Just before Wednesday’s deadline for public comment, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors filed a letter with the State Corporation Commission asking the regulatory body to deny the Dulles Greenway’s latest request for a toll rate increase.
In their annual filing, the Greenway’s owners said they want to increase tolls by 10 cents to $4.65, and $5.65 during rush hours. The toll plaza near Rt. 28 also collects a $1 toll for use of the Dulles Toll Road.
“These are statutory increases, so this is kind of pro forma, but we want the SCC to take this seriously—at least I do,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “We want them to do an actual investigation before they do a rate increase, instead of just mailing it in and rubber-stamping whatever they’re given.”
The Greenway’s annual applications to increase tolls are seen among county government leaders as largely routine and inevitable, since General Assembly legislation was adopted giving the State Corporation Commission little leeway to deny or reduce the requests. That law expires in 2020.
The letter cites state laws that dictate the commission “may order substituted for any toll being charged by the operator, a toll which is set at a level which is reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained and which will not materially discourage use of the roadway by the public and which will provide the operator no more than a reasonable return as determined by the Commission.”
“The Board of Supervisors often hears from residents who regularly avoid taking the Greenway due to high tolls,” the letter reads. It also argues commuters “will likely choose to clog alternative local roads to avoid a round trip toll of up to $11.30 to drive only a couple of miles.”
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) said despite the law, the SCC could do more.
“The SCC, as-is, does have the discretion not to approve this,” Meyer said. “It does have the discretion right now, today, to force distance-based tolling, and that SCC is deciding not to do that.”
The public comment period on the Greenway’s application ended Feb. 7. The commission also received letters in opposition from the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and the Dulles Area Association of Realtors, which calculated the rate increase would amount to another $4 million a year for the Greenway. The association also calculated the price of commuting for a year at rush hour onto the Dulles Toll Road exceeds $3,000.
“We believe this is an unreasonable amount in relation to the benefit of driving 14 miles,” wrote DAAR president Holly Weatherwax.