The State Corporation Commission has opened signups for public comment on the Dulles Greenway’s request to raise tolls rates faster than they have in years.
The Greenway is asking the state to be granted annual toll increase for the next five years, ranging from a 5-percent increase on off-peak traffic for 2022 to a 6.8-percent increase on peak hour traffic in 2025. If approved, tolls would stand at $6.15 per one-way trip in off-peak hours, and $7.90 in peak hours by 2025. A commuter traveling twice a day on the Greenway during rush hour, five days a week, 52 weeks a year would pay $4,108 in tolls annually.
Today those tolls are $4.75 and $5.80.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SCC, which approves those rate hikes, is conducting the public hearing remotely. Anyone who would like to provide up to five minutes of comment by telephone may sign up by filling out a form on the commission’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/webcasting, sending an email to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov, or by calling 804-371-9141 during normal business hours. The deadline to provide the contact information to the SCC is 5 p.m. on Friday, June 26.
The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 30.
This year, legislation that guaranteed toll increases on the Greenway every year but limited them expired. Although Loudoun’s state delegates and senators pledged before this year’s General Assembly term to take action on Greenway tolls, this year the state legislature once again took no action despite the efforts of some of those representatives, including on a bill first introduced in 2015 by then-Del. David I. Ramadan and reintroduced this year by Dels. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87) and Wendy W. Gooditis (D-10).
In 2019 that bill never made it out of committee, and this year nobody brought any bills on the Greenway’s tolls to the state Senate. Some local legislators, including Sens. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-33) and Barbara A. Favola (D-31) have voted against increased state oversight of tolls on the state’s only privately-owned highway in previous sessions.
That left the battle over Greenway tolls once again in the hands of local government, organizations and people. The county government joined the suit before the State Corporation Commission to oppose the new toll increases; when the government asked for an extension on deadlines due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greenway argued against that. “There is no need to suspend this proceeding simply because resources may need to be allocated differently than initially envisioned or practiced in the past,” the Greenway’s lawyers wrote. The State Corporation Commission sided partially with the county, delaying deadlines.
Subramanyam and Gooditis published a joint statement opposing the proposed toll increases Thursday, June 11.
“Commuters who have been discouraged from using the road due to high prices have flooded alternative routes,” they wrote. “Increasing traffic on public roads creates a burden on the surrounding communities and VDOT, as maintenance costs for these roads are passed on to Northern Virginia taxpayers.”
They also asserted that now is the wrong time to increase the cost of commuting.
“Many workers who were furloughed due to the pandemic are starting to return to work,” they wrote. “Residents who travel the Greenway already spend hundreds of dollars a month to simply commute to and from work in a reasonable time frame. The proposed increase will hurt middle-class and working-class families across Northern Virginia, as well as many small businesses that rely on our transportation infrastructure. “
Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), too, sent out an email encouraging residents to “oppose massive greenway rate hike request!” and offered a number of talking points for people who sign up, including the damage to Northern Virginia, the “an important engine for the Virginia economy,” of higher costs for already-struggling workers, and that “high rates already unreasonably discourage travel on the toll road.”
Also this year, the Greenway ended its Drive for Charity, which previously dedicated one day of toll revenues to nonprofits and last year raised close to $327,000.
The Greenway’s ownership, Toll Road Investors Partnership II, is owned by Australian multinational firm Atlas Arteria.
More information about the proposed rate hike, including links to documents associated with the case, is on the SCC’s website.
This article has been updated to correct an erroneous date.