NORTHERN VIRGINIA TRANSPORTATION
Local Input on Dulles Toll Road Planned
Saturday, April 8, 2006
Responding to complaints from local officials, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) announced the formation of an advisory committee yesterday to provide input on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's oversight of the Dulles Toll Road and the planned extension of Metrorail.
The airports authority signed an agreement last week with the state Transportation Department to assume control of the toll road and use the revenue to ensure the completion of the 23-mile extension of Metro to Dulles International Airport.
Although several Northern Virginia officials welcomed the overall agreement, they objected to the absence of any mechanism to ensure local input on toll increases and other decisions by the authority, an unelected body appointed by various levels of government.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) went so far as to threaten removing Fairfax's 25 percent share of the rail project's roughly $4 billion cost. That share is being paid for mostly by a special tax on landowners along the planned route.
Yesterday, Connolly and other local officials cheered the formation of the committee, even though the announcement made clear that its role will be strictly advisory.
"The committee ensures that an equal number of voices from the local and state government will be present at the table," Connolly said in a statement. "We are confident that the interests of Northern Virginia commuters will be fairly represented."
Added Keith Nusbaum, assistant to Loudoun County Chairman Scott K. York (I): "We're awfully glad we got a seat at the table. This is something that affects all of our constituents in their pocketbook, and someone needs to be batting for them."
The committee will consist of two representatives each from Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the airports authority and the state. Its chairman will be elected by the committee on an annual, rotating basis, and it will meet twice a year unless more meetings are needed.
According to Kaine's announcement, the committee will provide the authority "advice on issues related to the management, improvement and expansion of the Dulles Corridor, as well as changes to tolls on the Dulles Toll Road to fund the roadway improvements and Metrorail extension in the Corridor."
Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the governor, said something like the committee wasn't included in the agreement signed last week only because there were "a lot of moving parts" in the deal. He said the authority did not object to giving local officials a voice on toll increases and other decisions on which the authority has the final say, under the agreement.
"They have been a good neighbor and a huge driving force for progress in the region, and they want to continue to be a good neighbor," Hall said.