Northern Virginia motorists are being “nickled and dimed to death at the toll booth,” Mid-Atlantic AAA charged today, calling the $6 billion construction of Metro’s Silver Line and the tolls that are financing it, a “silver bullet” aimed at the heart of motorists and consumers.
Noting that another round of toll fee hikes is in the offing for users of the Dulles Toll Road, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which operates the toll road, John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic Manager of Public and Government Affairs, said the MWAA has shown itself to have a “tin ear” to the complaints of commuters.
Travelers going to and from Washington Dulles International Airport, as well as airport employees and others having business at the airport, are treated to a free ride on four inner express lanes, while toll-paying Virginia citizens pay hefty tolls to use congested outer lanes of the highway complex.
Other big cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, let airport passengers make their way to the airport on public roads used by everyone else. There has been no recent explanation of why travelers should get a free ride to Dulles while taxpaying local citizens are required to pay. The Washington region’s busiest airport — BWI — requires a drive over congested I-95 and, sometimes, I-495. BWI patrons don’t have a private highway.
“Since January of this year, motorists have been forking over $1.50 at the Main Toll Plaza and another 75 cents at the on-ramps and off-ramps. But letâ€™s do the math, just as commuters and motorists are currently doing because they are being hit right and left as they travel through the toll plaza. On top of that, the cost of a round-trip will increase next year and will soar eventually to as much as $9 by 2015,” Townsend said.
“Adding insult to injury, many commuters along the Dulles Toll Road also take the Dulles Greenway, where the peak tolls for a one-way trip are as much as $4.80. Thatâ€™s a staggering fee, making it one of the most expensive daily commutes in the country,” Townsend added.
Townsend said AAA supports the Silver Line to Dulles but said the cost of the project is being disproportionately shouldered by motorists.
“Drivers know it, and they are bailing out along both the Dulles Toll Road and the Dulles Greenway. With potential tragic consequences, so too are the drivers of large vehicles and trucks,” Townsend said, noting Rep. Frank Wolf’s (R-Va.) recent warning that the tolls are driving heavy traffic onto side roads and residential streets.
Last week, Wolf asked Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to launch a consumer protection probe into the tolls. But a spokesman in Cuccinelli’s office told FairfaxNews consumer protection laws â€œdonâ€™t apply to this situation.â€
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authorityâ€™s Board of Directors approved the three-year schedule for new toll rates back in November of 2009.
“Now the motoring public will feel the full brunt of the toll rates on their wallets and household budgets,” Townsend said. “By capturing the hard-earned money of motorists at the toll booth, the MWAA is financing the construction of the 23-mile, 11 station extension of Metrorail from East Falls Church to Washington Dulles International Airport west into Loudoun County.”
“Thatâ€™s the reverse Robin Hood syndrome, and it is sickening to motorists. Thatâ€™s robbing from the poor to give to the rich,” Townsend charged.