Reston Asks McDonnell to Pay Down Metro Debt, Saving Commuters Money

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Tysons East station taking shape

The Reston Citizens Association (RCA) has an idea it thinks would hold down tolls for commuters on the Dulles Toll Road. It’s asking Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell to use the $150 million the state has pledged to help pay for construction of Phase 2 of the Silver Line as a down payment on the capital construction costs rather than as payments against interest on MWAA revenue bonds needed to finance the rail line extension.

The letter, prepared by RCA’s Reston 2020 Committee and approved by the RCA Board of Directors, notes, “. . . in using the $150 million to help pay down the interest payments on MWAA’s forthcoming revenue bonds for the Silver Line’s Phase 2, the payments will contribute much less than $50 million—maybe as little as $30 million–to Phase 2’s overall $3 billion capital cost.”

RCA President Colin Mills said that by reducing the debt needed on Phase 2 by $150 million, it would lower the total bond payment cost to Dulles Toll Road users by more than $500 million—more than $300 million after 3% inflation—over the next four decades in a far more cost-effective application of state transportation funds.

Terry Maynard, Reston 2020 and Board of Directors member, notes, “Our concern is that the state and especially MWAA will prefer to use the $150 million to incrementally increase toll rates in the very short term without regard to the most cost-effective solution.  While the MWAA approach—which is being considered by its Board of Directors—has a great political optic in preventing tolls from doubling to $4.25 one-way next year, applying the $150 million as a down payment on Phase 2 could save toll road users hundreds of millions more over the longer term by applying them to pay construction costs.  Moreover, the MWAA stair step toll increase approach still means that toll rates will triple to $6.75 in 2018 as planned.  Why wouldn’t Virginia and MWAA want the scarce funds to have their maximum impact?  To do otherwise wastes taxpayer money and hurts toll road users more.”

“We believe it is of the utmost importance that Virginia and MWAA do everything possible to reduce the huge toll increases Dulles Toll Road users face in the decades ahead,” said Tammi Petrine, Reston 2020’s co-chair.  “The place to start is to do the right thing now with state funding. That means taking a long-term view in maximizing any reduction in the projected nearly nine-fold increase in tolls on the 80,000 Northern Virginians who use the Dulles Toll Road daily.  Virginia and MWAA have to stop playing political games,” she added, “and use public funds in a responsible manner that will most ease the huge costs toll road users face.  Right now, toll road users are forecast to pay over half the line’s capital cost as well as revenue bond interest and operating costs totaling more than $17 billion by 2050.”

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.

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