Plan to boost rates on Dulles Toll Road expected to advance

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A plan to boost rates on the Dulles Toll Road is expected to move forward Wednesday despite widespread opposition from commuters.

Members of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board will act at committee meetings Wednesday on a staff recommendation that backs raising toll rates. The full board is expected to take up the increases Nov. 4. If approved, they could go into effect in January.

The plan would boost tolls from 75 cents to $1.50 at the main gate and from 50 to 75 cents at ramps by 2012. The airports authority is using toll revenue from the highway, along with federal money and taxes from special districts, to finance the $5 billion project to extend Metro service to Dulles International Airport . The authority is managing construction of the project.

The eight-lane 14-mile toll road runs between Interstate 66 near the West Falls Church Metro station and the Dulles airport.

A decision by the authority's board to raise toll rates would set aside a mountain of objections voiced online and at three public hearings in recent months. Before the vote Wednesday, board members plan to consider a report that summarizes 221 public comments that overwhelmingly slam the plan, with 53 respondents in favor and 168 against.

"Have you people lost your minds?" someone from Winchester wrote in an online submission. "The toll road is already too expensive to be used on a regular basis. It would be nice if you LOWERED the price."

Another person from Aldie said: "When does it end with the toll road? There is always some excuse to keep fees but even worse continue to raise them. I don't think its right. Make the whole region pay for Metro through taxes rather than make the citizens of Loudoun foot the larger burden."

Some commuters criticized the subway extension, known as the Silver Line, which is under construction. It was described as a "boondoggle" that will burden working people with higher tolls. Many said they would be forced to find alternative routes.

A Vienna supporter of the rate increases said they would be a "boon for this region" by drawing the internationally focused Dulles airport closer to downtown Washington through the subway expansion.

The report includes rebuttals of the public complaints by the airport authority's administrative staff. In one response, the board staff said that the recommended rates are in line with those of other toll roads of comparable lengths in Virginia and other states.

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