“Highway Robbery”: Local Officials Weigh in on Greenway Ruling

“Highway Robbery”: Local Officials Weigh in on Greenway Ruling

In an expected yet disappointing ruling for many in Loudoun County, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the State Corporation Commission’s findings in toll rate investigations on the privately owned Dulles Greenway. This allows the Greenway’s owner, Toll Road Investors Partnership II, to continue charging what many in Loudoun County consider exorbitant tolls to use the road.

“The Board of Supervisors was disappointed to learn of the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Chair Phyllis J. Randall in a prepared statement. “By any standard, the tolls charged on the Greenway are excessive and we continue to believe that reducing the cost of using the Greenway would help to alleviate traffic congestion in the region without digging into the profits of TRIP II.”

This ruling by the Commonwealth’s highest court ends current efforts to lower toll rates through administrative or judicial procedures.  In order to change tolls going forward, the Virginia General Assembly would need to legislate regulations for privately owned toll roads, according to a press release sent by the county’s public affairs and communications office.

Board of Supervisors members and elected officials for years have tried to lower the amount charged to use the Greenway, the only privately-owned toll road in Virginia. Because of the county’s influx of growth, the Greenway has been a relatively uncontested thoroughfare for an increasing number of travelers going east-west between Loudoun County and Washington D.C. But the toll rates, which are charged regardless of distance traveled, have proven burdensome for many, mitigating its usefulness for travelers.

“The county really needs to get in and find alternative routes that run pretty close to parallel to the toll road itself so the local traffic can bypass the highway robbery tolls,” said former Board of Supervisors chair Scott York, who served in that position from 1999 through 2015.

York said the recent completion of the Gloucester Parkway connection in Ashburn has been a welcomed aid to area congestion. He said the completion of Shellhorn Rd. is one of other potential future projects the county could look into so residents could avoid the tolls.

In Dec. 2012, then House of Delegates member David Ramadan (R-87) filled charges against Toll Road Investors Partnership II on behalf of Loudoun County. In 2015, he was a patron on HB2344, which would have lowered rates and applied distance-based pricing, but the bill didn’t reach the full floor for a vote.

“In the course of this challenge, I believe we built a strong case that the Greenway was violating the law and contributing to the severe congestion in eastern Loudoun County,” Ramadan said in an online post. “Unfortunately, the deck was stacked against us at the SCC, and the Supreme Court elected to defer to the SCC’s authority.”