Though Virginia has become a leader in using toll revenue to pay for transit improvements, increases on the Dulles Toll Road are particularly sensitive because many residents think it’s unfair to tax drivers to pay for the cost of building a new Metro line. At least two lawsuits have been filed challenging MWAA’s authority to use toll road revenue to pay for the Silver Line. However, none has been successful at ending the practice.
Tolls went up five times between 2010 and 2014 before stabilizing after Virginia contributed $150 million to the second phase of the rail project.
MWAA recently began work on a $23.4 million upgrade to the current electronic toll system. The new equipment offers the possibility that drivers could be charged different rates based on traffic conditions and the time of day they travel. Similar systems are in place throughout Northern Virginia, including Interstates 495, 95 and the 66 Express Lanes. The most recent example is I-66 inside the Capital Beltway, where solo weekday rush-hour drivers traveling in the peak direction pay tolls based on traffic and demand.
However, MWAA chief executive Jack Potter on Wednesday was quick to say that the authority is not considering variable tolling as part of a possible increase in 2019.
Public hearings are likely to be held this summer, and the board could adopt the new rates at its October board meeting.