Frank Wolf Asks Attorney General to Probe Greenway Tolls

Wolf talks with campaign volunteers at a recent rally

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) today asked the Virginia Attorney General to have his consumer protection office examine the toll structure on the Dulles Greenway, charging that Greenway users are the victims of “highway robbery.”

“I believe you have the ability to give these residents a way to fight what I call ‘highway robbery,’” Wolf wrote in a letter today to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  “If there were ever a group of consumers in need of protection, it is those who pay the Greenway tolls.”

But a spokesman for the attorney general told FairfaxNews consumer protection laws “don’t apply to this situation.”

“However, the attorney general is happy to talk to the company about its openness to considering distance pricing as one solution that could make the road attractive to more drivers,” spokesman Brian J. Gottstein said.

Wolf, a longtime critic of the TRIP II, the firm that operates the Greenway, and its foreign-based parent company, Macquiare Ltd., believes the original state law allowing a private corporation to own and operate the Greenway is flawed because it fails to protect the consumer.

“When I am in Loudoun County, the tolls on the Greenway are a recurring issue and a continual source of aggravation,” Wolf said. “Peak tolls on the Greenway are as much as $4.80 for a one-way trip. When this is combined with the tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and the new Beltway Express Lanes, Loudoun residents are going to face dramatically higher transportation costs than most other residents in the Commonwealth.

Wolf has also been highly critical of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the Dulles Toll Road and is building Phase 2 of the Metro Silver Line, and last month won passage in the House of legislation establishing a permanent Inspector General to oversee the Authority’s actions.

An audit of the MWAA is due out this fall and Wolf recently told FairfaxNews he would not rule out a “blockbuster” in the report. A preliminary report in May found fault with the board’s policies for awarding contracts and controlling travel and entertainment expenses. Wolf said then he was “deeply troubled” by the findings, which he said â€raise  significant concerns about the current board’s policies and procedures, including contracting practices, ethics and transparency.”

Outrageous tolls

The Greenway tolls are not only an economic burden for commuters but are contributing to congestion on local roads as motorists search for ways to avoid the tolls.

“These outrageous tolls cause cars as well as large trucks from most area businesses to divert to side roads and residential streets,” Wolf continued.  “Route 7, often the only available alternate route, is at capacity around the clock, including weekends. When large trucks divert from the Greenway, they clog local roads and often use neighborhood streets. This puts additional stress on these roads, adds to congestion and puts the public at risk. No one wants their children playing in the front yard or on the sidewalk when a large truck rolls through their neighborhood all to avoid a toll.”

Wolf has been vocal in calling for distance-pricing on the road similar to other public and private toll roads in the county and has worked with Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton to establish a Dulles Greenway Advisory Committee to study ways to make the road more user-friendly.

In May, the design for new signs clearly stating what tolls will be prior to users committing to take the road were approved.  One sign will be placed on the west-bound Dulles Toll Road prior to the Route 28 exit, while two more will be placed on Route 772 in both the east and west-bound directions.  Wolf requested that the signs be erected.

 

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James R. Hood
James R. Hood is the editor and publisher of FairfaxNews.com. A former Associated Press editor and executive, he has more than 50 years of reporting experience.