On Monday, April 26, 2021, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued a decision denying the request by toll road operator Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II) to increase toll rates on the Dulles Greenway by about 35% over a 5-year period.
TRIP II, the company which owns the Greenway, had sought a 6 to 6.8 percent toll rate increase each year over the next five years for both peak and non-peak tolls.
The SCC held that TRIP II failed to meet the criteria to increase any peak tolls, or to increase off-peak tolls for the five-year period. The SCC permitted limited increases to the off-peak toll rates of $0.25 per year for 2021 and 2022, bringing such tolls to $5.00 and $5.25, respectively. This would lessen the toll differential between peak and off-peak tolls. The SCC decision, based in part on the impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, marks the first time that TRIP II has been denied a request to increase tolls.
“While TRIP II argued that the SCC was required to approve its toll increases in order to pay off the company’s costs and debts, the SCC found that such increases are neither mandated nor required,” said County Attorney Leo Rogers. “The decision confirms that the SCC ‘may’ in its discretion, but is not required to, approve toll rate increase applications. This is an important legal finding,” said Rogers.
Given the impact of potential toll increases on county residents and businesses, the county actively participated in the SCC’s proceedings over the last year. A bipartisan group of current and former officials, including members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and Loudoun County’s legislative delegation, engaged during public hearings, along with leaders from the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce and other business groups as well as private citizens. More than 800 residents weighed in opposing the proposed rate increase.
“We are pleased with this decision by the SCC, since a toll rate increase of this magnitude would have put a heavy economic burden on Loudoun County motorists,” said Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall. “The proposed toll increase would have had a disproportionate effect on small businesses and lower income citizens, many of whom cannot afford to use the Greenway at the current toll rates.”
“The SCC’s decision represents the most significant victory in opposition to TRIP II’s continued toll increases—ever,” said Dulles District Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau, Chairman of the Board's Finance, Government Operations and Economic Development Committee. “The County mounted a serious, well-reasoned legal effort to prevent these large toll increases, and I appreciate the work of our County Attorney and the entire team. I’m also thankful to our many citizens who participated in this process and allowed the SCC to hear firsthand just how impactful continued large toll increases are to them, their families and their businesses. There’s no doubt that our challenges with high toll rates are not over, but this decision is a step in the right direction.”
Legislation signed by Governor Northam last week provides objective criteria for any future toll increases on the Greenway. This legislation takes effect on July 1, 2021, and will apply to any future toll rate applications brought forward to the SCC.
Copies of the documents related to the proceedings are available on the SCC’s website.