Loudoun County supervisors will oppose bills filed by Del. David A. Reid (D-32) and Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-33) seeking to relieve the Dulles Greenway of new regulation passed last year, instead allowing the state Commissioner of Highways to negotiate a new deal on tolls with the highway owners unilaterally.
The bill is similar to one Reid introduced last year. He later withdrew support for the bill and it was voted down amid opposition from the Board of Supervisors and other members of Loudoun’s Richmond delegation. The bill was and is supported by the Dulles Greenway.
While Reid and Boysko have said the new bill would lead to distance-based tolling and a reduction in tolls, that is not required in the language of the bill. The bill does add new passages from last year’s version further shielding information about the Greenway’s finances from public disclosure, not only ordering the state and local officials permitted to be present at negotiations to sign a non-disclosure agreement, 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.
“The county attorney at any time can go and negotiate with the Greenway for distance-based tolling, and he can bring VDOT with him. And in fact they’ve even had some of those conversations, as we know, over the years,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “We don’t need to go seek legislation to go do that.”
The Greenway legislation passed last year tightens the State Corporation Commission’s oversight on the owners’ annual applications to raise tolls. The new law has not yet been tested; if the highway’s owners apply for another toll increase this year, it will be the first time they do so under the new law. Letourneau said the new bill amounts to giving the Greenway a “lifeline” before that happens.
County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) asked supervisors to wait on voting to oppose the bill, saying she had spoken with Reid about amending it, but also that she had told him the most the board would do is stay silent on the bill, not support it. And she said Reid has carried a lot of legislation for the Loudoun board.
“If I can give him a couple days to work on it and don’t oppose it and go just quiet on him, I’d rather do that, but I was very clear we’re not going to ever support it,” Randall said.
“You can try to put lipstick on this pig, but conceptually this is a terrible idea,” Letourneau said. Supervisors voted 6-2-1 to direct staff and lobbyists to oppose the bill in Richmond, with Randall and Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) opposed and Supervisor Sylvia R. Glass (D-Broad Run) absent.