Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fatally Flawed Toll Scheme is Falling Apart

Surprise! Surprise! The ill-conceived Dulles Rail funding scheme that was hastily thrown together is falling apart!

Citizens are furious at the audacity of elected officials standing mute, ignoring the injustice of shackling hard-working commuters with the tab for this mega share of Dulles Rail, which most know, is a developers perk. Piling more oppressive tolls on the backs of Dulles Toll Road users after they were told the road would become a free road is the kind of blatant deception that ought to mark any aspiring politician as a Traitor for Life. With a few notable exceptions, politicians have ignored warnings from credible experts and pumped up this dog-of-a-project with phony promises.

Now, as bidding for Phase 2 of the project has been narrowed to five competitors, it seems that experts’ concerns and commuters disgust are finally starting to sink in with those calling the shots.

Robert Clarke Brown
Recently-retired MWAA board member and Finance Committee Chairman Robert Brown wrote an October 2 letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. On MWAA letterhead, Brown admitted that the financing plan for Dulles Rail and its heavy reliance on toll revenue borrowing is "fundamentally flawed plan of finance." and the project "is doomed to failure if all remaining project costs are funded with additional debt." He went on to say
“The politics of diversion and distraction, which has worked so well for the past year, will no longer be able to hide from Virginians these stark facts…. If nothing changes in the Silver Line’s plan of finance, northern Virginians will soon be paying double-digit tolls on the Dulles Toll road. That is not speculation. It is a fact shown by multiple independent traffic forecasts and financial modeling....” (Letter pages 7-8)
Current MWAA Board member and Finance Committee Chairman Frank Conner doubled down on the funding failure yesterday, saying that the toll increases threaten future development in the Dulles Corridor.
Frank "Rusty" Conner
"We are very worried that tolls will be too high and will have the consequences that people are concerned about," Conner said. "We like to say this is rail to Dulles, but this is also rail to develop the Dulles corridor, and the last thing we want to do is impose a toll rate structure that undermines what we're trying to do."
Conner also said a bond investor called him Tuesday, worried about Brown's letter. If investors refuse to purchase MWAA’s toll revenue bonds, the entire plan collapses. Connor said that Brown’s concerns are "…pretty damning allegations and pretty surprising given the author of the letter was intimately involved in developing the financing plan,"

We’ve been saying that the toll increases cannot work and must be defeated, and it looks like at least the current and former MWAA Finance Committee Chairmen agree with us. Tell your elected officials wake up and stop these toll increases before they take effect in 74 days!

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