There are two things that can be done to avoid the problems ahead for commuters and residents around Route 7 between Sterling and Tysons Corner. The first solution: Virginia must retake the Dulles Toll Road (DTR).
Secretary Sean Connaughton on April 14, 2012 said the state was so unhappy with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority that it would rather finish building the Silver Line itself.
“We are actively evaluating whether we can take the project over. These guys [MWAA] are a disaster,” Connaughton said. “We’re at the point, quite honestly, where we think we could potentially do it better, cheaper, faster.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation controls the Operating Permit for the DTR and could revoke that permit based on a variety of performance-related issues. It's time to put the interests of the DTR users first and get this done before it's too late. Keeping traffic and tolls under control benefits people, the economy and the environment.
If Virginia takes control of the DTR, the savings would be close to $2 billion over the 30-year life of the bonds used to pay for Dulles Rail. That is $2 billion that will not come out of the pockets of DTR users. That savings alone should be reason enough to take action. Del. Randy Minchew (R-10) has indicated that if Virginia assumed control of the project, billions could be saved by borrowing at reduced interest rates.
The VDOT operating permit sets a standard of "best effort." The people now managing the DTR are not accountable to either the federal or state government and have not put forth their best effort. Here is a link to the pertinent pages.
The second solution is to fix "Toll Avoidance Traffic Gridlock." The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and the recently updated Environmental Assessment done for Phase 2 of Dulles Rail are defective because they completely ignored the traffic impact on Route 7, and the overwhelming effect that the toll avoidance will have on local roads. Toll avoidance occurs when drivers stop using a tolled road and revert to un-tolled local roads. (Note: LOS= level of service, the grades earned, indicating the impact of adding rail.) [Editor’s note: The document shows failing levels of service with or without rail.]
This is simply unacceptable and must be corrected so that real solutions are developed for the benefit of those who live work and play in the areas affected by Rt.7 traffic. That includes any road that can and will be used as a shortcut to avoid congestion.