HERNDON, Va. — Driving on the Dulles Toll Road is set to get more expensive in just a few months.
While drivers can weigh in on a toll hike that will help fund the Silver Line project, some think the upcoming public comment period is more like a public warning.
Next year, the cost of a full trip – a plaza toll plus a ramp transaction – would go from $3.50 to $4.75, as part of a longstanding plan.
“This should not be a surprise to anybody,” said Jim Taylor, with Mercator Advisors, on behalf of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. “We’ve been very transparent and open about what would be needed in order to complete the rail project.” The airports authority operates the toll road and is in charge of building the Silver Line extension into Loudoun County, which it will turn over to Metro.
Public hearings on the tolls are planned for July. But speaking to the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee, which is made up of regional and transportation leaders, officials with the airports authority said there are no real alternatives to the upcoming toll increase because their financial projections and legal obligations depend on it.
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall responded: “What is the point of the public comment, if you’re not going to change anything anyway?”
“I would not want someone to come in and believe they could say ‘No, we don’t want increases,’ because obviously none of us want increases,” Randall said.
Airports authority leaders said drivers can weigh in on how the increase is implemented and whether the toll hike is seen at the road’s mainline plazas or on its ramps.
However, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova dangled the possibility a toll increase could actually be avoided or lessened.
“There is a long-term plan. It’s a sound plan. But it’s not as though it can’t be adjusted based on other ways of bringing funding to the table,” she said. Bulova noted that in the past, loans and new funding have brought down expected toll increases. “So we’ll continue to find ways of managing the costs,” she said.
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