Why Dulles Will Never Have $17 Tolls

Patrick Forrest, a Republican attorney running for Janet Howell’s state senate seat in the Reston area, speaks for the common man in Northern Virginia on the inevitable increases in the Dulles Toll Road tariff. The top toll, $2 today, could reach $17 per trip, if the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority can’t find some other pot of money to pay for the Rail-to-Dulles heavy rail project.

For years, Northern Virginians vaguely approved of the heavy rail project but didn’t pay close attention to how it would be financed. Only recently has it become clear that cost overruns would be borne by the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the Dulles Toll Road and could cost those who travel the full distance as much as $7,500 a year!

Admittedly, the $17 toll is roughly 30 years away, so many commuters paying $2 today will have moved to Sun City or checked into the Pearly Gates by then. Still, I’d hate to be the politician who has to explain that nuance to voters when dissembling over why he (or she) did nothing to halt the rate hikes even as big engineering/construction firms and landowners with commercial property around the Metro stations raked in the big bucks.

Dulles Toll Road commuters represent an enormous constituency and the projected toll increases are big enough to propel them to the polls. I have no idea if Forrest has a chance of beating Howell or not, but it almost doesn’t matter. If she hangs onto her seat, she’ll get the message.

(Hat tip: LarryG.)

— James A. Bacon

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44 responses to “Why Dulles Will Never Have $17 Tolls”

  1. GetSome2011 Avatar

    Visit http://www.no17tolls.com to sign the petition protesting the toll increases and contribute to Patrick’s campaign!

  2. GetSome2011 Avatar

    It’s also worth noting that by MWAA’s own estimates, tolls will reach $17 round trip as soon as 2016. We must act NOW to stop this outrageous proposal.

  3. Jim:

    How much will the tolls be on the Beltway HOT lanes? Up to $5 / mi during heavy congestion (i.e. the only time you would need those lanes)?

    And that’s not 30 years away either.

    Why do you support the congestion tariffs as fair while opposing the tolls on the Dulles Toll Road?

    Let me put forth several possibilities:

    1. You have some anal retentive need to affix costs to specific people and venues. So, charging beltway drivers $20 a trip is OK because they are driving. However, charging DTR drivers $17 a trip (in 30 years) is unfair because it supports mass transit. If true, you really don’t give a rat’s ass about the “common man” in Northern Virginia. You’re just anal retentive.

    2. You worry that the state might have to bail out an over-run and give Northern Virginia back a puddle’s worth of the ocean of money it has sent through the Clown Show over the years. In that case, you’re just greedy.

    3. You know that Richmond is a B city trending to C. Northern Virginia is a B+ place trending to A. Seeing Richmond continue to fall is just too painful for you to bear. Of course, in true “Descendants of Pocahontas” style, you would rather try to derail Northern Virginia than fix Richmond. In that case, you’re just a typical Richmonder.

    Which is it Jim?

    As for the Jack wagon, pseudo-Republican running against Janet Howell – you must be kidding me? The same party that endless complains against frivolous lawsuits and activist courts now wants to go crying to those very courts when they don’t get their way? I never thought I’d see the day when I would have to support Janet Howell for much of anything but that day is here.

  4. Jim:

    Since your new found hero, Patrick Forrest, is some kind of job creating business genius, I wonder of you might help us understand the jobs Patrick has created in his 34 years of being alive.

    What “for profit” companies has he been with?

    What private industry experience does he have?

    I mean, somebody campaigning about being a job creator should have probably created a few jobs somewhere along the line. No?

    Please don’t tell me he’s a federal bureaucrat.

  5. Oh, and perhaps a moment of campaign honesty. Does your new pal ever mention that the $17 tolls are 30 years away in his commercial?

    I mean failing to mention that would be deceitful, right?

    You’d have to consider anybody who led one to believe that those $17 tolls were coming soon to be a bald faced liar, right?

    Jim, you need to find new heroes. I seem to remember a Teletubby that would be a good role model for you.

    1. GetSome2011 Avatar

      Someone drank their haterade today.

      Do some research clown. According to MWAA’s own estimates, tolls will reach $17 roundtrip by 2016. But I bet you don’t even know what MWAA is or their role in the Rail project do you?

      Get a life.

      1. Yes, I know the MWAA’s role. It took over the project when the Clown Show in Richmond (in the form of Tim Kaine) went AWOL. Apparently, Lil’ Timmy had to go save the Democratic Party in the 2010 elections rather than do his job as governor. Now, he wants to be one of Virginia’s two senators. If you want to vent, vent on that.

      2. Haterade?

        Haven’t classes started back at that middle school you attend yet?

  6. re: HOT Lane tolls. the primary purpose of HOT lane tolls is to shape congestion not fund transit.

    but it’s true, they do expect to take in enough on tolls to, in theory, pay the operational and maintenance costs and still have some left over for transit and if it turns out the way that Dulles does… a potential cash cow…look out!

    HOT Lanes in the USA – so far – are not big revenue generators… it turns out that far fewer people have a real need to be somewhere at the height of rush hour – at least not enough need to pay big tolls..

    since we’re talking rt 495… in Govt City – the possibility of tax dollars being used to reimburse govt workers who want to drive solo to/from work at rush hour… I predict… will happen… we’ll have GS-12s having their daily HOT tolls reimbursed by tax dollars…

  7. There is a big difference between HOT Lanes tolls and DTR tolls. With the HOT Lanes, a toll-paying driver will be traveling at 55 mph. Dynamic tolls are designed to keep traffic moving at highway speeds. In fact, if Transurban lets the speeds go below 45 mph, Transurban incurs a financial penalty. With the DTR, a toll-paying driver will be traveling at whatever speed the DTR can handle, which could well be 5 mph.

  8. good point TMT.

    I tell you …that Groveton guy… I thought he was pure death on tax & spend politicians …like Obama with his socialist do-gooder agenda…. boy was I ever wrong! He apparently LIKES tax and spending if it is for something he wants…


    so if Obama had promised to rain down stimulus money on Dulles Rail.. he would have been Groveton’s hero?

    kinda hard to believe..you know…


  9. Groveton, I’m glad to hear that you rate Northern Virginia as a B+ heading to A. Perhaps that assessment will incline you toward keeping your enterprise in NoVa rather than moving it to Salt Lake City, or wherever.

    As for your main point, what’s the difference between high tolls for a HOT lane and high tolls for the Dulles Toll Road? LarryG, a sentimental weepy-eyed liberal, gets it (sorry for the hyperbole, LarryG, but I’m trying to get Groveton’s goat here). I am baffled that a smart guy like you doesn’t get it.

    Here’s how the two are different. First, the Northern Virginia HOT lanes will use the pricing mechanism to ration scarce highway capacity, depending upon the level of traffic. DTR will charge flat rates.

    The HOT lane tolls are self adjusting… that is, when demand slackens, the tolls drop. The system is designed to keep the roads running at peak capacity. The DTR tolls are a blind beast. They are not adjusted for demand. There is a high degree of likelihood that many drivers will avoid the DTR entirely and clog side roads, accentuating the existing congestion. At some times of day, DTR will be operating way *under* design capacity. A lucky few METRO riders will have a wonderful experience. Everyone else, will have a miserable experience. Overall living conditions in NoVa will deteriorate.

    Second, commuters will not be required to use the HOT lanes if they travel on the Interstate; they will have the option of using the existing Interstate lanes and not pay a toll. Some DTR commuters will have the option of using the METRO but, depending upon their origin and destination, most will not. They will have no choice but to pay the toll.

    Third, toll revenues from the HOT lanes will be used to pay for the added capacity that toll payers are using. In the case of DTR, commuter will be paying tolls to subsidize construction of a heavy rail project that (a) they may never use, (b) will contribute only marginally to congestion mitigation, and (c) will provide transportation for the affluent and powerful airline travelers, like you, at a hefty discount to cost.

    If I’m “anal retentive” for thinking that people should pay for the transportation capacity they consume, then so be it.

  10. ” sentimental weepy-eyed liberal” hey, hey ….HEY!!!

    weepy eyed liberals don’t usually like TOLLs, think schools are underfunded, want mortgage deductions and subsidized flood insurance and more entitlements…., no responsibility for local roads… etc, etc…

    I consider myself to the RIGHT of Bacon and Groveton on more than a few issues including tolling and outlandishly costly transit systems with no viable funding sources.

    For instance, I’d fund ONLY the SOLs for schools and let parents and not taxpayers pay for everything else… that would lower property taxes – make it more affordable for people to live locally instead of commuting… and focus the schools on the core purpose that they are now evading…by offering everything except the courses that lead to real world jobs.

  11. Quite a screed there Jimmy. Where does your “pay for what you use” theory end? How much do the commuters using the DTR actually cost the community? They generally live in scatterized outlying suburbs while burning fossil fuel commuting great distances to jobs closer to the city. They can afford car, tolls, parking, etc. They could live closer to the city but they want big houses that they can’t afford closer to the city.

    What would happen around the new Metro stops? There would be a cluster of housing, jobs, recreation, etc. It’s happening right now at Dun Loring and many other places in Northern Virginia. Needless to say, those benefits are never in the calculations of those who oppose progress in any form.

    I listened to people like you complain about Boston’s Big Dig for years. I was even convinced to be a detractor. But now I see the ripple of progress that the tunnel has created. Boarded up shops reopening, companies moving back into the city, etc. You should get out of the basement of your house in the Richmond suburbs and head to Boston for a look.

    TMT is worried that the toll road with it’s $17 tolls will be so crowded that traffic will only move at 5 mph. What is it that Yogi Berra said? Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore. It’s too crowded.

    Since the Clown Show in Richmond refuses to keep the gas tax up to inflation we are forced to take alternate measures for adequate transportation funding. Many may be somewhat hare brained but they represent progress. Progress achieved in spite of the General Assembly.

    As for my company’s expansion – Northern Virginia isn’t on the list. Too expensive, poor quality of life, no top tier university. And here’s a shock for the conservatives – the creative class (as embodied by software types) could CARE LESS about tax rates. They live in San Francisco, Boston, Manhattan, etc. By Tea Party theory those locales should be ghost towns. Only one small problem with that theory … they aren’t.

    1. Maybe the creative class doesn’t care about California taxes, but Savings.com does. Read the company’s “Dear John” letter to the state of California. The company generates $400 million a year in sales and employs 100 people.

      A fluke? I don’t think so.

      I don’t know about the Tea Party’s theory, but it’s not *my* theory that San Francisco, Boston, Manhattan, etc. should turn into ghost towns. My theory is that the creative classes of those locales raise taxes to the levels *they* can bear. The people who suffer the most are those who *can’t* bear that level of taxes, as in upstate New York, the central Valley of California, etc. You’ll find the ghost towns in Rochester, Buffalo, Fresno and Bakersfield.

      1. See my next comment. Why should the tax rate in Bakersfield be the same as the tax rate in San Francisco?

        States are an almost useless remnant of the past. While I support checks on the federal government, there are alternatives to states being the one and only check.

        Of course, that means devolving power from Richmond.

        Let the regions make their own choices.

        1. States may be an anachronism. (EMR thinks they are.) Perhaps we should re-organize governance structures around New Urban Regions. Perhaps the Bakersfield-Fresno part of California and the Rochester-Buffalo-Syracuse part of New York should be hived off from the prosperous parts of their states and be allowed to pursue tax-regulatory-economic development regimes that benefit them.

          But until the time comes when that is possible, as long as diverse regions are governed under a common state umbrella, the prosperous regions with the creative class will pursue policies that benefit them at the expense of the less prosperous regions full of Bubbas, Joses and Tyrones.

  12. In fact, I’d argue that Virginia will never attract and retain a large contingent of the creative class as long as it adheres to Dillon’s Rule. The lack of local autonomy prevents select areas from building the kinds of communities which the creative class finds attractive. Everything gets dumbed down to a hillbilly – yuppie composite which satisfies nobody.

  13. The right answer is to close Reagan National Airport, sell the land for multi-use development and use the proceeds to underwrite the Metro extension and continued expansion of Dulles airport. The Baltimore – Washington area doesn’t need 3 major airports and National is wedged into Arlington in a way that makes expansion practically impossible.

    Of course, the poor, poor Congressmen and Congresswomen would have to take the Metro to Dulles or drive to BWI. Except Nancy Pelosi – she has the Air Force fly her out of Andrews AFB.

  14. A question not answered is: What do the Toll Road user get from the arrival of the Silver Line? Another transportation choice, but so do users of Routes 50 and 7. They don’t get the option of a faster ride or less traffic. What do they receive? Darn little. It just is not fair to make these drivers pay so much for just about nothing.
    Interestingly, Senator Omer Hirst was one of the forces behind the establishment of the DTR. He promised voters that once the bond were paid, the DTR would be free. But he’s dead, so that promise can be ignored.
    Dulles Rail is all about making money for the Tysons landowners, who are the only ones besides Uncle Sam, whose share of the costs are fixed and fixed based on a much earlier cost estimate. It is not surprising rail is having cost recovery problems.

  15. well… it’s not like the idea of taxing drivers to pay for transit has not already been around… 3 cents of the Federal Gas tax goes to transit… and that’s where Dulles Rail got their billion in Federal dollars that kept the project going.

    Groveton wants home rule but Va does allow local referenda to pay for infrastructure including transportation infrastructure such as the Fairfax Parkway.

    but I’m seriously doubting that if Dulles Rail was put to the voters for local taxation and funding that it would pass.

    Most of these big urban rail systems – even in home rule areas – rely on Federal and State level funding…

    No matter how you feel about California – they allow citizen-initiated referenda and Va does not.

    If Virginia did – I feel quite certain a substantial number of signatures would be gathered for a referenda on Dulles Rail in NoVa – and it would not go the way that Groveton wants it to go.

    which means Groveton does like the State putting restrictions on the locality but he’s apparently fine with decisions from leaders being shoved down the local citizens throats..

    TMT points out that because NoVa is a diverse and mobile population that many do not know what the hell is going on anyhow…and/or care ….

    I would propose a trade for Groveton. Home Rule is given to NoVa but at the same time citizens are given the right to initiate referenda.

    fair deal?

  16. Fine by me. However, the referenda only count where the impact exists. In other words, local matters = local referenda.

    I think you’d be very surprised at the reaction to the Dulles Toll Road fare hike in “core NoVa”. People would think, “fine”. The state government sucks. So, we have to make every foot of progress painfully.

    Of course, if there were home rule, the tolls would be on more roads. The tolls are only on the DTR because the Clown Show in Richmond abdicated their responsibility and the only entity with enough balls to step in was MWAA. MWAA only controls so many assets. Ergo, one road pays for Metro.

    The core problem is the Clown Show, not MWAA.

  17. Meanwhile, Patrick Forrest seems to have no alternative plan. Neither does Jim Bacon. That’s the problem. The Clown Show closes so many doors that the only way forward is through one of the few open doors.

    If Patrick Forrest joins The Clown Show what will he do? Raise the gas tax so that it catches up with inflation?

  18. Here’s a key point from Patrick Forrest’s web site:

    “First of all, we must change the Virginia transportation funding formula which is completely unfair to Northern Virginians. Richmond has shaken down Northern Virginia taxpayers for far too long and our families should not be Richmond’s cash cow. I’ll fight to get us enough money for our roads and fix our traffic problems. This will be accomplished by basing the transportation funding formula on miles driven not miles of road.”.


    Bacon’s new hero knows that Richmond shakes down Northern Virginia families. Quite right!

    While I admire his moxie, I question his ability to fight for money for NoVa roads. If he started talking about forming a coalition of state lawmakers from NoVa, Tidewater and Charlottesville – I’d send him a campaign contribution. But just promising to fight is not enough. Vince Callahan fought. He just never won.

    Forrest’s web site also says, “Increasing gas taxes or tolls would be a recipe for disaster.”.

    Then, it says, “We need to start thinking differently about how government meets the transportation needs in Northern Virginia. Many states and localities are implementing highly successful public-private partnerships and promoting new and innovative ideas to address the needs and concerns of their residents.”.

    From the mouths of career bureaucrats oft times comes tripe.

    We have a public – private partnership in NoVa. A complete sell-out between The Clown Show and Transurban called the Beltway HOT lanes. The tolls will be $5/mi when the “free” Beltway is congested. That will happen in the immediate future, not in 2016 or in 30 years. That toll will make DTR seem cheap.

    Where is Mr. Forrest’s righteous indignation over that?

    How does Mr. Forrest think private – public partnerships work? Increasing gas taxes or tolls would be a recipe for disaster but a private = public partnership is ALWAYS a toll and usually a big one.

    Knock, knock, McFly. What are you thinking?

    Mr. Forrest – you have more balls than brains. I have more brains than balls. Perhaps we can do business. I am Groveton@GMail.Com. Drop me a note.

  19. it’s one thing to make the assertion – it’s another to show the data. I want to see the data.

    the complaint about changing the formula to lane miles is that it subsidizes those localities that build more roads from the localities that don’t.

    there are arguments pro and con on this but the bigger point is – rather than blaming Richmond for not getting your share – why not take responsibility yourself like all cities and towns and 2 counties already do ?

    the proposal I made – Home Rule in exchange for citizen-initiated referenda is a smack down on those who say that the best governance is local governance… until you actually make such a proposal and then they run away from it.

    In other words they want the same situation of a state level top-down governance just moved to a locality version of it – and neither will truly involve the citizens in a true decision-making role.

    if we really were serious about un-elected entities such as the MWAA – we’d recognize that unlike most authorities in Va – MWAA has the ability to essentially tax and not only tax but tax unequally with no accountability to those that are being taxed.

    If people in NoVa were really serious about their ability to plan their region – the very first thing they ought to be doing is questioning why un-elected authorities without direct accountability are making decisions that affect their community and their pocketbooks.

    the outrageous clown show in Richmond and how lane miles are funded is just a distraction …. Dillons Rule basically says that the State know more and is more protective of citizens than local/home rule and without more taxpayer remedies to bad governance – at any level – all Home rule does is move top-down decisions from the state to the region level…

    if citizens cannot hold governance more accountable – the problems remain… and, in effect, a shadow government consisting of un-elected “authorities” continues…

    p.s. – true local governance would destroy EMR’s vision also as – at it’s core it is a top-down, centrally-planned approach imposed by elites.

  20. Groveton, When you say the “clown show in Richmond” blundered into the current mess we have with Rail-to-Dulles, you need to be more precise. Gov. Tim Kaine — with bipartisan backing from NoVa’s political and business elite — made the key decisions that led to the debacle. There were alternatives to Dulles rail, such as Bus Rapid Transit. They were ignored. There were alternative designs to the Tysons configuration that was finally settled upon — EMR provided a detailed alternative model on Bacon’s Rebellion. Other ideas for managing congestion in Tysons Corner, such as Singapore-style congestion pricing (which I described in detail), were never explored. Ignored, all ignored.

    If you want to see a “clown show,” go back and examine the process by which Fairfax County committed itself to helping to pay for the project. Look at the behind-the-scenes politics for creating the commercial real estate tax districts and deciding who pays the tax, and how much. Look at the decision making process for affixing the locations of the METRO stations. Look at the phenomenal amounts of money to be made by some — the engineering/construction companies, the big landowners near METRO stations — and then contrast that with who will pay for the project, primarily the Dulles Toll Road commuters. Look at the hard questions never asked and the project cost estimates gullibly swallowed. Look at MWAA’s reckless disregard for project costs. In blaming everything on the hillbillies and rednecks in “Richmond,” you wilfully ignore the dysfunction in NoVa.

  21. A big problem with Dulles Rail lies chiefly in the cost-benefit analysis. Several years ago, US DOT changed the cost-benefit standards for mass transit projects. Dulles Rail could not meet those standards. VA’s congressional delegation got the project grandfathered. But the project still could not meet the old, easier federal standards. All of NoVA’s rent seekers put on a full-court push and, voila, the Bush Administration caved and agreed to put the expected $900 M into the project.
    But we still have a project that doesn’t meet basic cost-benefit standards, which, in turn, is creating these huge needs for money. As Vince Callahan correctly stated several years ago, Dulles Rail stopped being about transportation and became all about getting high FARs approved.
    What happened. The original plan was to put rail in the median of the Dulles Toll Road with stations at Tysons, Reston, Herndon and the Airport. I’ve been informed that even this project might not meet federal cost-benefit standards because of the lack of high density in the corridor. But that route would, at least, be much more affordable and could well be operating today.
    But, as we all know, in the 1990s, the rent seekers got Fairfax County to agree to route the line through Tysons with three stations. Then Gerry Connolly, while Chairman of the BoS and a SAIC employee, was able to get a fourth Tysons station added right in front of SAIC’s campus on Route 7.
    If one considers all of these factors, is it surprising that we have these huge funding problems with Dulles Rail?

  22. “Gov. Tim Kaine — with bipartisan backing from NoVa’s political and business elite ..”

    Really, Jim? When did Northern Virginia’s business elite vote their support. I was the most senior person in Reston working for a company with over 2,000 employees in Reston. I didn’t vote.

    You need to stop making this stuff up.

    1. I never said anyone “voted.” Where’d you get that?

      The political and business elite lobbied for the project both in Congress and in the Kaine administration.

      Before making any more grand pronouncements blaming the “clown show” in Richmond, you need to acquaint yourself with how the project came to be. Do you think the bubbas down in Henrico came up with the idea for a multi-billion rail project in Northern Virginia?

  23. The anti-progress brigade on this blog is stunning.

    Singapore? Really? Have you ever been there? They do have congestion tolling. And they have an exceptional rail system as well. In a place about half the size of Fairfax County there are 79 rail stations. Congestion tolling works because there is a full scale alternative to driving. I imagine none of Singapore’s public works projects would have passed the anti-progress crowd’s “cost benefit” analysis. Fortunately for Singaporeans, they don’t have the Clown Show. They take a holistic approach. Subsidies for companies to locate in Singapore? Not considered corporate welfare. The subsidies get better if you promise to do R&D in Singapore. Wow! What a concept.

    Virginia should outsource its government to Singapore. Let the Singaporeans make the decisions. They’d laugh you right out of the room when you told them you wanted congestion tolling but no effective mass transit system. “How will less affluent people get to and from their jobs?”. Um, uh, stammer, choke chortle ….

    Once again, argument in parts. Take one isolated piece of Singapore’s transportation approach and declare it to be the whole answer for Northern Virginia. I guess it’s a challeng to you that I’ve been to Singapore – many times.

    If Virginia’s government ran Singapore it would be Cambodia.

  24. ” Do you think the bubbas down in Henrico came up with the idea for a multi-billion rail project in Northern Virginia?”


    I suspect some folks masquerading as leaders in NoVa started up the idea and then went looking for someone else to fund it rather than NoVa taxpayers.

    Why Groveton would support that way of doing business while blaming the clown show for “interfering” is a bit comical.

  25. in 2002 – NoVa resoundingly rejected a regional transportation referenda…
    because it was too vague about which projects would be built …

    I strongly suspect that if Dulles Rail was put to NoVa citizens with a price that each citizen would have to pay in higher taxes that it would be rough sledding.

    The fact that an unelected authority has taken it upon itself to identify who the “behind the tree” guys are to tax to pay for it … says a lot about governance in NoVa …. and not Richmond…

    Methinks Groveton actually supports the Clown-show approach to governance.. he just wants the Home Rule version.


    …..running for cover… now…

  26. Groveton, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce with Bill Lecos in the lead carried water for the landowners and got a number of other business leaders to raise the cheer. Gary Nakamoto for one. But he only spoke in generalities, using words like progress. I’m sure he had no clue about the details of what he was saying. I’ll bet that, if someone presented the Dulles Rail facts to him in order to get him to make a major business investment in the same form as he presented them to the public in support of rail, he would have tossed the presenter out of his office.
    Lecos ran from any discussion of numbers. He talked about progress and transit and walkable communities. But he would not address any engineering or economic studies. Why, because they blew him out of the water.
    Does it make sense to put urban density around the rail stations? Yes, there are advantages to mass transit and high-quality mixed use development. It is possible to add residents and jobs that will not produce as much auto traffic as if there were no mass transit or high-quality mixed use development.
    Will Dulles Rail cause an overall improvement in transportation, i.e., less congestion? No, not according to traffic engineers. Taking advantage of rail by adding urban density will cause so much additional auto and truck traffic that Fairfax County needs $1.5 billion plus in road improvements to handle the added traffic. And just about the time these improvements are added (2030), if growth comes at a level projected by George Mason University, the Beltway, the DTR, Route 7 and Route 123 reach failure every evening. Traffic will just come to a standstill. This isn’t TMT talking. This is Fairfax County DOT’s engineers.
    I’ve never been to Singapore, but I bet they would not call this progress. We have a likely mess on our hands that we need to influence and steer to make the best out of it. I suspect the leaders in Singapore would agree.

  27. What should we do in Tysons and to maximize the value of Rail? We need to get ridership up on Dulles Rail from the day it opens. One approach that Fairfax County reluctantly accepted was to encourage near-rail parking for commuters. The smart growthers hate this because they hate cars. But it makes sense. Put in commuter parking and we will have more Silver Line riders from day one. This also puts more money in the landowners’ pockets, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that we will have the necessary infrastructure. When the land is ready to develop, the parking lots will disappear just like they did in the R-B Corridor.
    Approve the first rezoning application of the Georgelas Group. It proposes to build 400 rental units, including 20% workforce housing, within the TOD zone. The project also includes paid parking. A tenant will not receive a parking space with his/her apartment. The County also needs to follow the Comp Plan by making sure that density is approved only within the TOD areas. Density creep will result in donut hole development – building away from the stations because land is cheaper there, but also less transit usage and more auto traffic.
    Put the bulk of the infrastructure costs on the landowner/developers, but then work with them to harness and not impede development. The County needs to be flexible on tax districts. Just having one big district will not work. Landowners that will not be developing will not vote for a big district. We need a combination of a Tysons-wide and smaller districts overlays. We also need the GA to approve amendments to the transportation tax district law to enable small districts to contribute to Tysons-wide improvements. The GA also needs to permit Fairfax County to create an Income Tax TIF (tax increment financing) that will allow the County to keep a portion of the added personal and corporate income tax revenues generated by Tysons Corner to help pay for the infrastructure. A Tysons Corner with adequate infrastructure will generate a lot more money for Richmond than it will without the necessary public facilities. Instead of saying silly things about progress, this is what the Gary Nakomotos of this county need to be saying.
    The GA should also permit Fairfax County to levy a parking tax that can be used for more bus transit, including buses on the HOT Lanes.
    Do these things and Tysons/Dulles Rail will be more successful than if these things aren’t done. We might even achieve real progress.

  28. re: we need the GA to approve………………. is a bad place to start with Groveton….


    ” We also need the GA to approve amendments to the transportation tax district law to enable small districts to contribute to Tysons-wide improvements.”

    I’m not sure what the exact situation is but we have a similar situation down here where a planned area to be developed and would have a transportation district – could not use that money to pay for improvements to ramp improvements on the interstate 6 miles away – and that means the district has to be expanded but then you have to get 51% to approve it and the larger the area – the harder it is – both logistically and voter-wise to get that number so …it’s a legitimate problem that Richmond needs to deal with – and it points out that much of the GA is rural and does not see the transportation districts issue in the same light as urban regions.

    “The GA also needs to permit Fairfax County to create an Income Tax TIF (tax increment financing) that will allow the County to keep a portion of the added personal and corporate income tax revenues generated by Tysons Corner to help pay for the infrastructure.”

    I’m not sure you can do BOTH a transportation district (with supplemental taxes) AND a TIF….. but the net effect of the TIF basically is to re-direct taxes within the TIF to only the TIF area and that means the county will not get the taxes – for things like law enforcement.

    I see big dangers though in delegating these powers carte blanche to any/all localities where developers are in bed with elected leaders…..on development issues… I’d much rather see these things require voter approval with full disclosure of the financials.

    down this way – we have had several transportation districts and TIF districts and though they require hearings… getting all the details out so they are understood

    but I agree with TMT about the need but am wary about how it could be misused…..

  29. Larry:
    How did MWAA end up with authority over the Rail To Dulles project? How did they end up with authority over the Dulles Toll Rd?

    Did they send their MWAA commandos and MWAA tanks down to Richmond and steal the toll road and the program? Or did Tim Kaine and VDOT give it to them rather than do the job themselves?

    Seriously, LarryG … I’d like to hear your explanation of how MWAA ended up with authority over the Dulles Toll Rd.

    Let me help you … the Clown Show gave authority over the toll road and responsibility for building the Rail to Dulles to MWAA.

    Here is the MWAA proposal which VDOT accepted over similar proposals from 5 private companies:


    The transfer happened on MArh 27, 2006. Now, who was governor when VDOT first demanded private vendors and then decided to give responsibility to MWAA?

    Yet, you write:

    “The fact that an unelected authority has taken it upon itself to identify who the “behind the tree” guys are to tax to pay for it … says a lot about governance in NoVa …. and not Richmond…”.

    The MWAA didn’t take anything upon itself. Like everything else, the Kaine Administration decided this was a “tar baby” and gave it away.

  30. TMT:

    You need to go back to first principles. The core issue remains the same – the gas tax has been frozen (in cents per gallon) for the last 25 years. That key source of transportation funding now buys about 1/2 of what it bought 25 years ago. The Hillbilly Contingent in Virginia, “T’aint payin’ fer no Nover roads.”. This short-sighted attitude has created a crisis in transportation funding in the fast growing (i.e. economically successful) areas of the Commonwealth.

    The Clown Show in Richmond has no answers. Tim Kaine almost raised the indifference and incompetence of Richmond to an art form. McDonnell has done much better but still faces the frozen gas tax.

    So, transportation funding in Virginia becomes a game of “by any means necessary”. Flour and Transurban concoct $5/mi congestion fees. MWAA does the job Richmond is too lazy and too stupid to do themseleves. The DTR becomes the only available funding venue for Rail to Dulles and people start talking about $17 tolls (which, by the way, don’t seem any different to me than the Flour-Transurban proposal for the Beltway HOT lanes).

    People like Bill Lecos figure that the only way forward is to get something funded and started and then make the best of it as you go. What is the alternative in a Dillon’s Rule state? Wait for our Hillbilly masters in Richmond to realize that destroying the infrastructure in the economically successful parts of the state is a form of financial suicide? They will only come to that conclusion once the federal government has decreased the river of money pouring through NoVa and Tidewater into the coffers of Richmond. As the federal jobs decline the well educated people who live in the economically successful parts of the state will leave for places that aren’t run by the cast from Hee Haw. The transfer payments will slow to a trickle and Virginia will slip quickly back to its historical position as a backwards, poor state incapable of caring for its own citizens.

    Virginia is headed for economic suicide and the Clown Show in Richmond along with their pseudo-intellectual enablers are to blame.

  31. re: unelected authorities

    yes – Richmond is how they get made – under the Dillon Rule. And I’m asking do you want Home Rule to be able to do that without Richmond and if you do – how is that any better since citizens are locked out of the process of creating them – and more important – holding them accountable.

    For the vast majority (perhaps all) of the unelected authorities – they cannot levy taxes but they can implement user fees – such as the Fairfax Water Authority does which is what the tolls that MWAA are implementing are called.

    For your property and other local taxes, you can hold the BOS accountable at election time.

    How would those being ripped off hold the MWAA accountable for doubling, tripling tolls especially when many are not even residents of Fairfax?

    and to acknowledge the Devi’s Advocate perspective – perhaps what MWAA is doing in terms of tamping down solo commuting is, in the end, no different than what HOT lanes is doing; in both cases Fairfax is affecting/discouraging longer-distance daily SOLO commuting at rush hour and making money at it also and using that money to provide more/better alternatives to solo rush hour car commuting – and to be truthful – citizens did not have much more substantive input to the HOT lane decision than the DTR toll decision – and to be brutally honest – citizens ability to hold elected accountable has not produced good results for the gas tax.

    would any of this be better with Home Rule? If MWAA was also in charge of Hot Lanes – would it had gone any differently?


  32. @TMT

    looks like Fairfax can already do what you advocate:

    § 15.2-2402 Description of proposed service district.
    Any ordinance or petition to create a service district shall:

    1. Set forth the name and describe the boundaries of the proposed district and specify any areas within the district that are to be excluded; ¶

    2. Describe the purposes of the district and the facilities and services proposed within the district;

    3. Describe a proposed plan for providing such facilities and services within the district; and

    4. Describe the benefits which can be expected from the provision of such facilities and services within the district.

    you’d have to draw a LARGE district and then EXCLUDE the areas inside of it as opposed to adding individual small districts to a bigger district.

    looks like a wash in therms of designation because the boundaries of the excised areas abutting the areas to be included would have to be defined.

    the bigger problem is that service districts require 51% approval of property owners…. this is the part of DILLON that was intended to keep a locality from unfairly taxing……

    if you turned over the creation of service districts to the locality and let them decide if they want to keep the 51% rule or not – that could be a bad thing not a good thing.

  33. Groveton, I find you to be quite logical and consistent over time and over issues, but here I am really confused. I understand the logic of increasing the gas tax over time or indexing–something that keeps pace with buying power. Where I am confused is why, when you don’t trust state government, you would give them even more tax dollars for transportation and seem to believe that transportation decisions made in Richmond will be logical and in the public interest, however that term is defined. I would think you would share my belief that many transportation decisions made by the General Assembly a/k/a Clown Show and the CTB would be as inept/corrupt as those made in other public policy areas. Why is transportation different in your mind? Why trust the Clown Show on transportation decisions? That’s where I am confused by your comments.
    Where I might go further than you is in the area of putting trust in the recommendations of so-called business leaders and their associations. I don’t trust them any more than I do a bunch coming down from Wall Street.
    The CTB is overly influenced by lobbyists, rather than economic and engineering studies. Why else would the CTB put the vast majority of costs for building Dulles Rail on toll payers, who get essentially nothing in the long run? Why hasn’t the CTB gone after the $200 M plus annual gas tax subsidy to overweight trucks? Why has Del Jim LeMunyon introduced a bill to have NoVA transportation investments based on their return on investment in the areas of safety and congestion reduction? Why aren’t the NoVA business leaders (Clown Show No. 2?) supporting that legislation?
    If you go back to the sales tax referendum for transportation, why were most of the supporters landowners/developers and the road building industry? There was a website showing the correlation between ownership of land located next to proposed road projects to be funded by the sales tax increase and contributions in support of the referendum. I don’t see this as any different than when Wall Street or the defense industry lobby Congress to advance their personal investments.
    Absent major reforms, I don’t think paying more transportation taxes would result in any significant improvement in transportation in and around Fairfax County. What am I missing?

  34. Indeed… Fairfax has the same don’t depend on the clown show option as all cities and towns and Henrico and Alexandria do which is don’t depend on the state to fund transportation because even if they do – Fairfax will lose out.

    why not take the bull by the horns and declare independence and not let any more tax dollars go to Richmond to be frittered away on developer interests?

    so yes.. Groveton has a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde approach to transportation ….

    consider the existing transportation money – gone – and count your lucky stars that VDOT still performs maintenance and operations.. but if you want more transportation – rail or roads – then chart your own destiny and stop blaming others for what you refuse to do yourself.

  35. On tax districts, there is some desire upon the part of landowners in Tysons to create one large Tysons-wide district that would pay a very low rate in order to get more landowners on board. Then, there would be smaller overlay districts that would generally hug the TOD areas and pay higher taxes. The desire would be to get permission for smaller districts to pay for nearby improvements that are necessary for overall growth. That would require a legislative change.

  36. TMT is the word “nearby” the operative word that needs legislative remedy?

  37. Larry, essentially the landowners would like to have some flexibility (with some safeguards) to spend some of the added tax district outside the tax districts boundaries to add infrastructure that will benefit Tysons and the taxpayers in the district. For example, widening Route 7 to six lanes, with some transit options, would help all of Tysons, but could not be paid from special district revenues. The landowners might well wish to spend some special tax dollars on widening Route 7 if it would improve traffic flow and enable growth at Tysons. Today they would not have the ability to do so. I believe that they would like the ability to do so. Please note that I used Route 7 as an example and not as a true request.

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