SCC examiner deals a blow to Del. Ramadan’s Greenway fight
The examiner, A. Ann Berkebile, wrapped up her review of an evidentiary hearing on the Greenway's rates this week. In her report, Ms. Berkebile said she was “unable to find that the Greenway's toll rates are appropriately subject to modifications” within the proceeding initiated by Mr. Ramadan in December 2012.
Ms. Berkebile's decision makes it unlikely rates along the 14-mile toll road will be dropped anytime soon.
A minor victory came for Mr. Ramadan and toll road users in the examiner's recommendation for the SCC to order the Greenway operators to conduct a distance-based tolling study, something the Greenway owners have long fought.
Ms. Berkebile concluded that “delegate Ramadan sustained his burden of providing that the Greenway's current tolls – in their entirety – are not reasonable in relation to the benefit obtained because they're not distance-based.”
Yet the examiner stated Mr. Ramadan's critique of a Greenway separate cost-benefit analysis to be “largely unpersuasive.”
In her report, Ms. Berkebile relied on an amendment to the original law to support her conclusion that she "had no authority to reduce tolls." That amendment was authored by former state senator and current Attorney General Mark Herring in 2008 to provide for limited annual toll increases.
“I disagree with the Examiners ruling; I do not believe that Senator Herring’s intent was to limit the SCC’s power to regulate tolls. And I do not believe that the current law does that. But the process is not over, I fully intend to ask the Commission to reject the Report and reconsider the logic of the Hearing Examiner,” Mr. Ramadan said in a prepared statement.
The second-term delegate who represents portions of Sterling, Dulles, South Riding and Prince William County, said he “remains committed to fighting for lower tolls, even if it means petitioning the Supreme Court of Virginia.
“In the coming days, my legal team will be evaluating the 67 page Report and will determine a strategy moving forward,” he said.
Meanwhile, the State Corporation Commission is seeking comments on a proposed toll increase by the Greenway operators, Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II). TRIP II is requesting a 2.8 percent increase plus a 3-cent increase for payment of an increase in local property taxes to Loudoun County and the Town of Leesburg, according to the SCC.
For a 2-axle vehicle, the proposed increase amounts to 15 cents, from $4.10 to $4.25. During peak morning and afternoon weekday periods, the proposed increase is 20 cents, from $4.90 to $5.10.
Written comments on the request must be submitted by Feb. 7. All correspondence should be sent to the Clerk of the State Corporation Commission, Document Control Center, P.O. Box 2118, Richmond, Virginia 23218-2118, and refer to case number PUE-2013-00139.
Those interested in submitted comments electronically may do so at the SCC’s website: http://www.scc.virginia.gov/case Click. on the "public comments/notices" link and then the "submit comments" button for case number PUE-2013-00139.