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Supervisors Take Stand Against Toll Increase

By Lila de Tantillo Leslie Shepherd
Thursday, February 17, 2005; Page LZ01

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 8 to 1 on Tuesday to oppose any toll increase on the Dulles Toll Road to help pay for the extension of Metrorail until other sources of funding have been examined. The resolution stopped short of withdrawing support for extending Metrorail into Loudoun if the increases are approved.

Supervisor Stephen J. Snow (R-Dulles) said the increase was being "ramrodded" through without consultation with Loudoun and western Fairfax residents, who he said would bear the brunt of the increase.

_____Metrorail Special Report_____
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The Commonwealth Transportation Board was scheduled to consider the proposed increases in Richmond yesterday and today.

The proposal calls for raising tolls from 50 cents to 75 cents at the main plaza at Spring Hill Road, from 35 cents to 50 cents at the Sully Road booths and from 25 cents to 50 cents at exit and entrance ramps. That would boost the minimum cost of a trip to 50 cents; the maximum would be $1.25.

Driving on the toll road now costs 25 to 85 cents, depending on the distance traveled.

The increase would be the first since the Dulles Toll Road opened in 1984, linking Dulles International Airport, via Interstate 66, with downtown Washington.

"I personally believe this [toll increase] is payback for Northern Virginia voters voting down the transportation tax," Snow said in an interview after the vote on his resolution. He was referring to the November 2002 referendum to raise sales taxes to pay for transportation projects. Voters rejected the increase.

Snow said he objected to Loudoun motorists being asked to pay for a rail system that he said would be used predominantly by others. The toll increase would help pay the state's share of the first phase of the Metrorail extension from Falls Church to Tysons Corner and Wiehle Avenue in Reston.

"If they are empowered to put a tax anytime they want, does that mean anytime they want money for anything, they can just raise the tolls?" Snow asked.

Snow made similar points Friday night at a sparsely attended public hearing in Leesburg on the proposed toll increase. Friday's hearing was organized by Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), who asked Katherine K. Hanley, former chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors and now a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, to take questions and hear from the public. Fewer than three dozen people attended the meeting in the board room of the County Government Center, including journalists, staff members, children, the supervisors, Hanley and a second transportation board member, Julia A. Connally.

Snow said then that developers, not commuters, should pay for Metrorail's extension.

"You can bring all the rail you want, but the taxpayers ought not to have to pay for it," he said.

Snow also predicted that the toll increase would lead to increased congestion on Route 50 and Interstate 66 as drivers refuse to pay the higher rate, either because they can't afford it or as a protest.

Tulloch said the toll booths were supposed to have been removed once construction of the road was paid for.

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