Richmond VA tolls up to 70c from 50c
By Peter Samuel
Tolls on the Richmond Metropolitan Authority's (RMA) Downtown Expressway and Powhite Parkway will go up from 50c to 70c Sept 8, the board voted today. It was the first toll increase for ten years. The board was heavily divided and the vote went only 7 to 6 for the raise.
The toll hike at the two mainline toll plazas with proportional increases at the Boulevard Bridge and ramps should increase full year RMA toll revenue from $26m to $36m/year.
RMA operates 74 lane-km (46 lane-miles) of road. This includes two linked tollroads, the Downtown Expressway a 4km (2.5 miles) long east-west urban distributor on the southern fringe of the downtown area and the 6.1km (3.8 miles) Powhite Parkway connected to the western end of the Downtown Exwy.
The Downtown Expressway of 3+3 travel lanes starts as a highlevel spur off I-95 just north of its James River Bridge and provides connections to city streets and a bypass for east-west traffic. It has a mainline toll plaza of 12 toll lanes. Traffic is about 55k veh/day.
The Powhite Parkway basically 8 lanes is a southwesterly radial beginning with a major bridge over the James River going into a 14 lane, 3 reversible, mainline toll plaza then proceeds into heavily treed suburbs.
Open road tolling on Powhite
The toll plaza is being rebuilt as a split or staggered plaza allowing 3+3 open road toll lanes through the middle. Traffic is 93k veh/day average.
RMA has had electronic tolling since 1999 and is part of the statewide Smart Tag/E-ZPass system.
Virginia DOT operates the Powhite Parkway Extension tollroad that continues from the southern end of the RMA facility on to the southwest edge of the Richmond metro area (pop 1m).
RMA's third facility is the Boulevard Bridge, a 620m (2030ft) 2 lane steel truss toll bridge over the James River built in 1925 as a private venture by the Boulevard Bridge Corporation. RMA bought the bridge in 1969. A 25c toll is collected in four toll lanes.
The RMA tollroads were built initially in the 1970s.
Toll revenues in FY2007 were $25.7m and operating expenses $12.9m. Debt service on $220m of longterm debt approximately consumes the rest of the Authority's revenue.
Opening of untolled VA288 cut traffic and revenues
The opening of the VA288 expressway as an untolled north-south route to the west of the Powhite Parkway killed the growth of traffic and revenues from 2002 to 2006.
The Authority also operates three downtown multi-deck parking garages, a baseball stadium and the historic Richmond Main Street Railway station - abandoned for many years but now restored and catering to trains again (CORRECTION). Accounts are kept separately for the various activities and no comingling of funds is allowed by the authority's charter.