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Posted on: July 1, 2020

Testimony Overwhelmingly Opposes Toll Increases on Greenway

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The State Corporation Commission (SCC) held an electronic public hearing June 30, 2020, on the request by toll road operator TRIP II to increase toll rates on the Greenway toll road more than 30% over a 5-year period. Approximately 80 people registered to provide comments during the public hearing and participants unanimously opposed the request to raise rates.

Testimony
Among the participants was a bipartisan group of current and former officials, including members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and Loudoun County’s legislative delegation. Leaders from the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce and other business groups as well as private citizens also participated.

“The outrageous toll increases proposed by TRIP II would allow only people who sit at the highest income level or work for a company that covers toll costs to afford this road,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall. “The single parent trying to pick up their child from daycare, the senior citizen on a fixed income or the family with two parents working to make ends meet would not be able to use this road. The Greenway would become a class-based system that disallows people from using it. Getting home to your family shouldn’t be based on your income. Even in a positive economic environment, an annual increase of 6-plus percent per year is not feasible for most of my constituents to pay; in the COVID-19 economy, it’s almost impossible.”

Participants in the hearing pointed out that the Northern Virginia population has steadily increased while traffic on the toll road has steadily decreased, demonstrating that high toll rates are deterring residents from using the road. A number of witnesses stated that even though it would be more convenient for them to use the Greenway than other local roads, they regularly avoided doing so because of high toll rates.

"The proposal to increase tolls yet again—over 30% over 5 years in the middle of a pandemic that has caused record unemployment claims in Loudoun and around the Commonwealth—is so egregious and such an insult to the residents of Loudoun County that it is truly as if TRIP II is taunting us. They are confident that there is literally nothing that the Commission won’t approve,” testified Dulles District Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau. “So today, I ask that you stand up for your own authority, for the taxpayers of this Commonwealth, and for basic and fundamental fairness. I ask that you reject the Greenway’s request for a toll rate increase. I ask that you say enough is enough."

Additionally, participants noted that they have seen dramatic increases in traffic on surrounding roads, which has resulted in unsafe conditions on local streets and increased construction and maintenance burdens on the Commonwealth of Virginia and the county.  

“Quite literally, residents of Loudoun and points west cannot afford an increase in tolls on the Greenway,” said Broad Run District Supervisor Sylvia R. Glass. “If approved, the rush hour toll rates would be $7.90 in 2025. This means that a commuter with a standard 250-day work year would pay almost $4,000 in tolls alone.”

“The Dulles Greenway exorbitant tolls have negatively impacted Ashburn residents for years,” added Ashburn District Supervisor Michael R. Turner. “If the SCC approves this outrageous toll increase, still more cars will avoid those tolls and increase, yet again, the volume on our east/west corridors.”

Witnesses also opposed a 5-year rate increase because the projections on which the request was based do not take into account changes in people’s work and travel habits due to COVID-19. Business owners and employees explained that increasing tolls would place a heavy financial burden on them during a time when they were seeking to recover from the economic downturn due to the pandemic. 

“Dulles Greenway toll prices have been discouraging use of the toll road for some time, causing congestion on alternate routes within Loudoun’s local road network,” wrote Catoctin District Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner in a letter to the SCC. “This most recent proposal will only serve to exacerbate an already distressed road system in Loudoun County.”

Moreover, the county and business owners have also argued that the proposed toll increase would have a disproportionate effect on small businesses and lower income citizens, many of whom cannot afford to use the Greenway at the current toll rates.

“I would like to address the red herring that was presented as a key part of the applicant’s bid for an indefensible multi-year toll increase,” said Leesburg District Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd. “In attempting to undermine the County’s arguments against the proposed toll increases, the applicant has stated that the County is trying to compete for trips with the Greenway. This is nonsense and I’m astonished anyone would argue this with a straight face. If we were trying to compete, we would be arguing in favor of a Greenway toll increase, in order to drive more paying customers onto our paid bus system. If we were trying to compete, we wouldn’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build free roads that bring us no revenue and impose costs on our taxpayers. We respond to public demand and our public cannot afford the already high tolls on the Greenway.”

Public Input Continues Through August 24
Members of the public who did not have an opportunity to participate in the June 30 public hearing still have the opportunity to voice their opinions about the proposed toll rate increase. Documents related to the case are posted on the SCC’s website:

Anyone who would like to send comments to the SCC may do so by submitting this online form, or by U.S. Mail to the address below by 5:00 p.m. on August 24, 2020:

Hon. Joel H. Peck, Clerk
State Corporation Commission
c/o Document Control Center
P.O. Box 2118
Richmond, VA 23218-2118

In all correspondence, anyone submitting comments should reference: “Application of Toll Road Investors Partnership II, L.P., For an Increase in the Maximum Level of Tolls – Case No. PUR-2019-00218.”

Trial
Loudoun County is defending the interests of its residents in this matter before the State Corporation Commission. The county has consistently and actively opposed a toll rate increase and is working diligently to improve affordable transportation options on behalf of the greater community. 

The SCC will hold a trial—called an “evidentiary hearing”— on August 13, 2020, at which TRIP II and the county government will present testimony. A decision from the SCC on the request to increase tolls is expected in late summer or fall 2020.

Who Testified
In support of the residents of Loudoun County, members of the Board of Supervisors and legislative delegation—past and present—offered testimony opposing a toll increase on the Greenway. In addition to residents of Loudoun County, among those who addressed the SCC on June 30 were:

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors

  • Oral Comments:  Chair Phyllis J. Randall; Supervisors Tony R. Buffington, Sylvia R. Glass, Caleb A. Kershner, Matthew F. Letourneau, Michael R. Turner, Kristen C. Umstattd. 
  • Written Comments: Supervisors Juli E. Briskman and Koran T. Saines.

Former Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Members

  • Supervisors Geary Higgins and Ron Meyer; and Chairman Scott York.

State Legislators

  • Senators John Bell and Jennifer Boysko; and Delegates Wendy Gooditis, David LaRock, David Reid, Ibraheem Samirah and Suhas Subramanyam.

Former State Legislators

  • Senator Dick Black and Delegate David Ramadan.

Business Leaders

  • John Boylan, President and CEO of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce; Tony Howard, President and CEO of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce; Asim Shaikh, Executive Committee of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce; and Barry James Taylor, President of the Dulles Area Association of Realtors.

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