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LTE: Stop Tollmageddon

One reader suggests Virginia should revoke MWAA’s operating permit for the Dulles Toll Road.

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.

David LaRock
Hamilton, VA

the-stix August 16, 2012 at 09:41 AM
Secretary Connaughton said in April that the commonwealth was at the point that they where they could take over the project from the MWAA and "potentially do it better, cheaper, faster.” And . Del. Minchew (R-10) has indicated that if Virginia assumed control of the project, billions could be saved by borrowing at reduced interest rates. I suggest Connaughton and Minchew get together and tell us EXACTLY how they would do that. It all sounds good in words but I doubt that the Silver Line could be completed “better, cheaper, and faster” at this point in the project by changing ‘riders in the middle of the stream’!. Yes, get the future tolls down but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater!
CC Mojo August 16, 2012 at 10:46 AM
Thanks for proving my "sensational" point :)
Kevin Chisholm August 16, 2012 at 12:46 PM
This is a good discussion on what really is a complex issue. Finding the perfect way to gain revenue for public works is always difficult. It is, of course, best to have those who benefit pay the freight. Sean Connaughton is a “road” man by experience; not trains or public transit. So, I am glad to see that he is thinking bigger these days. I believe that Virginia will ultimately need a statewide or regional transit authority to manage light rail projects that are far from the District of Columbia and Metro. And yes Mr. Connaughton, Virginia could do it more cost effectively – of that I am sure. I just want to make this one last point on this topic. There are some things the Federal government is good for – or should be doing. The average person does not know that there is essentially no Federal money in Phase II of the Silver Line. I believe that quality public transportation is in our national interests and want to see that one particular Federal program grow. Third, third, third rings well to me. Local, state, and federal. Kevin Chisholm Candidate for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District www.chisholmforcongress.com
the-stix August 16, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Thx Kevin.. but if you think Virginia taking over the completion of the Silver Line could be done "more cost effectively" and by Connaughton's words "better and faster", without explaining exactly how, you have lost me!
Kevin Chisholm August 16, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Anything that goes beyond Phase II, Virginia could do more cost effectively. I am not in the weeds enough on Phase II to have a strong opinion. Thanks.

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