Hang on to your wallets, Loudoun County commuters — the owners of the Dulles Greenway are at it again.
TRIP II — part of an Australian conglomerate — is now seeking a whopping 30 percent increase in tolls over the next five years. That’s the largest increase yet.
But this time there’s hope.
I spent much of the four years I served in the Virginia General Assembly fighting the Greenway, both with legislation and by challenging their toll rates with the State Corporation Commission, known as the SCC.
The Greenway had two big advantages during my fight — the best lawyers and lobbyists money can buy and the Herring Law, a section of the code that guaranteed 10 years of locked-in toll rate increases.
I spent hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars of my own money fighting the Greenway, but in the end, the SCC ruled that the Herring law meant the commission did not have the ability to stop increases.
The Greenway still has those expensive lawyers, but the good news is that they no longer have the Herring Law to protect them. The law expired at the end of 2019, and Loudoun County successfully fought an effort to extend it.
That means that, for the first time, the SCC can actually investigate the Greenway and decide whether raising tolls would “materially discourage” the use of the road — the test that is outlined in the statute.
Of course, we know it does, and the rate increases will make it even worse. Thankfully, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has chosen to take a stand. My own Dulles District Supervisor, Matt Letourneau (R), has always been my partner in this fight, and he was joined by all of his colleagues, including Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D), in deciding to wage a true challenge to TRIP II’s application. The board gave Loudoun County Attorney Leo Rogers significant resources to challenge the toll increases, and Mr. Rogers used it wisely to bring in top-shelf Virginia regulatory lawyers who know how to win SCC cases.
The first step was a public hearing last week in which the SCC heard from current and former elected officials, business owners and the public about the impact that the toll increases will have on our county. Detailed testimony was given about the millions of dollars that the county has had to spend to build Greenway alternatives — not because it wants to, but because it has to due to congestion and safety concerns.
The case will be heard by the commission in August, and there’s still plenty of time for citizens to submit their own comments in writing. Go online to bit.ly/3e87QSb for more details.
Regardless of the outcome of this case, there’s still work to do in the General Assembly. New state Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D), who now serves the 87th District as I once did, has proven to be a real leader in this battle, unafraid to take on special interests and their allies. In the past General Assembly session, however, the entire Loudoun delegation to Richmond was not on the same page, and they have not agreed to the strategy set forth by our Board of Supervisors. This coming session, they need to be.
In the meantime, let’s rally together as Loudouners to convince the SCC to do its job and regulate the Greenway as the statute requires. With the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the great potential for economic development around Loudoun’s Metro stations, the last thing we need is another big toll increase. Let’s end this highway robbery.
David Ramadan represented the 87th District of the Virginia House of Delegates from 2012 to 2016.