Friday, October 28, 2005

New Proposal for the Dulles Toll Road

A group billing itself as "Dulles Express" has submitted a proposal under Virginia's Public-Private Partnership Act to buy the Dulles Toll Road. This proposal would provide a $5.7 billion benefit to the Commonwealth, the group asserts.

Said lead investor Franklin L. Haney: “We have the only plan on the table right now to add capacity to this critical transportation artery. Additional lanes, coupled with the investment in rail and other roads, and a guarantee of the long-term maintenance of the Dulles Toll Road, will bring desperately needed enhancements to the transportation network serving the Dulles corridor through a balanced, multimodal approach.”

From the press release:
The most significant aspect of the Dulles Express proposal is the addition of two new “Toll Express” lanes in both directions of the Dulles Toll Road to ease growing congestion. These new lanes will be financed by private equity and/or at-risk capital, thus shifting risk from government to the private sector in the spirit of the PPTA.

The team’s plan also provides: $267 million for the state’s share of the first phase of the extension of Metrorail to Dulles; up to $450 million for the second phase of Metrorail extension; and hundreds of millions to be used for improvements to the Dulles Toll Road and other transportation projects in the region. In addition, the team will assume all maintenance and operations costs for the expanded Dulles Toll Road and the Dulles Airport Access Road. The estimated cost of these items over the 50 year concession term is nearly $5.7 billion, funds that will not have to be expended by the Commonwealth if it chooses the Dulles Express team.
For more information, click here.


At 9:48 AM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

When the state made the decision to take some toll revenue and spend it on Dulles Rail, there was aomething of an outcry. I don't know how deep those concerns run now. This group is making the same promise as a sales point, and an attractive one. This is a pretty good example of the direction Speaker Howell and some other want to go -- and the ideas have validity. Will the public go along? I remain concerned that selling concessions to run toll roads for profit will be just as hard a sale as the more traditional funding schemes.

And of course this is a road that is already tolled. How will it play if the proposal is to sell the concession on a road that is not now tolled -- say, for purposes of discussion, the instantly crowded Virginia 288?

These ideas will be on the table in the session. Do people have the same viceral reaction that they get when you mention (shudder) the gas tax?

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Let's not forget that transferring the risk away from government also means transferring the profit away from government. Since we are the government, this means we are selling off the risk of maintaining the highway and giving away the opportunity that we (and through the taxes we pay, the government) might collectively benefit from the expense more than if we let a private entity skim off the top.

You don't see anyone offering to take over the problems on 688 or 605 for profit.

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

The latest offer is much more substantial and must be given fair consideration. However, two points still must be noted. The first was already made by Ray Hyde. The state would be selling a profitable road. There is a big difference in selling an existing road and in building a new one. That difference must be considered.

The second point is that this latest proposal is bound to the building of the Dulles Metrorail extension, which the state admits in the EIS will not provide any substantial reduction in traffic congestion. The public is likely to be skeptical of this latest proposal as another scheme to construct the rail line that won't deliver relief to commuters, but will only permit the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to permit huge additional density at Tysons Corner.

BTW, I have been informed that the State has admitted to the McLean Citizens Association that 100% of any cost overruns associated with the extension of rail to Dulles will be borne by the Commonwealth. Given that the final built cost for a large construction project with federal funding averages 2.1 times the final approved cost, according to a knowledgeable engineer involved in these types of projects for many years, I hope some are concerned as to how those likely cost overruns will be funded?


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