New projections show that one-way rates on the Dulles Toll Road could triple to $6.75 by 2018 to bring in the necessary funds to pay for extending Metrorail to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.
The projections were released Wednesday at a board meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates not only Dulles and Reagan airports but also the toll road. It also oversees construction of Metro's Silver Line expansion.
The current rate of $2.25 might need to double next year, though officials said they could use $150 million in promised funding from Virginia to stagger those increases over three years.
Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the airports authority, said the projections are not set in stone and the airports board must approve any increases to toll-road rates.
Rates have already increased significantly from 2009, when a one-way trip cost $1.25.
The projections are roughly in line with those made several years ago. The tolls are a major source of funding for the multi-billion-dollar rail project. The project is split into two phases. Phase One, with an estimated $2.75 billion cost, extends Metrorail from Falls Church through Tysons Corner to Reston. Construction is more than halfway complete and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2013.
Phase Two, which has still not received final approval for construction, is expected to cost more than $2.8 billion, even after several cost-cutting measures were approved, including reconfiguring the station at Dulles Airport to be above ground rather than below, increasing its distance from the terminal.
Phase One qualified for $900 million in federal funding, but the estimated ridership of Phase Two was insufficient to qualify for standard federal funding. Though the feds agreed last year to provide some financing that will hold interest rates down, Phase Two is more heavily dependent on revenue from the toll road to fund construction. That has prompted complaints from some drivers that they are unfairly being taxed to pay for a mass-transit system they do not use. If toll rates do indeed triple by 2018, that would increase the cost of commuting on the road by $45 a week.
The rates are based on a full one-way trip, which includes a stop at the mainline toll plaza at the eastern terminus in McLean and one of the exit ramps. A partial trip on the toll road would cost less.
By 2043, the projections suggest that one-way rates will need to rise to $16.75 to cover the costs of financing the project. But those numbers are somewhat distorted by inflation. If one assumes a 3 percent rate of inflation between now and 2043, the cost would be $6.70 in today's dollars.