Reid, Boysko Resurrect Greenway-Backed Tolls Bill

Del. David A. Reid (D-32) and Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-33) have announced plans to file a bill in the General Assembly on the Dulles Greenway, similar to one filed and defeated in 2021 in the face of opposition from other Loudoun state and local lawmakers although it enjoyed support from the toll road’s owners.

Reid introduced a similar bill during the 2021 session while the rest of the Loudoun delegation was working to pass a different bill, carried by Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87) and Sen. John J. Bell (D-13), strengthening the State Corporation’s Commission oversight of the Greenway’s tolls. The Subramanyam-Bell bill ultimately passed, building on a decade of effort by lawmakers in both parties from Loudoun—and was followed by the SCC’s first decision to deny toll increases on the Greenway, following arguments also based on those years of experience.

Reid and Boysko’s bill would take the Greenway’s tolls out from under the oversight of the State Corporation Commission and instead allow the state Commissioner of Highways to negotiate a new deal. That deal would not be subject to approval by the General Assembly or oversight by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors; the state would “solicit input from the impacted jurisdictions” and hold two public hearings prior to negotiating a deal, and publish and solicit feedback on the terms of that deal before the Commissioner negotiates and signs a new comprehensive agreement.

Loudoun supervisors and the Loudoun County Attorney would be permitted to receive information about the Greenway’s secretive finances, but the new bill has also adds new passages further hiding that information from the public. The bill includes language not only ordering the state and local officials involved to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the Greenway’s finances before entering negotiations, but also creating a new Freedom of Information Act exemption specifically for that information.

If the Commissioner of Highways were to negotiate a new deal, it would govern the Greenway under the Public Private Transportation Act, exempting the owners from paying real estate taxes. According to the most recent county annual financial report, the Greenway is the fifth-largest real estate taxpayer in the county, with land assessed at more than $331 million in Fiscal Year 2021. At the current tax rate of $0.98 per $100, that makes it worth more than $3.2 million to county taxpayers.

In a document promoting the bill, Reid and Boysko say it would lead to distance-based tolls and reductions in tolls. Although the Commissioner of Highways is directed to consider those issues in evaluating whether to negotiate a new deal, none of that is required in the draft language of the bill.

“I just finished a campaign and as I’m going out and knocking on hundreds, if not thousands, of doors, the issue of increasing tolls and the lack of distance-based tolling on the Greenway keeps that forefront on your mind,” Reid said.

He pointed out that the legislation passed in 2021 does not include a reduction in tolls.

“Under existing law, I imagine they could go into negotiations or discussions, but the parties have not necessarily been willing. The other thing that’s really important here, is that in this legislation, slightly amended as it is, it defines that what is in the public interest is reduced tolls and implementing distance-based pricing,” Reid said.

As to the new protections for the Greenway’s secretive finances, he said they would only be place for the duration of negotiations.

“If somebody wants to introduce a piece of legislation later that says, ‘if you have a concession with the state of Virginia you have to share this level of information,’ then someone else can do that,” Reid said.

Boysko said the legislation is about putting options on the table.

“It’s not going to change it immediately, it’s going to have the Commonwealth again continue exploring this, and it’s giving them some flexibility to do it so that people have the ability to really put all the cards on the table,” Boysko said.

She also said she is unbothered by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act exemption for the Greenway’s books.

“This isn’t saying this is happening, this is saying the … commonwealth should explore and evaluate whether it’s in the public interest to pursue this,” Boysko said. “So if they need to have a closed room while they’re having these negotiations, I’m perfectly comfortable with that.”

Some of the veterans of the long battle to rein in toll increases warned against the bill.

“What this bill does is it takes the SCC away from this picture, puts the road under a different agency, and authorizes the state government … to pay for the Greenway or part of the Greenway and make a deal without going back to the General Assembly, nor does it require approval of Loudoun County,” said David Ramadan, a former state delegate who years ago introduced the first version of the Greenway legislation that passed in 2021. “This is definitely a negation of a decade-old effort, and as we read in the media so far, it is a welcome move by the operators of the Greenway, which definitely means it’s not in the best interest of Loudoun and its citizens.”

Subramanyam, who now holds Ramadan’s former seat in the House of Delegates, said he would keep an open mind—he said he hasn’t heard from Reid or Boysko—but was also skeptical.

“A lot of the things about lowering tolls sound good, and it’s all things I want and I totally support, but last year, the bill didn’t have language that would allow the General Assembly or Loudoun County to approve of any such deal, and without that you could end up with a really bad deal,” Subramanyam said.

He also said he wants to wait to see how the bill that passed last year plays out.

“Part of, I think, what will happen long-term is we can get to some of these goals like lowering tolls and distance-based tolling, but in order to do that I think we have to make sure that any sort of leverage we have is not conceded in the process,” Subramanyam said.

The Dulles Greenway is owned by Australian multinational firm Atlas Arteria. A 2020 VDOT study reported that in 2018, the road saw 18.3 million tolls paid generating $90.4 million in revenues. It also found it would not be feasible for the state to buy the road as over its multiple rounds of refinancing it has accrued about a billion dollars in debt, which would cost as much as $1.9 billion to retire early.

8 thoughts on “Reid, Boysko Resurrect Greenway-Backed Tolls Bill

  • 2021-12-22 at 3:39 pm
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    “Loudoun supervisors and the Loudoun County Attorney would be permitted to receive information about the Greenway’s secretive finances, but the new bill has also adds new passages further hiding that information from the public.” Thx, and that’s all I needed to know about the Reid / Boysko proposal.

  • 2021-12-22 at 3:44 pm
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    “The bill includes language not only ordering the state and local officials involved to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the Greenway’s finances before entering negotiations, but also creating a new Freedom of Information Act exemption specifically for that information.”

    Yet another assault on Virginia’s already exemption riddled FOIA. This is a horrible policy forcing elected public servants to cover for a corporation, removing oversight by the public, and created a rich environment for corruption.

    Great job Sen. Boysko — siding with a foreign corporation against the interest of public transparency for your constituents. Boysko is one of the worst of the state senators representing Loudoun. She and Bazooka Johnny Bell can always be counted on to shill for multinational corporations. Always. They both need to go.

  • 2021-12-22 at 4:57 pm
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    The local (D) elected politicians are an embarrassment to the people of Loudoun.

    We deserve better representation.

  • 2021-12-22 at 6:42 pm
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    Government set up this arcane, secretive arrangement for a reason. Why do we think government is going to “fix” the very problem they intentionally created? They have no incentive to do so. The best they can do is expose their original incompetence or worse.

  • 2021-12-23 at 3:16 am
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    The same people who always scream about socialism complain that the corporation that built the best road in the whole region doesn’t want to share its finances. Our government could have built that road…. oh wait, socialism. I forgot.

    • 2021-12-23 at 10:51 am
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      If governmnet had built the road, it would still be under construction, and a couple hundred million over budget. We have a great example of that now — Metro.

      This bill would strip public oversight from the process of dealing with this corporation. Transparency is always good for the public process.

    • 2021-12-27 at 10:13 pm
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      I couldn’t care less about the tolls ss I’ve taken that road once in the past 4 years. It’s the political nonsense that I have an issue with. If the two would say something similar to you such as it’s a private corporation that built and owns the roads therefore they should be allowed to charge whatever they want, I’d agree. But the bs being shoveled about doing this for their constituents is laughable.

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