Monday, January 21, 2013

Virginia Purchase the Greenway!?

Del. Joe May, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has introduced HB1979, legislation that would purchase the Dulles Greenway from its private owners, and place it under Virginia ownership.

Government to the rescue . . . right ? Not so fast.

Toll increases on the Greenway are currently limited by the authorizing legislation, but if Virginia purchases the Greenway, that limit on toll increases no longer applies. Now keep in mind that in 2006 Joe May cast his vote to hand over the Dulles Toll Road (DTR) to MWAA and put in motion the debacle that has led to soaring DTR tolls.

Route 7 will also see the lights at Sycolin Rd. (2013), Belmont Ridge Rd. (FY2015), Lexington Dr. (FY2016) and Ashburn Village Blvd. (????) eliminated soon, making that option from Leesburg to Rt. 28 even better. The Greenway's latest reported "current net worth" was negative $490 million, so tolls will need to continue to pay for any purchase, even increasing if more traffic shifts to the improved Rt. 7.

2005, the year Greenway traffic peaked, was the year the CTB increased DTR tolls to fund the Rail Project. Greenway traffic has been in a free-fall since. With Dulles Toll Road tolls continuing to skyrocket to pay for the rail project, less people will use the Greenway. These two roads are linked, and we don't want our tolls paying for a train we likely won't use. DTR tolls will surpass the Greenway's peak tolls within five years, catching off-peak tolls even sooner. See the historic and future DTR tolls compared to the Greenway's congestion peak tolls here:

Del. May’s other bill, HB1980, wants to set up a "Dulles Greenway Authority" to run the road. If you thought MWAA was bad, get this…. May’s bill says the Greenway tolls should be governed by people, most of whom do not live in Loudoun. In real-speak that means people from Alexandria, Arlington and Manassas will be in charge of local toll rates.

There you have it, our own new little MWAA! Another board made up of political cronies, from distant jurisdictions, not accountable to voters, with the ability to raise tolls on the Greenway as high as they want!

Remember, the Dulles Greenway is located completely in Loudoun County and apparently word is out that Loudoun is awash in money so here comes another scheme to turn Loudoun drivers into cash cows for some pet project! Another impact on Loudoun County: the Greenway paid $2.2 million in property taxes in 2011, which disappear if the State takes ownership.

May's bill is a disaster waiting to happen. If the Commonwealth takes the Greenway over, they can raise the tolls as much as they want. May is desperate for more Transportation funding, and this is one way to get it. Almost a guarantee that tolls will go up if this goes through. He himself admits that a takeover will NOT necessarily result in lower tolls on the Greenway.

Del. May is offering this effort as a distraction from the increasing tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. He won't touch that issue since he doesn't want to disrupt the "delicate financial balance" of the Dulles Rail project. The Washington Examiner calls it a "Toll Road Shell Game".

Please contact your state legislators and urge them to vote NO on HB1979 and HB1980.


  1. Wouldn't it be simpler to just amend the existing Greenway law to require the Greenway owner to justify toll increase requests? Why not just repeal § 56-542-I of the state code?

    1. The Greenway is required to justify their toll increases to the SCC, and since the Greenway has been operating at a deficit, they have not had a problem getting moderate toll increases when requested. Is the road expensive, yes, but nothing compared to the insane rate increases scheduled for the Dulles Toll Road to pay for the Dulles Rail project. The Greenway has investors to repay, $2.2M in property taxes to Loudoun, and contributes significantly to local charities, but doesn't seem to divert toll revenue in a bad way.

      The problem is that commercial development along the Greenway has been far slower than was expected, and the past improvements to Rt. 7 have made that alternative route more attractive.

      There may be ways the code could be improved, but changing the rules when well into the game is not fair to the Greenway's investors.

  2. The first time I went onto the Dulles Greenway (around 1998) was the last time, because of the price. I had recently moved to this area, and I got onto the Greenway meaning to get onto the Dulles Toll Road going the other way. Whooo, that cost TOO MUCH. Never again!

    It is no mystery to me why commercial development would be slow - who wants to pay $10 round trip, plus gas, just to get in and out of the area? I can just imagine prospective business investors going out and encountering that toll structure. "Uh, let's get out of here." And now, not only can we extend that Formula for Failure to the Dulles Toll Road, in order to overpay for a rail line that isn't going to help us - but we can also pay more in order to do nothing (or worse) for the Dulles Greenway as well. Another great idea, from the wonderful government we have here.

    Spending a load of money we don't have, in order to buy the Dulles Greenway and only change things for the worse, is certifiably insane. What on earth is going on here?