by James A. Bacon
Construction of the “Dulles Loop,” 18 miles of high-capacity roadway around Washington Dulles International Airport, will take a big step forward with the recently announced $106 million widening of Rt. 606 along the airport’s western edge.
Financing will come from multiple sources, including $40.5 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation, $41.2 million from Loudoun County and $24.4 million from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which governs the airport. MWAA’s contribution includes the contribution of 56 acres of land valued at $12 million.
There is near-universal agreement that the upgrade is needed. In 2011, roughly 21,500 vehicles daily traveled on the two-lane road, which has a design capacity of 6,700 daily. Traffic is projected to grow to 32,250 daily by 2036.
“This partnership will make Route 606 safer and ensure that motorists and commuters reach their destinations more quickly,” said Governor Bob McDonnell earlier this week in a ceremony highlighting the funding partnership. “Once complete, it will mean easier, less congested commutes for Virginians on a vital transportation link.”
“Route 606, which is a bottleneck now, is a vital link that connects the Dulles South communities with the northern part of the county,” said Loudoun County Chairman Scott York. “Improvement of this road from two lanes to four lanes will be a tremendous relief to both commuters and business that depend on this route on a daily bases.”
The four-laning of Rt. 606 is uncontroversial, even among groups often skeptical of big-ticket road projects. “We have supported expansion of Rt. 606 to four lanes,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. ” There is a two-lane stretch and strong existing traffic demand within Loudoun. This would serve to better connect southern Loudoun to the Silver Line and jobs on the north side of the airport. ”
But Loudoun and MWAA have ambitious future plans for the roadway, and that’s where things get tricky.
The first ticklish point is the MWAA’s funding source. The airport authority is contributing land valued at $12 million — land donated to Dulles by the federal government. The balance of MWAA’s share is cash — cash thrown off by the Dulles Toll Road. The $12 million is a tiny sum compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned from the toll road to build the Silver Line metro extension, but it does potential set a potential precedent for tapping the toll road as a piggy bank for other projects.
MWAA spokesman Chris Paolino says the Rt. 606 funding commitment from the Dulles Toll Road goes back to the mid-2000s when MWAA took over the toll road along with responsibility for managing construction of the Silver Line.
MWAA justifies using toll road funds to improve Rt. 606 because it falls within the “Dulles corridor,” broadly speaking. MWAA’s 2013 budget (page 202) specifies the following expenditures among its “Dulles Corridor Improvements”:
- Rt. 606 widening, Phase 1 (study), $550,000.
- Rt. 606 widening, Phase 1 (design), $4 million
- Rt. 606 widening, Phase 1 (construction), $20 million
In corridor-related projects, the annual report also alludes to planned improvements to Hunter Mill Road ($4.6 million), Fairfax County Parkway ($4.6 million), Reston Parkway ($4.3 million), Centreville Road interchange improvements ($5 million).
The second prickly point is future plans beyond the four-laning. Loudoun’s Countywide Transportation Plan for 2030 shows Rt. 606 as a six- to eight-lane freeway. (See map above.) The route is critical for developing the much-touted air-cargo business at Dulles. State plans call for integrating Rt. 606 into a multimodal North South Corridor providing a freeway transportation connection between Dulles, Interstate 66 and Interstate 95. Funding sources for the corridor, which could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars have not been delineated.
There are practical objections to tapping Dulles Toll Road revenues to fund upgrades beyond four lanes — citizens are already threatening a commuter’s revolt over the toll increases required to fund the Silver Line. On the other hand, MWAA has identified Rt. 606 as part of the Dulles Corridor served by the toll road. Anything is possible.There are currently no comments highlighted.