fueled the American Revolution more than 200 years
ago was the issue of taxation without
representation. Most Americans firmly believe that
electoral representation is the fundamental
kingpin of our country’s political system.
our legislators in
have forgotten this important historical lesson.
the late 1970s and 1980s, the population around
the Dulles corridor in
exploded. However, no new roads were built to
accommodate the new residents who were stuck in
impossible traffic jams on secondary roads.
the urging of Fairfax
a statute was enacted in 1979 authorizing the
issuance of bonds to pay for the construction of a
four-lane highway. The bonds were to be repaid by
charging tolls at most entrance and exit points on
what came to be known as the Dulles Toll Road (DTR).
DTR parallels the limited access, four-lane
highway to Dulles
The Federal authority overseeing Dulles
Airport has consistently refused to let daily commuters
use the road to the airport, although some
mass-transit buses are allowed to access this road
during peak commuting hours.
its inception the DTR has proven to be the
Commonwealth’s most successful toll road. It was
so successful that within years after the
four-lane highway was completed, the movement on
this road had come to a standstill during
rush-hour traffic. So in 1989, the General
Assembly enacted another statute authorizing the
issuance of additional bonds.
new bonds were to pay for the construction of four
additional lanes, so that the DTR would be
expanded to an eight-lane highway. Again, it was
envisioned that tolls would continue to be
collected to pay for the additional construction.
However, the DTR users were promised that the
tolls would be removed in 2016 once the principal
and interest on the outstanding bonds were paid
1990, the General Assembly amended the language in
the original statute. It authorized the
Commonwealth Transportation Board to provide
additional improvements on the DTR, including for
the funding of mass transit.
tolls were used to pay for turnpikes and other
roads that were constructed without being funded
by general state revenues. Tolls represent the
ultimate user fee—those who use the road pay for
its construction. That way, the state doesn’t
have to raise taxes to build a road that will
benefit only a small segment of the population.
idea that toll revenues would be used for anything
other than repaying the principal and interest on
the bond obligations, road maintenance or
additional road improvements is unheard of in Virginia.
On the contrary, the Virginia State Revenue Bond
Act, specifically calls for the removal of tolls
once the bonds issued for such construction have
when it comes to the DTR, our legislators saw fit
to exempt it from the provisions of the State
Revenue Bond Act. Accordingly, the provisions that
apply to any other toll facility in
are not applicable to the DTR.
the statute was amended to authorize the
transportation board to use toll proceeds to fund
mass transit, no one thought much about it. It
makes sense to provide for parking lots and other
mass transit facilities along the DTR so that the
toll payers could have an option of taking an
express bus to downtown Washington,
now the transportation board—an unelected and
unaccounted body—has taken this concept one step
further. It is raising the tolls on the DTR to pay
the state’s share of funding the extension of
Metro Rail to
a project that makes little economic sense.
state has committed to pay 25 percent of the
construction costs of the Metro extension. When
the state makes this sort of commitments, it
generally pays with general tax revenues. In this
case, our elected officials have decided to impose
a discriminating tax on a select segment of the
state’s population—a tax no different than a
sin is that they commute on the DTR, which has
turned into a cash cow, raising more than
$41.8 million in 2004. After paying the principal
and interest on the debt as well as accounting for
the maintenance costs, the DTR returned a net
profit of $14.5 million—that’s a lot of
that’s not good enough for the greedy
tax-and-spend mentality that is ingrained in our
Richmond commissars. So, the users of the DTR will
pay anywhere from 70 percent to 100 percent more
in tolls starting in May 2005. This tax increase
is imposed at a time when the State sits on a $1.2
is nothing short of highway robbery, reminiscent
of the days of Robin Hood. Only, instead of
robbing the rich to pay the poor, the
transportation board is robbing hard-working
Virginians to pay off the special interests
profiting from the Rail-to-Dulles boondoggle.
few, if any, of the toll payers that commute on
the DTR will ever benefit from the extension of
Metro to Dulles. As it currently stands, less than
4 percent of the residents in
use the Metro. It is highly unlikely that the per
capita usage will increase significantly no matter
how many new rail stations are added, because this
line won’t serve existing commuting patterns.
in mind that the
currently pays $56 million a year to cover
Metro’s operating deficit—a deficit that will
increase exponentially if Rail to Dulles ever
comes to fruition.
let’s not forget that heavy rail is a 19th
century technology. It makes little sense in this
day and age to build such mass-transit dinosaurs,
which are expensive and inflexible. Today’s
technology offers us Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
alternatives that can be built at a fraction of
the cost and are extremely flexible in meeting the
shifting demands of 21st century
unelected bureaucrats to raise taxes on a segment
of our population is contrary to everything this
country stands for. Given that the CTB cannot be
held accountable for raising taxes, the affected
electorate should vote against incumbent
legislators who are hiding behind the big lie that
they had nothing to do with the toll increase.
February 28, 2005