Truckers' tolls will pay for rail work near DC

| 2/18/2005

Truckers using the Dulles Toll Road near Washington, DC, will soon pay a quarter more at each gate on the road, but not for roadwork. Instead, this toll increase will pay for a commuter rail line that runs near the highway.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted Thursday, Feb. 17, to increase the tolls for all vehicles using the highway, an 8-lane interstate-style road that runs 14 miles from the Capital Beltway to near Dulles International Airport.

The new toll rates will go into effect May 22, Tamara Neale, a media relations manager with the Virginia Department of Transportation, said.

The money will fund part of the cost of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, a new $1.5 billion rail line that will run between West Falls Church and Reston. Virginia is paying 25 percent of the cost of the rail line, and the new tolls will pay for a large part of that. The rail line is slated for construction as early as 2006, according to a VDOT news release.

Every toll rate – for cars, box trucks or semis – will go up 25 cents at every toll collection location.

Neale said state law allowed the state’s transportation board to collect tolls to pay off bonds or improvements. However, that same law allows the board to spend a percentage of the tolls on transit improvements. The higher tolls will remain in effect “until all the improvements are made to the corridor.”

“But all the money from the tolls will stay in the corridor,” she said.

After the increase, five-axle trucks will pay $1.50 at the main line toll plaza, and $1.25 at each of the ramps.

The chairman of the transportation board, Whittington Clement, said the rail project was spurred by traffic in the area.

“Major roadways in the corridor are nearing gridlock,” Clement said in a statement. “The problem won't go away and we must address it.”

According to VDOT, more than 200,000 vehicles travel on the Dulles Toll Road each day.

The road generated toll revenues of $41 million in fiscal year 2004. More than $12.2 million of that went to bond payments, while $15 million was used for operating expenses. A smaller amount, $750,000, was placed in maintenance reserves.

Up to 85 percent of the remaining money was used for transit improvements.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor