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Committee to put pressure on Dulles Greenway owners

Monday - 2/21/2011, 5:15am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - It's a private highway with tolls that have been increasing over the last few years, but now there is some new pressure on the company that owns the Dulles Greenway.

Virginia's Department of Transportation is setting up a Citizens Advisory Committee to take a close look at the operation of the Greenway, which was privately built and is now owned by an Australian company.

The Greenway runs from the airport west for 14 miles into Loudoun County and ends near Leesburg, Va. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who represents that area of the state, pushed for the committee.

"It may put some pressure on the company to open up and do some things such as distance pricing," Wolf says.

Wolf says motorists should not have to pay the same toll whether they go the entire 14 miles of the highway or just get off after one exit.

During morning and afternoon rush hours, that toll can be $5.25 from the beginning of the highway at either end -- no matter where you exit. Cars that get on in the middle pay less.

Wolf also has complained for years that there's no oversight over the highway.

He says local commuters and businesses often avoid using the highway because of high tolls, leading traffic to clog local roads like Route 7 and Route 50. He says that's exactly the opposite of what the Dulles Greenway was supposed to do.

The Dulles Greenway is owned by Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II), a subsidiary of an Australian company. It is often confused with the Dulles Toll Road, which is owned by the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority.

The two roads connect but have separate toll structures and rates.

Toll rates on the Dulles Greenway have to be approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission. But Wolf says the commission's hands are tied on controlling tolls because of how the highway was originally set up by the General Assembly in 1988.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)