WASHINGTON — The board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority voted Wednesday to increase rates on the Dulles Toll Road in 2013 and 2014, a move it defended as necessary to finance part of the mostly bond-funded and highly controversial Silver Line rail extension to the Dulles International Airport.
The current rate of $1.50 at the main toll plaza and 75 cents on ramps will rise to $1.75 and $1.00 respectively in January. The main plaza will see an additional increase to $2.50 in January 2014.
The board declined to decide on rates for 2015, because chairman Michael Curto said there are some questions remaining about the funding of the second phase of the nearly $6 billion project.
"Since the 2015 toll adjustments are largely tied to phase two of the Silver Line construction, and since the cost and funding of that project remains in a dynamic state, the board decided to forego any 2015 toll increases at this time," Curto said.
"The [MWAA] is in the midst of a very competitive procurement for the contractor for the primary phase two work, and the cost of this work will not be known until the procurement process is complete next spring," Curto continued.
The board said it might revisit the need to establish 2015 rates if further details on funding and costs emerge by June 30, 2013, but rates would not exceed $3.00 at the toll plaza and $1.50 on ramps.
The funding partners on the rail project, which include MWAA and Loudoun and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, are awaiting a decision on a request for a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan that would help bring down the need for toll increases.
The move comes less than two weeks after a U.S. Department of Transportation audit uncovered a host of questionable practices and procedures at MWAA.
The use of toll road revenue to back more than $2 billion in bonds for the rail project has long been controversial in Northern Virginia. Local groups have complained that the tolls place an undue burden on residents of the Dulles corridor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is currently considering a lawsuit that two Northern Virginians filed against MWAA challenging whether the funding plan is legal or constitutional.