Socialized Transportation? Bills Would Authorize State Buy-Out of the Greenway

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Seeking to quell a rising chorus of voter outrage, Northern Virginia Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation authoring the state to buy the investor-owned Dulles Greenway.

He’s not calling it “socialized transportation” but Del. Joe T May (R-Leesburg), who chairs the House transportation committee, has introduced one of two bills  that would authorize the purchase from an Australian investor group. Also supporting the bill is the other Republican from Lessburg, Randy Minchew.

Although funding is, to put it mildly, unclear, under the legislation the state would float revenue bonds to finance the purchase, with the state treasury having to subsidize any operating deficits. The state Transportation Board would have the authority to set tolls, something that’s now done by the highway’s private owners.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who generally favors private initiatives over tax-supported projects, has so far not been heard from.

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Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), a longtime critic of the Greenway and its eastern partner, the Dulles Toll Road, applauded the effort, according to Tollroads News:  “I commend Joe May for putting the bill in. The Greenway is out of control. Tolls are going to go up so high, they’re going to have impact on economic development.”

Tolls for cars on the Greenway are $5.00 off-peak and $5.80 peak. The Greenway opened in 1995 and was a darling of Republicans who hailed it as a private alternative to government road-building.

But traffic and revenue have consistently been below forecasts, which has hurt the road’s profitability. Traffic peaked in 2005 at a daily average of 61,000 trips.

 

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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.