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Transportation Compromise Offers Reprieve For Dulles Toll Road Drivers

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A funding commitment from Virginia will put a hold on toll increases between 2014 and 2018.
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A funding commitment from Virginia will put a hold on toll increases between 2014 and 2018.

The big transportation funding bill passed by Virginia's General Assembly spells relief for drivers on the Dulles Toll Road.

All the focus on how transportation will be paid for in Virginia — the haggling over whether the Commonwealth should eliminate its gas tax — overshadowed a key provision for the Silver Line Rail extension to Dulles Airport.

The transportation funding package dedicates $300 million of state sales tax revenue to the rail project. That means the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will be able to lower projected toll rate increases on the Dulles Toll Road.

"This is good news for people on the toll road, and for people complaining their taxes may go up," says Tom Davis, MWAA vice chairman. "Well, for people on the toll road, this is a huge savings."

The full one-way toll will increase to $3.50 next January to pay for Phase I of the Silver Line. Future increases will help pay for Phase II, which will extend the rail line to Dulles Airport and beyond into Loudoun County. An airports authority forecast says that same toll will jump to $4.00 in 2015, but won't have to increase again until 2018 thanks to Virginia's $300 million commitment.

"We think we've done everything we can to hold the costs of the system down in terms of construction," Davis says.

The airports authority forecasts the new funding from Virginia will reduce the project's debt service by $1 billion and save drivers about 50 cents a trip. In 2018, the full one-way toll is projected to climb to $6.25, but a possible federal loan to help finance the Silver Line might bring down that figure, too.

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