When the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors begins its toll-setting process for 2013 later this year, the agency likely will set rates for the next few years.
The Board’s Finance Committee discussed the policy that will govern the upcoming toll-setting process on Wednesday.
Setting tolls one year at a time would give the board more flexibility to adjust to funding situations that currently are unknown, said Andy Rountree, the Airports Authority chief financial officer.
The authority is using toll revenues to finance a large chunk of the new rail line to Washington Dulles International Airport. With the first phase of the new Silver Line still under construction, and the second phase facing some funding unknowns, “there are a lot of uncertainties as this project moves forward,” Rountree said.
On the other hand, the investors who will be purchasing bonds backed by the tolls might be more amenable to a three-year tolling plan, Rountree said.
“There are a lot of positives that come from setting tolls for a period of time,” he said.
Some board members highlighted a different positive from setting rates three years at a time — reducing how often they have to undergo what could be a politically charged process.
“In the political environment we are now operating in, [a multi-year toll increase] makes a very effective statement to our potential investors,” said board member Robert Clarke Brown.
It also could be helpful for business owners and others in the corridor to have more insight into future toll rates, said Thomas Davis III, a former Northern Virginia congressman who now serves on the MWAA board.
“We want this to be a very deliberate, very transparent process because it does have an impact on people,” said board member Frank Conner III.
The public comment period for the proposed new toll rates is scheduled for July and August, and the MWAA board is tentatively scheduled to adopt new rates for 2013 through as far as 2015 this October.
Toll rates could go as high as $4.50 per trip next year, but the airports authority’s advisors say that as long as they get to $4.50 by 2016, there is flexibility in the rates for the next few years.
Currently, a full trip on the toll road costs $2.25.
There also are unknown factors, such as potential state funding for the project and the possibility of obtaining low-interest federal loans, which could affect the level of tolling needed, Rountree said.