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Federal Loan For Silver Line May Provide Toll Reprieve

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Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) says he expects MWAA to be able to secure a federal loan for Phase 2 of Silver Line construction.
Rebecca Cooper
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) says he expects MWAA to be able to secure a federal loan for Phase 2 of Silver Line construction.

There may be some good news ahead for drivers on the Dulles Toll Road who are worried they may not be able to afford projected toll increases scheduled to take effect in January.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) plans to raise tolls dramatically to cover 75 percent of the estimated $2.7 billion cost of Phase 2 of the Silver Line rail project to Dulles aiport, because there is currently no federal funding to help pay for the project. Effective January, the cost of a one-way, full toll is projected to rise to $2.75 from the current rate of $2.25. It would increase to $4.50 in 2015 under the current plan, with additional scheduled increases of $2 every five years.

But Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) expects that to change after talking to federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

"Based on that conversation, I'm very confident we're going to be able to lock down a TIFIA loan for a fairly substantial percentage of the cost of the construction of Phase 2," says Connolly.

MWAA, along with Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, plans to submit a letter of interest by September 30 to the federal government for a loan under TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation), a federal program that lends money for major transportation projects.  Connolly believes the Silver Line will get a large loan.

"I'm hoping for between 25 and 30 percent of the total cost of the project, but we have to see," says Connolly. That 25 percent would amount to approximately $675 million.

"One of my goals is to move us from zero federal assistance to a substantial federal assistance so we can get the pressure off the toll users and the toll rates," says Connolly.

The Reston Citizens Association, which represents 58,000 Fairfax County residents, just sent a letter to MWAA's chief executive criticizing the recent public hearings the agency held as inadequate, considering the impact higher tolls will have on the public. Connolly agrees.

"The public needs to be heard," he says. "I think the Reston [Citizens] Association is absolutely correct in expressing its concerns about this public process."

The congressman expects a federal loan to come through by the end of the year.

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