County supervisors and staff members have questioned the accuracy—and intent—of the traffic analysis presented in the Dulles Greenway’s latest annual report.
The report, prepared by consulting firm Dewberry, included appendices listing increased numbers of people getting onto the Greenway’s ramps, but slightly fewer going through the main toll plaza. County staff members wrote that by reporting a decrease in traffic based on the toll plaza’s data and making no mention of the increase on the ramps, the report “appears to be weighted to present a ‘false’ reality of the number of vehicles using the Dulles Greenway Toll facility. Numbers appear to be a low estimate of the actual volumes which represents a decrease of customers on the toll facility.”
Supervisors pressed county staff members to speculate on the motivations—although it is an argument county leaders have made before, that the owners of the privately owned toll road want to avoid triggering clauses in its contract with the state requiring it to upgrade the road if traffic becomes too jammed.
“Those Levels of Service are dictated by the traffic volumes,” said Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Director Joe Kroboth. “And that translates to reporting a higher Level of Service than may exist there.”
“What we’re asking VDOT to do is just enforce the law,” said Supervisors Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run). “And I understand that there is a financial limitation to how much [Dulles Greenway owner] TRIP II thinks they can finance at once time, but we know that in one day the toll revenue they’re bringing in is more than $300,000. They told us that this year with they their donation of one day’s worth of revenue to a nonprofit, so they have significant revenue coming in.”
Although Loudoun officials in past years have pushed to require the Greenway to publicly disclose its finances, each year the public gets a hint at the Greenway’s collections during its annual Drive for Charity. This year, the Greenway raised $326,805 in 24 hours on Thursday, May 16. That money went to seven nonprofits and the Dulles Greenway Scholarship Program. In 14 years of the Drive for Charity, the Greenway has raised $3.7 million in 14 days.
The county may use a change in traffic counts in either direction against the Greenway. Although the General Assembly has granted the Greenway guaranteed annual toll increases, that deal expired this year. Going forward, the owner would have to demonstrate that its tolls do not discourage people from using the road—and the Greenway’s report claims traffic is going down while the population is going up.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said that strengthens the county’s argument that, as they build alternative roads to the Greenway, people are choosing to take other, untolled roads.
County staff members have relayed their comments to the Greenway’s consultants, but the Greenway is under no obligation to change its report—its agreement is with the state, not the county. But at their July 17 meeting supervisors voted unanimously to send those concerns to the Virginia Department of Transportation and to Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.
“I do appreciate the Greenway, it is nice to have that option,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), who asked for the letter. “However, I believe the agreement has some pretty clear language that they are trying to wiggle their way out of, in our opinion.”
Supervisors voted 8-0-1, with Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) absent.