The following is a copy of a letter Mr. Norton sent to Chairman Bulova today.
Dear Chairman Bulova:
I just received your latest Bulova Byline with a section devoted to the Phase 2 funding problem for the Metro extension. I am aware that the recent funding agreement doesn’t change, by much, the fact that Dulles Toll Road users are being forced to pay up to 75% of the cost of the extension – but it does hold out some hope that the percentage may be somewhat lower. I’d like you to know – and the whole Board of Supervisors to know – that, while I am a supporter of the Metro extension, there is considerable anger among those of us who use the Dulles Toll Road over the fact that we have been selected to carry the bulk of the financial obligations of this undertaking.
Dulles Toll Road users are, by definition, NOT using the Metro extension. Why on earth have we been selected to pay for most of it? Why aren’t users of the Metro extension being asked to pay the 75%? That question is rhetorical, I suppose, since the costs are enormous and the fare increases for Metro riders would be similarly enormous, and that would hurt Metro ridership. A more pertinent question is, Why aren’t Maryland, DC, and Virginia being asked to pay for these costs as they have paid for, and are paying for, the rest of the Metro operation? I am at a loss to explain.
Over the years, ever since its construction in fact, I have paid tolls for using the Dulles Toll Road, knowing that because I live in Reston I have the “privilege” of paying tolls on the major highway through my community, when virtually all my neighbors in the surrounding Washington DC, metropolitan area do not pay tolls for using nearby roads. We all pay taxes for roads, but until recently only Dulles Toll Road users paid something more. (Maryland’s ICC and the Beltway “Hot Lanes” are two new toll-supported highways. Those roads, particularly the “Hot Lanes,” are for another email.) Dulles tolls are something I accepted early. When the tolls were scheduled to expire (about five years ago I believe) I did not really expect them to, and I was right. But I believed that the collected tolls would always be used to maintain and expand and improve the Toll Road - and not be used for other county and state obligations. That’s where I was wrong.
The Toll Road fees, as it turns out, are an easy target for the political establishment. They are already being collected. Users are thought to have become accustomed to increases from time to time. And, apparently, they are not treated as a tax. (Perish the thought that taxes be increased to pay for needed infrastructure!) But it is fundamentally unfair to impose this funding burden on Toll Road users.
I view the Metro extension as a “public good” that benefits everyone. Similarly, the construction and maintenance of public highways is a “public good.” Philosophically, we can talk about whether user fees, such as tolls, should fund our roads or whether roads ought to be funded through general revenues. It makes sense that road users should pay more for the costs of our highways than nonusers. But we should also acknowledge that highway and general transportation infrastructure is an essential element for any community, county, and state. Taxes should fund most of it. Everyone benefits. Perhaps those who benefit most, such as frequent users, could and should pay a bit more.
But a single subset of Fairfax County residents who may benefit in some small way (i.e., Toll Road users benefiting from a presumed lessening of congestion because some potential Toll Road users are riding the Metro extension) should not be asked to pay for a disproportionate piece of the pie. Yet that is exactly what you are asking Dulles Toll Road users to do. If Dulles Toll Road users are asked to pay, shouldn’t Route 7 users pay; shouldn’t Route 66 users pay; shouldn’t Beltway users pay; shouldn’t Dulles Connector users? I envision DC and Arlington residents driving west on Route 66 and the Dulles Connector to their jobs in Tysons Corner (the “reverse commute” on Route 66 inside the Beltway is very heavy), but they will pay nothing for the Metro extension. Yet Fairfax County residents who drive east from Reston or Herndon on the Dulles Road and Route 66 to their jobs in Arlington and DC will pay for the Metro extension. What sense does that make? The notion that the latter group of residents is using the Dulles “corridor” is a red herring. The Reston/Herndon residents are no more using the Metro extension than the DC/Arlington residents. That’s the point.
I hope you will continue to work on this issue to fight the inequity I have described.
cc: Supervisor Cathy Hudgins