Congestion pricing approved for Dulles Greenway in Virginia

| 9/13/2007

Officials with a state commission in Virginia say they had no choice but to authorize toll increases and congestion pricing on the privately controlled Dulles Greenway.

Under the agreement approved Tuesday, Sept. 11, by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the private investor Toll Road Investor Partnership II that operates the Dulles Greenway can implement increases and even higher tolls during peak traffic times.

The maximum toll for passenger vehicles would rise from $3 to $4 as of Jan. 1, 2012, commissioners stated in the agreement.

Truck tolls would increase much sooner. Tolls for trucks with three or more axles will increase from $6 to $8 each way effective Oct. 1 this year.

The agreement includes congestion-based toll rates from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the eastbound lanes and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the westbound lanes. The Dulles Greenway is a 14-mile metro access to the Washington Dulles International Airport.

“A congestion management toll price premium of approximately 20 percent will be applied to weekday peak period traffic traveling in the peak direction,” the private investor stated in its application.

Toll Road Investor Partnership II is an affiliate of Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia, part of the consortium that leased the Indiana Toll Road in 2006 and the Chicago Skyway in 2005.

Macquarie acquired operational control of the privately built Dulles Greenway in 2005, paying $533 million to a consortium that included Kellogg, Brown & Root.

The schedule of new tolls is, the State Corporation Commission reluctantly admits, part of a bargain authorized in 1988 by the state legislature.

“Almost 20 years ago, the Commonwealth made a series of policy decisions that leave us little choice but to make the decision we made in this case,” commissioners wrote in its final report.

The commission received 600 public comments – “substantially all of which expressed opposition to the proposed toll increases.”

“The opposition expressed by public witnesses may be fairly characterized as unanimous and vehement, terms such as ‘highway robbery’ and ‘cash cow’ being expressed,” commissioners stated.

– By David Tanner, staff writer