(Reston, VA) -- The Commonwealth Transportation Board should halt a plan that would force toll-paying drivers on the Dulles Toll Road to help fund a Metrorail connector to Dulles Airport. That's the position of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which reaffirmed its opposition to the proposed toll increase -- and its displeasure that the scheme would take effect with little notice and no accessible public hearing for commuters -- at a coalition news conference today.
"There can be no doubt that raising tolls for any purpose other than maintaining or constructing road capacity is nothing more than a tax increase," said NTU Director of Government Affairs Paul Gessing. "The Dulles Rail boondoggle must be stopped in its tracks, and putting the brakes on this toll hike is the first thing that can be done to keep bureaucrats from looting motorists to pay for transit."
The proposal would raise tolls from 50 to 75 cents at the main plaza and from 35 to 50 cents at other exits, in order to help cover the estimated $3.5 billion cost of building a Metro extension to Dulles Airport (the project is scheduled for completion in 2011 at the earliest). However, according to NTU the plan will cost taxpayers much more since Metro fares only cover about 55 percent of the agency's operating costs and the system is in long-term decline. Thus, the groups said taxpayers could end up footing half the bill for the Dulles Rail segment's $94 million in annual operating costs.
"From the perspective of relieving gridlock on and around the Dulles Toll Road and in Northern Virginia, spending multiple billions of dollars to extend Metro is very inefficient," Gessing noted in a February 2 letter to Northern Virginia Legislators. "Even upon its completion, this project is expected to have a minimal impact in actually removing cars from the roads."
NTU joined the Virginia Club for Growth and coalition-coordinator Landowners Opposed to Wasteful Expenditures on Rail (LOWER) to announce three unofficial hearings to be held in Leesburg, Reston, and Herndon. NTU, which was severely critical of the fact that the Legislature delegated a "decision over whether or not to raise taxes" to an "un-elected, bureaucratic body" without a nearby public hearing, also sent out an interactive e-mail alert to its over 800 members in the area yesterday, providing them with a way to contact their elected officials regarding the toll hike.
"Forcing motorists to pay a disproportionate share of the cost of a project they may never use -- without holding a local hearing or a vote -- is not only patently unfair, it is poor politics," concluded Gessing. "National Taxpayers Union is here on behalf of our members in Northern Virginia to blow the whistle on this stealthy tax-hike scheme."
NTU is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and more accountability from elected officials at all levels. Note: For more information on the three scheduled public hearings, visit www.notollincrease.com. NTU's letter to Legislators is available at www.ntu.org.