4/22/2014DC To Raise $1 Billion From Virginia And Maryland Motorists
DC rushing to implement plan to toll Virginia and Maryland motorists within a year.
Washington, DC has long sought to impose a commuter tax, a levy designed to raise money from residents of neighboring Virginia and Maryland who take the train or drive in to the District of Columbia to work. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled in 2005 that the city could not impose such a tax without congressional approval, something it was not going to receive. Now city leaders have found a way to harness the latest transportation fad to achieve the same result as the tax.
Both Maryland and Virginia have expanded the use of tolling in the past few years. Virginia's latest project takes existing lanes on Interstate 95 and imposes tolls on the high occupancy vehicle lanes without adding any physical lane capacity. The DC government proposes to do the same by tolling Interstates 295, 395 and 695, which are heavily used commuter routes. The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board discussed the project at a meeting last week.
"The proposed managed lanes project brings the District in line with its neighboring states," the DC Department of Transportation's feasibility report states. "The proposed network provides access into and through the District for resident of the District, Virginia and Maryland."
The project would require no new construction beyond the installation of tolling gantries. Because of the low cost to get up and running, the first phase of the project would be run by the District to get tolls collected as early as possible on I-395. Later stages would likely follow the example used in Virginia where the roads were turned over to a foreign corporation.
According to the District, the annual operation and maintenance costs range from $262,899 for the I-395 toll lane to $544,981 for I-295. Citing Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments traffic projections, the proposal expects total capital costs of $14.5 million would be paid off by the first full year's take of $20.5 million in tolls. By 2050, the annual revenue balloons to $97.4 million and the project will have raised more than $1.2 billion in profit.
"The revenue will be used to offset the capital costs incurred for the project as well as for the maintenance and operations of the facility," the proposal explains. "A secondary benefit of this for DDOT and the residents of the District is that federal obligations that would normally be allocated for improvement projects on the corridor would not be required and DDOT gains flexibility on funding other projects within its program."
DC says the Federal Highway Administration has already promised approval for the high occupancy toll lanes as part of its Value Pricing Pilot program and no further approval is needed beyond environmental studies. The city hopes construction for the E-ZPass toll readers will begin in April 2015.