As the Virginia State Corporation Commission nears the end of its investigation of the toll rate structure on the Dulles Greenway, Del. David I. Ramadan (R-Loudoun) filed public testimony in the case last week, claiming that the privately owned road’s operators are violating Virginia law.
In a legal memorandum filed Tuesday, Ramadan and his team of legal and economics advisers say that Toll Road Investors Partnership II, the operators of the greenway, fail to comply with three relevant portions of the state code: requiring that the toll rates be reasonable to users, that they do not discourage use of the road and that the operator doesn’t make more than a reasonable profit.
The investigation of the greenway’s toll rates began this year, after Ramadan, one of the road’s most outspoken critics, responded to TRIP II’s request for a rate increase by filing a complaint with the State Corporation Commission. Ramadan asked that the commission review the toll structure and allow members of the public to voice their concerns about the rising rates.
During several public hearings in the spring and summer, many residents said they avoided using the road because of the cost. Because the road does not use a distance-based toll structure, even commuters who travel only one or two exits on the greenway must pay up to $4.90 for a one-way trip during peak hours.
“It’s outrageous,” Ramadan said in an interview. In a household with two commuters, the cost could be as much as $500 per month, he said.
“They have to choose: Do I pay this and spend the extra half an hour with my kids before they go to bed? Or do I not do it and miss my kids?” he said. “It becomes a quality-of-life issue.”
The toll rates result in a dangerous and costly “domino effect,” Ramadan said, because drivers who want to avoid the costly rates turn to already congested roads. Trucks, which must pay an even higher rate to travel the greenway, also avoid the tolls and opt for other routes, he said.
“So then you have trucks crowding onto other roads, or driving in 25-mile-per-hour zones on neighborhood streets in Ashburn,” he said. “It’s a public safety problem.”
Ramadan said he thinks he and his team have presented a bulletproof argument that TRIP II is in violation of the relevant statutes.
“That’s why the Loudoun chamber supported this, and that’s why Loudoun County joined the lawsuit,” he said, referring to the county Board of Supervisors’ recently approved request to join the complaint. “This is a clear-cut, monopolistic abuse of a public utility.”
Virginia politicians, including U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and Loudoun supervisors, and residents alike have expressed support for Ramadan’s effort. More than 5,800 people have endorsed an online petition opposing the greenway toll structure, which Ramadan said is irrefutable proof that a considerable number of drivers are actively avoiding the road.
The complaint will be reviewed Nov. 12 in Richmond at an evidentiary hearing before an administrative judge, Ramadan said. After the judge makes a determination in the case, it will be sent to the full commission for review.
Ramadan said he is optimistic that his efforts will prove successful and that progress will be made toward implementing distance-based tolling on the Dulles Greenway.
“I’m hopeful that we’ve laid out a clear case” for the State Corporation Commission, he said.