Dulles Toll Road toll hikes confirmed 22% Jan 1 2013, 27% 2014 for train subsidy, 2015 deferred while non-toll $s hunted
By Peter Samuel
2012-11-14: Struggling to finance $3.02 billion of its $5.6 billion rail line with toll revenue bonds the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) decided today to put firmly in place two years of toll increases but to defer a decision on recommended increases in the third year. Tolls for the typical trip in a car on the 13.4 mile tollroad in the western part of the Washington DC metro area will rise from $2.25 to $2.75 (22%) January 1 2013 and to $3.50 (27%) Jan 1 2014.
A decision on a toll increase recommended for the start of 2015 was deferred so the Authority can troll for non-toll sources of revenue for its rail project. An increase in the typical toll to $4.50 or 29% was recommended.
In a presentation to the board today staff showed toll revenues rising from $109m budgeted this year to $127m in 2013 and to $149m in 2014, increases each year of about 17%. The numbers imply annual drops in traffic of about 7%.
MWAA chairman Michael Curto was quoted in a statement on the toll increases for 2013 and 2014 saying they primarily needed to fund completion of Phase 1 of the rail project which is about two thirds complete. Increases in tolls for 2015 and onward will be geared to servicing bonds sold for Phase 2 that is currently the subject of procurement.
Curto said the cost of Phase 2 won't be known until next spring when procurement is complete. And he said they hope for Virginia and the US Government to up their contributions. So far Phase 2 is funded $1,670m by toll revenue bonds, $500m from Fairfax County, $268m from Loudoun County and the rest by the Airports.
Phase 1 costing $2.91b runs from the existing Metrorail line at West Falls Church 11.7 miles through Fairfax County to four stations in the Tysons business area and within the median of the Dulles Toll Road and Access Roadto another station at Wiehle Avenue in Reston, short of Dulles Airport. Phase 2 estimated to cost $2.67b would take the project of six stations 11.3 mles through Dulles Airport and out into Loudoun County in the median of the Dulles Greenway.
Rail line over half toll funded
Just over a half of the total cost (54% or $3.02b) of the estimated $5.59b needed for the 23 mile rail line is due to be generated by bonds sold by MWAA on the pledge of toll revenues. Other major contributors of funds are the US Government ($900m), Fairfax County $900m, State of Virginia $275m and Loudoun County$268, the Airport Fund $229m.The Authority whose main function is the operation of Reagan National and Dulles International Airports has a 50 year lease of the Dulles Toll Road from Virginia to finance the rail line.
The project has been a running political sore with strong criticism from local residents facing the higher tolls and diversion of traffic onto untolled roads. The MWAA a four government agency has been the subject of continuous bad media on account of spending extravagance, nepotism and general disregard for rules on good procurement. Most recently it was the subject of a scathing review by the USDOT's Office of the Inspector General.
MWAA claims it is putting its bad past behavior behind it and is implementing reforms.
The Reston Citizens Association has been a major source of criticism of the way the project has been conducted.
Terry Maynard a spokesman for the Association and a retired US Government economist told us he wasn't surprised but having toll road debt fund over half the project is "unwise and wrong."
He said the 55% increase in toll costs over the next two years will cost tollroad commuters over $500 per year far more than any likely increase in incomes.
"One result will be that some 30,000 toll road users daily will divert to other highly congested local roads in our area CDM Smith's own forecast indicates. "
He said that toll increases outlined in toll financing studies show likely increases in the toll rate doubling them in 2015, triple in 2018, and escalate eight-fold by mid-century.
This would have adverse effects on incomes, cause further traffic diversion, and set back economic development.