U.S. Rep from Virginia calls for toll freeze on Dulles Greenway

| Thursday, March 06, 2008

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, has called on the Virginia General Assembly to take immediate action and freeze scheduled toll increases on the Dulles Greenway that is operated by private investors.

Wolf sent a letter to every member of the Assembly on Wednesday, March 5, urging them to change legislation that gave the private investor authority to escalate tolls.

“I continue to believe that the original state law which created the public-private partnership for the Greenway is flawed because it fails to protect the consumer,” Wolf wrote.

“The law instead protects the bottom line of the foreign-based Greenway owner. In approving the requested toll increases, the (State Corporation Commission) confirmed what I have stated all along by admitting that its hands were tied in making this decision by the provisions of the enacting legislation.”

The Virginia General Assembly session is scheduled to end Saturday, March 8.

The Dulles Greenway is a 14-mile, limited-access toll road built and operated in the beginning by domestic investors under the name Toll Road Investor Partners II, or TRIP II.

Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia and its U.S. affiliate, Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, acquired TRIP II in 2005 and currently operates the toll road.

In September 2007, the Virginia General Assembly and the State Corporation Commission modified the agreement to allow the operator the right to raise tolls and charge a “congestion management” surcharge of up to 20-percent during peak times.

Rates for cars would increase from $3.50 to $4.80 during peak hours at the Mainline Toll Plaza by 2012. For trucks, the rate since October 2007 has been $10.25 each way. That could increase to $14 during peak times under the current schedule.

Wolf says he wants lawmakers to freeze tolls and enact legislation to change the way TRIP II can implement toll increases.

Click here to read the letter Wolf sent to state legislators on March 4. Wolf has previously written letters to the governor and the state attorney general on the subject.

TRIP II officials released statements in December 2007 to say Wolf’s claims are misguided about the toll operator and the agreement with the state.

Click here to read a December 2007 rebuttal of Wolf’s statements by TRIP II officials.

Mike Joyce, senior government affairs representative for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said truckers appreciate Wolf’s effort to change the system that allows private investors to set aggressive toll schedules.

“We applaud Congressman Wolf for taking action,” Joyce said.

“Virginia and the Greenway are just a symptom of a huge problem with these public-private partnerships.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer
david_tanner@landlinemag.com

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