The airports authority is conducting a new traffic and revenue study for the toll road that will shed more light on future tolling rates needed to support the bonds. That study is supposed to be released early next year.
Jonathan Pagan, of airports authority consultants Wilbur Smith Associates, said at a meeting Wednesday that the first draft of the study is almost complete. Despite all the changes with the project since Wilbur Smith last prognosticated future toll rates, in 2009, Pagan said he expects very few adjustments to those projections.
That report projected costs for a full trip on the Dulles Toll Road to rise to $3.25 by 2015, $5 by 2020 and $7.50 by 2030. The current rate for such a trip is $2, and it is already slated to increase to $2.25 on Jan. 1.
“That [tolling] schedule is about where tolls are headed, and the report that will be released early next year will confirm that,” said Robert Clarke Brown, who chairs the airport board’s Finance Committee.Given that the total cost of Phase 2 has risen from the 2009 figure of $2.5 billion to the recent LaHood MOA cost of at least $2.8 billion, one would have to expect at least a 10% toll price increase. Nonetheless, there are any number of assumptions that will go into WSA's calculations (that were left untold in the 2009 study) that could affect the toll price rise, maybe debt servicing cost assumptions most importantly. Also, it's doubtful the study will consider total construction cost contingencies higher than the current $2.8 billion estimate and, thus, provide no guidance on how likely cost increases may affect tolls. That said, because of the way the financial partners (MWAA, Fairfax, Loudoun) have structured their agreement, toll road users will end up paying three-quarters of any additional construction costs.
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