phase 2 and ask the powers that be to find alternative funding sources and not use tolls? The people who created this mess were all re-elected. If they thought they were in danger of being voted out, they wouldnt be "whistling and looking the other way" ...
the-stix November 16, 2012 at 09:59 PM
KB says "The people who created this mess were all re-elected." Right on! And one wonders how many of the complainers in this thread voted for them, including Kaine who literally gave DTR toll rate and Dulles Rail construction authority to the unaccountable MWAA.
Bob Bruhns November 17, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Well KB, I haven't figured out how to fix the mess that these crooks made for us, but I do have a few thoughts. How about this: Get MWAA out of the process, re-estimate Phase II, explore legal recovery of the overcharges for Phase I, reject overpriced bids, consider a rail lottery, call it "Making Tracks" - change the law if need be to do that - and don't raise the tolls. The Tifia and other loans will be repaid from tax money, so face it and do that now. The alternative is total disaster - jammed traffic and economic failure as business leaves the area because of usurious tolls and stupid government mismanagement. Also - revisit the business tax caps. The Chambers of Commerce didn't care about the price of this job, so let businesses pay 25% of it like they were supposed to.
Bob Bruhns November 17, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I don't know who is pushing that $538 million Alternative D, but Alexandria needs to wise up quickly. It should be noted that this high-priced Potomac Yard Metrorail station job is not part of the Silver or Orange lines, but it is on the Yellow and Blue line beween the Reagan Airport and Braddock Road stations in Alexandria. MWAA does not appear to be involved in this particular cost balloon.
Java Master November 17, 2012 at 06:21 PM
It's all going to hell in a handbasket. The political proces has failed to give us leadership that can deal with the MWAA and the mess they have created. I look forward to the day when I leave NoVa behind, just as I am sure that many businsses will do as well when the true magnitude of our failure to adequately deal with transporation and land use issues befalls NoVa.
Ray Wedell November 17, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Java Master...This is an issue which is gripping municipalities all over the country. We really have reached the day of reckoning, and no longer have the financial capacity to gloss over these mistakes. Unfortunately, people have yet to realize this, and still want the candy without paying for it.
Bob Bruhns November 18, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Problematic contracts are certainly becoming all too common in the USA, but they are actually happening in other countries too. Do a web search on ' The cost of the Transilvania motorway drops by 50 pc, as the American company will receive no compensation for the modification of the contract. ', and also check this link: http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/5173
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