Loudoun supervisors unanimously and enthusiastically supported new Supervisor Ron Meyer’s (R-Broad Run) motion to add an alternative to Dulles Greenway tolls for Loudoun commuters to the county’s state legislative agenda.
Meyers was making good on a very popular campaign promise: to ask the state to extend Shellhorn Road in Ashburn to connect to Sterling Boulevard, allowing commuters another option between the Greenway’s $5.20 rush-hour tolls or the Waxpool Road rush hour traffic snarl. The new road would parallel the Dulles Greenway.
“This is why, I think, that Loudoun elected the youngest member to its board, is really because of this singular proposal,” Meyers said. He also said the alternative would encourage businesses to locate near the planned Silver Line Metro stations, and called it the county’s top priority after removing signal lights from Rt. 7.
“Are we going to expect businesses to live on the Silver Line and ask their commuters, if they don’t take Metro, to pay six bucks each way every day?” Meyers asked rhetorically. “Is that a business-friendly corridor? I would argue no.”
Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) agreed.
“I don’t want to use the word ridiculous, but I will: It’s ridiculous,” Buffington said. “The cost is ridiculous.”
With 251 working days in 2015 and at $6 each way (commuters continuing on or coming from the Dulles Toll Road pay an additional $1 at the Greenway’s main toll plaza), a commuter on the Dulles Greenway can expect to pay up to $3,012 in tolls in a year, not counting any benefits from the Dulles Greenway VIP Miles Frequent Rider program, which pays up to 15 percent cash back.
Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said the county staff had looked at purchasing the Greenway and determined that it is not an option.
“Flat out not an option,” Buona said. “Why? Because the purchase price far, far exceeds the fair market value of the assets.” Buona said the county would also have to finance $600 million to $700 million in debt on the Greenway, more than doubling the county’s debt.
“So how are we going to combat the Greenway if purchasing is just not in the cards?” Buona said. “The answer is to build alternatives.” Competing routes, he said, could push Greenway tolls down over time.
Loudoun County Director of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Joe Kroboth said a consultant is preparing a report on the Shellhorn Road extension project, including a cost estimate, but agreed with Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd’s (D-Leesurg) estimated price, based on a similar project, of $60 million to $80 million dollars.
With the update to the board’s legislative agenda, the county will now ask the state to add the project to is priority list.
“We can make a real difference in making it so people can save extra money for their kids’ college saving accounts, so they can put more money in retirement, and not send it to a corporation which has abused Loudoun County for far too long,” Meyers said.