Here They Go Again…

Without any notice and without giving commuters a hearing in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), an unelected and unaccounted body, is scheduled to raise tolls from 50 to 75 cents at the main plaza and 35 to 50 cents at each exit on Feb. 16-17. This increase wil ostensibly finance the Dulles Rail project–which will not be built to Reston until 2011 at the earliest and which will not take cars off the roads to ease congestion. The new fares could be in effect as early as spring!

This means that for those who use the Toll Road every work day, their annual costs will jump from $204 to $400… Add that to the price of gasoline and tolls for the Greenway, and suddenly, Virginia is more than doublinng Northern Virginia’s commuters costs to get to work–but is providing nothing in return.

At least the Greenway, which is a private toll road, held hearings in Loudoun County on its fare increase in 2003. The same should apply to the Toll Road controlled by the State. The Toll Road was financed by the taxpayers of Virginia, who were promised that the tolls would be lifted once the road is paid off. Instead, tolls could eventually go to $2.25 each way to pay for Dulles Rail!


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  1. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Phil, surely you remember what colleague Barnie Day told us about what it takes to keep our transportation network going:

    “It takes MONEY! Lots and lots of MONEY! Continuous, never ending MONEY!”

    Load up those Smart Tags with more electronic cash and pray for the day you’ll find a parking space at the new Reston station in 2011 so you can squeeze onto the train.

  2. Chris Brancato Avatar
    Chris Brancato

    Will,
    The EZ pass doesn’t work more than half of the time!

    CB

  3. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    My Smart Tag works like a champ, all the time, helping to chip away at the bonds that financed the Powite Parkway.

  4. Chris Brancato Avatar
    Chris Brancato

    Wish mine did.

  5. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    My Smart Tag works all the time too. It worked great when I drove to PA a couple of times last year.

    Never mind the Smart Tags, though. Isn’t anyone outraged at the prospect of the Tolls doubling and the toll revenues being diverted for Rail to Dulles–a project that we may never see completed due to its astronomical costs and other inefficiencies?

  6. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I guess I wasn’t sarcastic enough, Phil.

  7. Jim Bacon Avatar

    I’m a big believer in tolls — under certain circumstances. Tolls are totally justifiable if they help create a transportation option that didn’t exist before. They’re voluntary. No one has to use the toll road if they don’t want to. Where I part company with the Commonwealth Transportation Board is in raising the tolls above and beyond what is needed to retire the bonds that financed the original project. That IS breaking faith with the citizens.

    Sounds like a great topic for a Bacon’s Rebellion column.

  8. Jim Bacon’s point is a good one. Recall, too, the outrage in 2002 when voters here in NOVA defeated the incongruous proposal to raise our sales tax to pay for road improvements.

  9. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Jim, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. I too strongly believe in tolls. But the Dulles Tolls Road is almost paid off. The tolls were supposed to be removed when the road was paid off.

    This road has now become the CTB’s cash cow. In 2001 it generated almost $42 million in revenue, while maintenance and debt service only amounted to $25 million, producing a net profit of $16.9 million. Now the CTB wants to use the toll proceeds to finance the boondoggle called Rail to Dulles–a boondoggle that may never materialize given how expensive it is.

    For more on this please see “Innovative Proposals for Relieving Traffic Congestion,” a VA Club for Growth Policy Commentary that was published on 9/9/2003.

  10. E Joseph West Avatar
    E Joseph West

    Notwithstanding that I may be the utter cynic in this conversation, doesn’t everyone remember that this “cash cow” technique easily is over a century old? Back in the 19th Century, Leesburg Pike was a private toll road (build on raised wooden planks) from Alexandria through Baileys Crossroads to Leesburg. Instead of being the “cash cow” of the Commonwealth, it was the real “cash cow” for the owners. Do we know how to repeal greed in either the private or pbulic sector?

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t have a problem with users paying the full costs of their transportation choices. However a free market in transportation will have to be balanced with a free market in land use as well. Otherwise we’ll have non-elected groups like the CTB in cahoots with non-elected groups like the “volunteers” that create our “comprehensive” plans to create economic chaos. Talk about dysfunctional development patterns!

    Ray Hyde
    Delaplane VA

  12. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Ray: I don’t have a problem with users paying the costs of their transportation choices, either. But the governing words here are “transporation choices.” The folks that drive on the toll road are not very likely to ever use Rail to Dulles–assuming this boondonggle is ever built. If we start using toll revenues to subsidize metro, why not set up toll booths along the beltway and use the money to fund the relief aid to the Tsunami victims? My comparison is an exaggeration, but the idea of taking highway tolls to subsidize public transportation is just as preposterous–an unprecedented government money grag!

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Regarding last comment that it is doubted the current users will ever use Rail to Dulles, there have been numerous studies in the eastern Loudoun area and at company sites with commuters showing a desire to use metrorail out to the Corridor. Many folks moving into the area will use Metrorail. Even if the number of projected riders is lower than projected at first, I’d still gladly pay the 25 cents per clip or whatever the total is. I want Metrorail done to Loudoun County and I know this toll is critical to this process. Twenty years in the corridor believing in this project and paying the tolls. I’ve also attended two different public hearings where the tolls
    were discussed by the way.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    I was agreeing with you that some people shold not have to pay the price for decisions imposed on them by others for the supposed benefit of society.

    In order to prevent dysfunctional development pattern and simultaneously put the people where there is already surplus road capacity, wouldn’t it make more sense to move the jobs once than it does to move all the people every day to the same place?

    Of course it does, but that will require a free market in land use, which we don’t have. I agree that one set of commuters should not be forced to pay for another set of commuters choices, or even worse to pay for that choice and force the other commuter to use it when they would not have otherwise.

    “Otherwise”, in this case, assumes that they would have had the opportunity to have some job closer to home. For example some one might want to make money having a few wedding events at their winery, or giving childrens horse shows, or making cement, or building a training school, all of which have been recently prohibited in Fauquier county. Unlike other jurisdictions Fauquier has actively opposed all sorts of job creation, and this has helped create a functional imbalance which otherwise would not exist.

    Either you have a free market in highway use and a free market in land use, so people can both develop and use rational choices in their lives, or else you subsidise transit use in order to direct people into otherwise dysfunctional settlement patterns.

    This means that some landowners make a killing and others get killed, because their land is “protected”. In order to prevent gross injustices and to pay for the environmental benefits received, those landowners will have to be subsidised with yet more taxes on top of the ones used to build the transit system that was supposed to prevent dydfunctional settlement patterns.

    One way or another, we are ALL going to wind up paying for what we get. Any attempt to shift costs eslewhere will fail. In my opinion, it is clear that the long- term, least-cost, most-optimal solution is obtained when the people who provide the energy work against the least possible restraints.

    Ray Hyde
    Delaplane, VA

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim bacon wrote:

    I’m a big believer in tolls — under certain circumstances. Tolls are totally justifiable if they help create a transportation option that didn’t exist before. They’re voluntary. No one has to use the toll road if they don’t want to. Where I part company with the Commonwealth Transportation Board is in raising the tolls above and beyond what is needed to retire the bonds that financed the original project. That IS breaking faith with the citizens.

    This would be a great column, Jim. If you can, contact Tom Hirst, whose father (the late Sen. Omer Hirst), created the Toll road. Tom is at the Mason Hirst Co’s in reston. And yes, there was a promise to the taxpayers that the tolls would come off the road once the bonds were paid off. So, with this toll increase for rail, the tolls will not only stay on forever, but they will go even higher — as much as $2.25 each way.

    Ken Reid kreid@fdainfo.com

  16. Gil Davis Avatar

    Phil: Great to see you at the Reston dinner. I’m delighted you are spearheading this insane toll issue which will raise money from the wallets of citizens who probably will never use, nor even see completed, the 4 billion dollar boondoggle known as Dulles Rail. This project, which is the largest public works project ever in Virginia (our own version of the Boston Big Dig), is draining almost every dollar marked for other No. Va. transportaion improvements, probably not be online for 15 years, and cause when built at least 100 million in yearly operating deficits to be paid by Fairfax County taxpayers.It was proposed to the state by big Tysons’ developers who expect to line their pockets at taxpayer expense. These developers were to be partners with government when they proposed the deal under the Virginia Public-Private Partnership Act. Yet almost their only contribution will be to build and sell/rent much of the 33million square feet of commercial space which supposedly will be added, because of the railroad project, to the 26 million square feet which already exists at Tysons. Imagine the traffic gridlock once Tysons Corner more than doubles! The four planned Tysons Corner stops have no planned parking garages, and no planned circulator system necessary to move people around Tysons once they leave the train.

    These are only a few of the issues that make this whole affair, including toll increases which will eventually dwarf even those planned for the near future, a monstrous catastophe in the making.

    To make matters even worse, Gerald Connolly, who had taken a job as community relations director of big Tysons developer SAIC just weeks before the October 2002 vote of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors which voted to add a fourth stop at Tysons at the doorstep of SAIC, did not disclose his conflict, as required by law, to the Board. This is the only underground stop at Tysons. That conveniently facilitates the acceptance of any of SAIC’s building proposals at the site since no proffer of land will be needed for infrastructure and there will be no density issues to overcome.

    Mr. Connolly flatly denied his actions to several Rotary Club members and me after speaking to a Club meeting. He told us the SAIC railroad stop was already in the plans by 1994 before he became a Supervisor, and that he was thinking of suing Jack Herrity for propagating false information of Mr. Connolly’s non-disclosure of conflicts before voting for the SAIC railroad stop in 2002. Since this allegation was in a lawsuit I filed against the County, which challenged the legality of the procedures for adopting the project, I became concerned that perhaps I had prepared factually incorrect pleadings. I immediately made a copy of the Board’s video of the discussion and vote in October, 2002 and I had the audio portion transcribed by a court reporter. These materials, as well as the Secretary’s minutes of the meeting, proved Gerald Connolly’s statement of innocence is flatly false.

    The point is that this project has been railroaded over the public interest from the very beginning when the state initially rejected it. Intense political heat was then successfully applied to reverse that decision. This continues right on down to the present when the people are finally waking up to the horrible reality of this ill-conceived and perhaps even corrupt project. Of course, we should not be so suprised when we learn that Metro (to be the operator of the new spur), some big developers, and supposedly “independent consultants” have shared the same office space on the same floor of a building in Balston.

    It’s time for the politicians of both political parties,who almost unanimously support this railroad, to be held to account. It’s time to stop this railroad in its tracks before more money is wasted on it. I am a candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia. My opponent, who is Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, totally supports this Tysons Corner railroad. Contrary to what seems to be his view on the project, I believe that Big Dollars working together with Big Government often means Big Trouble for the People.

    Gil Davis for Lt. Governor
    9502-A Lee Hwy
    Fairfax, Va. 22031
    gildavis@verizon.net
    703:352-3850
    (website: Gil Davis.org)

  17. Gil Davis Avatar

    Phil: Great to see you at the Reston dinner. I’m delighted you are spearheading this insane toll issue which will raise money from the wallets of citizens who probably will never use, nor even see completed, the 4 billion dollar boondoggle known as Dulles Rail. This project, which is the largest public works project ever in Virginia (our own version of the Boston Big Dig), is draining almost every dollar marked for other No. Va. transportaion improvements, probably not be online for 15 years, and cause when built at least 100 million in yearly operating deficits to be paid by Fairfax County taxpayers.It was proposed to the state by big Tysons’ developers who expect to line their pockets at taxpayer expense. These developers were to be partners with government when they proposed the deal under the Virginia Public-Private Partnership Act. Yet almost their only contribution will be to build and sell/rent much of the 33million square feet of commercial space which supposedly will be added, because of the railroad project, to the 26 million square feet which already exists at Tysons. Imagine the traffic gridlock once Tysons Corner more than doubles! The four planned Tysons Corner stops have no planned parking garages, and no planned circulator system necessary to move people around Tysons once they leave the train.

    These are only a few of the issues that make this whole affair, including toll increases which will eventually dwarf even those planned for the near future, a monstrous catastophe in the making.

    To make matters even worse, Gerald Connolly, who had taken a job as community relations director of big Tysons developer SAIC just weeks before the October 2002 vote of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors which voted to add a fourth stop at Tysons at the doorstep of SAIC, did not disclose his conflict, as required by law, to the Board. This is the only underground stop at Tysons. That conveniently facilitates the acceptance of any of SAIC’s building proposals at the site since no proffer of land will be needed for infrastructure and there will be no density issues to overcome.

    Mr. Connolly flatly denied his actions to several Rotary Club members and me after speaking to a Club meeting. He told us the SAIC railroad stop was already in the plans by 1994 before he became a Supervisor, and that he was thinking of suing Jack Herrity for propagating false information of Mr. Connolly’s non-disclosure of conflicts before voting for the SAIC railroad stop in 2002. Since this allegation was in a lawsuit I filed against the County, which challenged the legality of the procedures for adopting the project, I became concerned that perhaps I had prepared factually incorrect pleadings. I immediately made a copy of the Board’s video of the discussion and vote in October, 2002 and I had the audio portion transcribed by a court reporter. These materials, as well as the Secretary’s minutes of the meeting, proved Gerald Connolly’s statement of innocence is flatly false.

    The point is that this project has been railroaded over the public interest from the very beginning when the state initially rejected it. Intense political heat was then successfully applied to reverse that decision. This continues right on down to the present when the people are finally waking up to the horrible reality of this ill-conceived and perhaps even corrupt project. Of course, we should not be so suprised when we learn that Metro (to be the operator of the new spur), some big developers, and supposedly “independent consultants” have shared the same office space on the same floor of a building in Balston.

    It’s time for the politicians of both political parties,who almost unanimously support this railroad, to be held to account. It’s time to stop this railroad in its tracks before more money is wasted on it. I am a candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia. My opponent, who is Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, totally supports this Tysons Corner railroad. Contrary to what seems to be his view on the project, I believe that Big Dollars working together with Big Government often means Big Trouble for the People.

    Gil Davis for Lt. Governor
    9502-A Lee Hwy
    Fairfax, Va. 22031
    gildavis@verizon.net
    703:352-3850
    (website: Gil Davis.org)

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