Monday, September 10, 2012

VDOT: Retake the Dulles Toll Road



UPDATE 9-9-2012: Senator Black has written a letter urging Gov. McDonnell to retake the Dulles Toll Road. We need you to do two things:
1. Ask your legislators to support this effort
2. Contact Gov. Bob McDonnell through his official website or at
(804) 786-2211 to encourage him to take action NOW to save our toll road from MWAA!

Wouldn't it be crazy if your community was threatened by an approaching storm, but local authorities did little to help citizens avoid the pending danger? That is about where Northern Virginia stands with the perfect storm of Dulles Toll Road tolls, traffic and taxes that is bearing down on us. There is a lot of talking among politicians, but meaningful action is scarce.

Some elected leaders are speaking out against the "ethically challenged" Airports Authority (MWAA) board, and for good reason. But, this talk is not enough when they can do so much more. Here's how. MWAA operates the DTR under a Virginia Department of Transportation permit that specifies MWAA must make "best efforts" to complete the Dulles Rail project on time and efficiently. MWAA just applied to VDOT for a three year extension of the completion date for Dulles Rail, citing a series of reasons MWAA feels justify a three year delay. This dysfunctional body has made best efforts to protect it's own interests, but that is not what the Operating Permit was referring to.

MWAA has proven beyond any doubt that they cannot be trusted with control of either the Dulles Toll Road or the Dulles Rail project. VDOT should deny extension of the permit and resume control of the Dulles Toll Road. Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton on April 14, 2012, said the State was so unhappy with MWAA 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.”
"Cheaper" is an understatement. The state of Virginia wanted out of the obligation to fund 25% of Dulles Rail (about $875 million) so it gave the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project to MWAA. The problem is that MWAA has been an un-elected, unaccountable body from day one, and they have zero incentive to operate efficiently. Now, instead of DTR users getting clipped for $875 million, MWAA intends to demand about $3.5 billion from DTR users.

Based on the present funding plan for Phase 2, about $2 billion in Dulles Toll Road revenue bonds are needed to complete the capital cost construction funding. MWAA's interest rate for Phase 1of the project has averaged 6.07%.

This is double the interest rate the Commonwealth of Virginia’s rate for transportation projects financed during the last year. $2 billion of Phase 2 debt under MWAA, at an interest rate of 6% would be an additional $120 million per year in higher tolls.

Don't miss the significance of this. Our elected leaders don't want the political liability that comes with toll increases so they are hiding behind MWAA. The cost to commuters is a toll rate that pays that premium. In simple terms, a $4.50 toll could be $3.75 (1) if Virginia would step in. With VDOT in charge, that rate could be even lower by eliminating toll money wasted by the MWAA crony-factor.

Burdening Toll Road users with unnecessary costs is unacceptable, especially at a time when the area faces cuts to the DOD budget, general economic stagnation, and area residents who will pay an average of $6,433in higher federal income taxes next year.

MWAA's management is a disaster and that should be fixed, but politicians must also put commuters and taxpayers ahead of special interests, including themselves, by addressing the root problem of having an unaccountable body having tolling authority over the Dulles Toll Road.

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