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Airport board advances plan to increase Dulles tolls

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is planning to raise rates on the Dulles Toll Road. (Examiner file photo)

The Washington region's airports board on Wednesday advanced plans to increase tolls on the Dulles Toll Road to help pay for the construction of the $6 billion Silver Line.

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board members are considering raising tolls from the current $2.25 to $2.75 in 2013, $3.50 in 2014 and $4.50 in 2015. The board will make a final decision on the scheduled toll increases in November. They would take effect Jan. 1.

Tolls from the toll road are expected to pay for about 75 percent of the cost of building Metro's Silver Line train to Washington Dulles International Airport.

Board member and Finance Committee Chairman Frank Conner said the authority heard from many local residents worried that the higher tolls will divert more traffic onto local roads and hurt the economy of the Dulles corridor, driving away new business and taxing companies that rely on the toll road to move goods and services. Many of the 584 comments that the authority received about the toll increase in recent weeks called the increase unfair.

"We are very worried that tolls will be too high and will have the consequences that people are concerned about," Conner said. "We like to say this is rail to Dulles, but this is also rail to develop the Dulles corridor, and the last thing we want to do is impose a toll rate structure that undermines what we're trying to do."

But the tolls still have to increase, unless Virginia or the federal government gives more money to the project, Conner said.

"There's a perception out there that MWAA has just a pot of gold we can just use however we want," Conner said. "The answer is no, we don't."

Board member Todd Stottlemyer said he wants to ensure that tolls are lower than Silver Line fares.

"If that rail line opens up and you're getting $2.50 a trip from Wiehle Avenue to Tysons Corner, and we're charging $4.50 [in tolls], that's going to be problematic," Stottlemyer said.