A Dulles Greenway-backed bill on tolls is headed to a vote in the House of Delegates today, even as Loudoun’s state delegation attempts to pass a different law designed to curb toll increases and close financing loopholes.
On Jan. 11, most of Loudoun’s representatives in Richmond came together to push a bill that has many of the pieces tolls opponents have been trying to get through the state capitol for years, along with some new provisions to stop the Greenway owners from refinancing its debt at the cost of toll payers. But that moment of unity did not last.
The next day, one of the legislators who took part in that meeting, Del. David A. Reid (D-32), joined by Del. Ibraheem S. Samirah (D-86) and Richmond Del. Delores L. McQuinn (D-70) filed a different bill: House Bill 2104, which would cut a new deal with the Greenway entirely and put it in the hands of the Virginia Department of Transportation negotiate and execute. Both the Northam administration and the Dulles Greenway’s lobbyists have expressed support for the bill as it has advanced through committees.
That bill would abolish the current law governing the Greenway if the administration is able to strike a deal, putting it under a new framework. But Loudouners would have no say in that deal—and under the proposal, the Greenway—the county’s second-largest real estate taxpayer—would be exempt from paying taxes.
In addition, according to County Attorney Leo Rogers, there is no state money offered, leaving the county to pick up any costs of a new deal. Supervisors directed the county’s lobbyists in Richmond to oppose the bill.
County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said she believes the people pushing the bill “have good intentions and believe they’re doing the right thing.”
“It’s a Loudoun County road, and so for us to have no say whatsoever is not something that I think we should sign on to right now, and from what we know, it’s more of an agreement to agree versus actually giving us some facts of what’s going to happen,” Randall said.
The Greenway’s support for the bill also raised red flags for Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), who has pushed the state to curb toll increases for years.
“The argument that will be made is that they would only agree to something that’s beneficial to the county, and as the chair said, I believe that the individuals involved do believe that, but I also think that we’ve been dealing with the Greenway for a very long time,” Letournau said. “The Greenway wants this bill, and there’s a reason they want this bill, and they’re looking for certain things that will make it easier for them down the road, which is not necessarily in our interests.”
And, he pointed out, the bill is not necessary to hold similar negotiations.
“We don’t shut down negotiations—all we do is shut down the ability to execute them without any say from the General Assembly or from anybody else,” Letourneau said. “So, I think let them go and have a discussion all summer long and see if there is a deal, and then bring that back to the General Assembly next year, and let it be transparent and public.”
“We still have no power, and we lose four million dollars,” Randall said of the bill. “It’s one thing to have no power and some money, but now we’re going to have no power and no money. That makes just no sense at all to me.”
Reid has not responded to a request for an interview.