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Residents lawsuit against MWAA over toll road dismissed

A U.S. Eastern District judge on July 7 dismissed a lawsuit filed in April by two Northern Virginia residents against the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority who claimed the board doesn’t have legal authority to set rates for the Dulles Toll Road.

In his opinion to dismiss the case, Judge Anthony J. Trenga said plaintiffs John B. Corr, of Great Falls, and John W. Grisby, of Hillsboro, lacked “prudential standing.”

The plaintiffs’ claims are so “inextricably bound up with political and legislative judgments of the other branches of governments that courts should not intrude as a matter of prudence,” Trenga wrote in his reasons for dismissing the lawsuit.

Corr and Grisby filed a notice of appeal almost immediately after Trenga’s decision.

The plaintiffs, who are seeking a class action classification, want to stop MWAA from collecting any further tolls and a refund of any money collected in excess of what is necessary to operate the road.

They’re seeking restitution in an amount not to exceed $10,000.

In the lawsuit, the men allege illegal charges to toll road users began in 2005 when the Commonwealth Transportation Board had operating and financial control over the road and instituted the first of several rate increases.

“That toll increase was deliberately set at levels far in excess of amounts needed to pay for the maintenance or operation expenses of the Dulles Toll Road plus reasonable payments for the debt incurred to construct or improve the Dulles Toll Road,” the lawsuit reads.

The surplus revenue charged by the board is used to pay for the extension of Metrorail to Washington Dulles International Airport. By doing this, the men allege that the board converted what is a user fee into a tax – a move that is not supported by the state or federal constitution since members of the board are unelected officials.

When MWAA took over control from the Commonwealth Transportation Board in late 2008, the suit says it continued to charge tolls in excessive levels for the purpose of paying for the Metrorail extension.

Current rates for the Dulles Toll Road are $1.25 for two-axle vehicles – an increase of 25 cents from the previous year. MWAA officials have said drivers can expect another rate increase on Jan. 1, 2012.

The toll rate increases will pay for 57 percent of the construction costs of Metrorail’s Silver Line, which is estimated to cost about $6.6 billion.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that MWAA is illegally charging tolls since the setting of rates or fees for a public service has never been given to them by the Virginia General Assembly.

In addition, they say the General Assembly couldn’t have given MWAA the power to set rates because the board is an entity completely outside of the governments of the commonwealth or its counties or municipalities.

However, Trenga disagreed, saying MWAA’s creation is a direct result of political decisions made by Congress and legislative and executive branches in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The plaintiffs’ complaints against MWAA are policy issues that should be handled in those forums, the judge said.


Nice way for the judge to get rid of a case that should have been brought by our county leaders.  Maybe if our leaders had a plan, and acted on ou behalf, they would also find the time to watch our pocket books.  Obviously, our BOS does not make this commute so they do not care.  Thanks for trying guys.  I hope the appeal will be granted.

I agree “just my take”.  Some Loudoun residents have apparently never spoken with anyone who lives or lived elsewhere. 

I’ve lived in NY, where I paid higher state income tax, higher sales tax and a much higher property tax rate than anything in Northern Virginia. The only thing NY didn’t have was a personal property tax.  I was actually amazed Virginia had a “new” tax I had not seen in NY.

To compare, the rate in Loudoun is $$1.285/$100.  Where I lived in NY was about $2.50/$100. Probably higher now. 8% sales tax too.  That wasn’t even in the NYC Metro area.  Like you said, the tax bill was probably cheaper, but that is because a home in Upstate NY that goes for $200k is $500k here.

So, I too laugh when I see these claims “highest taxes in the country”.  If anything, I would bet Loudoun is one of the lowest in the country when you consider the amount of services.  Some areas may have lower tax rates, but team that up with garbage schools and services.

” the highest taxed county in the country ” - please prove this. Just tell me the source, where I can go and see Loudoun County #1 on a list. Please.

I not long ago moved here from another state. I did not pay a (state) earned income tax, but my bundle of ‘local’ property tax rates were nearly double the Loudoun tax rate.  Of course, the kicker is, I pay more actual tax dollars here (with a much lower tax rate) because the darned real estate is appraised so much higher, which is the burden of living in such a desirable location (the nation’s capital region). It’s the catch 22. But the amount of tax I pay is “high” not because of the tax rates set by the local government, but by the housing market supply/demand. All those who grouse about their taxes should be yelling at the 100 new people who try to move here everyday, they are what drive up demand and thus home prices. To the highest bidder goes the property. And let me tell you, services here are top-notch, the major difference is road infrastructure investment, which is far behind the curve given the property values. But that issue derives from the halls of the legislature in Richmond and the good ol’ boys from the 75 or so counties NOT in the Nova, Richmond, or Newport areas. They want to keep their foot on our throats and continue to bleed us of money to bring themselves out of obscurity.

“Some took issue with statements made by Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton and other members of the General Assembly about shifting the responsibility for the secondary road network to localities.” FROM LEESBURG toDAY ARTICLE.  Do you see the theme here?  Wolf, McDonnell, Connaughton (supposedly tax friendly republicans) believe that the highest taxed county in the country should pay MORE from their pockets to fund local projects.  This philosophy is what caused us to pay for the Rail out of locality taxes, Rt. 28 corridor tax district, toll roads and now this.  They believe you don’t pay enough as it is and want you to PAY MORE!  If Republican voters in Loudoun County would wake up and see what is really going on, they WOULD’NT vote REPUBLICAN.  It’s pretty simple folks…this philosophy of having localities pay MORE means that your taxes are even higher than you even realize…because other localities are taking all of our money and sticking it in their pockets.  This isn’t republican or democrat…its the reality!

Personally I was really hoping to see this suit go forward, particularly with all the other things that the MWAA has done *TO* us (not for us) lately.

It would have been nice to see Mr. Snelling and the Gang of 12 be held accountable for their actions for once. What a shame that the judge lacks common sense and decides to continue to protect those who screw us instead of the public and its best interests.

You would think the lunatic tea baggers would support a suit challenging the authority of an entity like MWAA to levy tolls on citizens.  I would like to think a body that zero of us cast votes for and is comprised of people who don’t even live in Virginia would not have this ability.

Maybe it’s because only those slimey, educated liberals have a reason to take the Toll Road everyday.  The baggers are either too wealthy to care or too stupid to have a job.

I guess Loudoun County has to file the lawsuit to protect the citizens from being ripped off?  What a bogus decision by the judge/court.  God forbid the case results in reform and creates a political shock wave.  Isn’t that the mechanism we have in place to protect the public, or at least the two plaintiffs?

I love those far-right wingers, who think when they file a lawsuit like this, its on “principle” but for everyone else, its a “frivolous lawsuit.”  The people in this case should be paying a hugh fine for their wasting the court’s time.

It’s only a frivolous lawsuit when it’s a librul trial lawyer filing it.

So, an obviously frivilous lawsuit.  When do the plaintiffs and their lawyers get punished, fined, or whatever.

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