Loudoun County officials are celebrating the culmination of years of effort to curb toll increases on the Dulles Greenway. Governor Northam has signed legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2021 special session (HB 1832 and SB 1259) that establishes firm rules for when toll increases will be allowed on the roadway.
“This legislation will have a meaningful impact on the people of Loudoun County,” said Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall. “This has been about equity and quality of life for our residents, who may now finally be able to afford to pay to use the Greenway, which will help them spend less time in their cars commuting to and from work and more time with their families.”
Members of the Board of Supervisors and county staff worked with Loudoun representatives of the General Assembly and the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, including the CEO Cabinet, to provide the community support needed to pass this legislation, which included testimony before the House and Senate Committees on Transportation. The legislation makes changes to Section 56-539 of the Code of Virginia, providing additional regulatory oversight for future toll rate increase applications made by the operators of the Dulles Greenway.
“This new law will be an important tool to ensure a level playing field and apply common-sense logic to Greenway toll rate cases,” said Dulles District Supervisor Matt Letourneau, Chairman of the Board's Finance, Government Operations and Economic Development Committee. “This legislation literally took years of effort, but our determination to provide some relief to our citizens has finally prevailed.”
Some key points of the new law include:
- Proposed Greenway toll rates must be “reasonable” to users in relation to the benefit they are deriving from using the road, should not “materially discourage” use of the road and should provide the operator no more than a reasonable return.
- Toll increase requests are limited to one year at a time.
- The Virginia Department of Transportation will have the authority to independently review all traffic-related analyses submitted by the Greenway operator in support of higher tolls.
- Basic evidence of financial fitness (including creditworthiness) will be required when applying for permission to transfer, extend or amend the certificate of authority to operate the Greenway.
- Requires the operator of the Greenway to obtain approval from the State Corporation Commission (SCC) before refinancing any debt and establishes specific criteria that the operator must meet for approval.
“This bipartisan effort by the Loudoun elected officials and Loudoun residents is a big step forward for commuters,” said 87th District Delegate Suhas Subramanyam, who sponsored the legislation in the House. “We will finally be able to prevent multi-year guaranteed toll increases and allow for real oversight and accountability when it comes to price increases. Toll operators will need to have a good reason to increase tolls and poor financials will not be enough to justify them. This is a huge win.”
“During the 2021 General Assembly session, I carried Senate Bill 1259, which will curb the rise of tolls on the Dulles Greenway,” said 13th District Senator John J. Bell. “We have been working on this issue for a long time, and with strong bipartisan support from the Loudoun Delegation and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, we were able to deliver a solution to stop excessive and unfair toll increases. This is a huge win for Loudoun County, and will bring much needed relief to our residents and commuters.”
The SCC is currently considering a request by toll road operator Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II) to increase toll rates on the Greenway by more than 30% over a 5-year period. These code changes do not apply to TRIP II’s application currently before the SCC (Case Number PUR-2019-00218). The commission has yet to release a decision related to the application.
“The legislation signed by Governor Northam provides objective criteria for any future toll increases on the Greenway, which will better protect the interests of the citizens of Loudoun County,” said County Attorney Leo P. Rogers.
The new legislation takes effect on July 1, 2021, and will apply to any future toll rate applications brought forward to the SCC.
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