VDOT to look at Dulles/I-66 Express Toll Lanes proposal
By Peter Samuel
Map shows rail proposal in same Dulles/I-66 corridor
An investor group proposing Express Toll Lanes between Dulles Airport and Washington DC via I-66 has been told by VDOT to present a concept plan as there is no competing proposal. The project is about 37km (23mi) in length. Virginia Mobility Associates LLC (VMA) led by Leesburg publisher Ken Reid and Reston property manager Christopher W. Walker want a public-private partnership concession to toll express lanes to be built in the median of the Dulles Toll Road then inside the Beltway (I-495) on the Dulles Connector Road and via I-66 on to the Potomac River Theodore Roosevelt Bridge at the DC border. The scheme would cost taxpayers nothing as compared to a competing proposal by rail interests for a heavy Metro rail line which requires $3.5b to $4b plus ongoing operating subsidies.
Leader of the group Chris Walker says: "In essence, we are proposing to build a congestion-free right of way for all forms of transit, bus, van, and carpooling, at no cost to the public, with no public money. In addition, by increasing the capacity of the Corridor by 50%, we are improving transportation options for everyone. Those who want to ride for free will have more highway lanes, and those wishing to pay for a guaranteed travel time will be able to do so -1/2 hour from DC to the airport and vice versa, at any time of the day. Express Toll Lane vehicles will travel at 60mph, and direct, nonstop service will be offered both by public or private operators. Dulles Rail is planned for only local service, with 15 stops from the airport to DC, at an average speed of 35mph."
They would detoll some of the presently tolled lanes of the Dulles Toll Road.
"97 percent of all passenger miles in Northern Virginia are made via private travel on the road network, which has been badly neglected. That modal split increases (in cars' favor) every year. $4 billion for rail will only mitigate two years of growth in traffic, and increase WMATA's annual deficits. Our proposal does what is desperately needed to solve congestion - add more lanes on the Toll Road and I-66 without cost to taxpayers and without raising full-time tolls. This is the 21st century approach towards corridor management."
State senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) says the VMA proposal is "a creative approach" and provides improved transportation faster and cheaper than the rail scheme, and is welcome because it doesn't require higher taxes.
VMA says it estimates the addition of a lane each direction on Dulles Toll Road, Dulles Connector and I-66 can be done for approximately $200m, about one-twentieth the cost of rail. Rail even if it attracts the projected ridership only absorbs two year's growth in the corridor, then leaves congestion to grow worse.
Walker says using toll revenues to subsidize another form of travel is a "terrible idea and a terrible precedent" for Virginia. Rail riders should pay their full costs, as should road users.
Walker says: "The current Dulles rail proposal calls for annual subsidies to a full time commuter greater than the income of the poorest 20% of Fairfax residents. It is a transfer from the poor to the rich, who are subsidized in their journey to high-paying jobs downtown. It would be far more equitable to use this money to expand the toll road and charge variable pricing, eventually eliminate the full-time tolls, which was promised in the 1980s when the road was built. Metro needs to find alternative ways to fund its deficit."
Sen Cuccinelli is pushing legislation to derail the rail proposal via a referendum on the taxes required to fund it. He points out that the original Metro rail system was submitted to referendum and says "All Fairfax County residents should be allowed to decide whether they want their taxes raised to support the rail scheme."
Walker and Reid plan to recruit partners for their submission under the Public Private Transportation Act. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org 703 669-8789 TOLLROADSnews 2005-02-04