It's official: tolls are going up on the Dulles Toll Road. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board unanimously approved the hike, which will go into effect Jan. 1.
The full one-way charge will be $2.75, a $0.50 increase. In 2014, that figure climbs to $3.50.
Motorists will pay higher tolls so MWAA can pay the cost of the Silver Line rail project to Dulles. A decision about raising toll rates in 2015 was deferred, because the airports authority is confident it will receive more funding for the Silver Line, either from the Virginia legislature or Congress, Board Chaiorman Micahel Curto said after the vote.
MWAA has two avenues to secure additional funds: Virginia’s General Assembly, which has provided only $150 million to date, and the TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan program.
"Our project is bar none of the more worthy projects in the country for TIFIA loan financing," Curto told reporters Wednesday. "We've seen the enhanced TIFIA loan program so we're positioned well, given that the project is shovel ready. We're ready to move."
Curto is not the only public official who has expressed optimism a federal loan with come through. But MWAA has a lot of competition for TIFIA dollars; 19 major transportation projects costing a total of $27 billion are currently applying for loans, and Congress has authorized $1.75 billion for TIFIA during the next two fiscal years.
"The pool is very small compared to what the needs are just for our rail system," said Terry Maynard, a board member of the Reston Citizens Association, which represents 58,000 residents in a Fairfax County tax district. "It's going to be very hard to get a significant contribution.”
The association opposes not the Silver Line’s construction but its financing plan, which funds 50 percent of the project using Dulles Toll Road revenues.
"We really want this to get built and succeed," Maynard said. "We are pressing that all the money [MWAA] receives relieve the burden on toll road users." Fairfax County residents are concerned that drivers looking to avoid higher tolls will opt for already congested secondary roads, further clogging their communities with traffic.
Curto promised that MWAA will lobby Richmond for additional funding, declining to criticize the administration of Governor Bob McDonnell, which has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for highway expansions.
"We are going to reach out, work closely and hope to encourage the governor’s administration and the folks in Richmond that Dulles Rail should be the recipient of additional funds. As secretary LaHood said, it is a model project," Curto said.