Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dulles Toll Road users shoulder an increasing share of Silver Line’s costs, Washington Post, July 12, 2014

July 12 at 7:26 PM
Dulles Toll Road users are shouldering nearly half of the costs of Metro’s soon-to-open Silver Line, a far bigger share than originally predicted.
Those drivers also face the biggest exposure for any additional cost overruns or delays on the rail line set to open July 26 — seven months late and $150 million over budget.
Commuters are vulnerable because tolls are the one share of the Silver Line project’s funding formula that is not capped at a fixed dollar amount or percentage of the final tab.
Since construction began five years ago, there have been five toll increases that spiked a common round trip from $2.50 to $7 or, viewed as a monthly tab for typical weekday commuters, from $50 to $140.
The impact of the line’s rising costs has been painfully apparent to drivers who use the road regularly. Yet the significance of rising tolls as a main funding source drew less public attention than heated intrastate political battles and engineering skirmishes over tunnels. . . .
Click here to read the rest of this article. 

While the increases in tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and their role in financing the Silver Line are not news to toll road commuters or Reston 2020 blog readers, their importance can not be ignored and we appreciate the Post picking up on this unfair and inequitable assignment of Metrorail costs to those who will or can not use the Silver Line for their purposes.

Although former Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley is quoted as being "amazed" by the role highway tolls play in financing the rail line, the Fairfax Board under her successor, Gerry Connolly,, was specifically responsible for promoting and approving the 2007 "Funding Partners Agreement" that set this arrangement in place without so much as a public hearing. 

Without TIFIA funding--which is clearly a possibility as the Highway Trust Fund dries up in the next month without Congressional action--CDMSmith forecast that tolls would rise to $18 full toll each way by 2050 (about $7-$8 in today's dollars).  With TIFIA funding, tolls will still rise to about $12 each way, meaning an annual toll bill of about $4,800 for Dulles Toll Road users. 

And just for clarity, we would note that MWAA is paying only 4.1% of the rail construction costs (about $240 million)--less than half what it will cost to build the station at Dulles Airport and the rail line across Airport property ($587 million according to MWAA's April 2011 cost analysis).  And, oh yeah, MWAA will be leasing its land along the Silver Line to developers at a huge profit in the years ahead.  Fair, reasonable???

Of course, now Congressman Connolly is singing a different tune as he practically broke his arm patting himself on the back for his role in garnering a TIFIA funding commitment for the Silver Line.  While we appreciate his efforts along with those of Rep. Frank Wolf and Virginia Senators Warner and Kaine to gain this reduced-cost funding commitment, we know--and so do they--that this financial arrangement is unfair, inequitable, and quite possibly imprudent in the long term--even if TIFIA comes through. 

Before we sign off here, we will reiterate again that Reston 2020--and most Restonians--welcome the arrival of the Silver Line in Reston and its future extension into Loudoun County.  We believe it will be an important ingredient in the continuing economic health of our community.

We do, however, continue to object in the strongest possible terms to the abominable financial arrangements that force people who are not be able to use the Silver Line for any reasonable purpose to pay the largest share of its construction cost.  It is a disgrace and a mockery of sound public policy. 

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