As tolls continue to rise on the Dulles Toll Road, one concern often cited by elected officials is that more drivers will choose to take other, already congested, routes or cut through residential neighborhoods in order to avoid the toll.
However, so far, most drivers seem to be willing to pay for the faster route, according to reports by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the toll road.
The 25-cent increase in 2012 led to a 1.6 percent decline in the number of toll road transactions last year, as compared to 2011. The toll road recorded just under 100 million transactions last year.
The transaction count includes every time someone passes through a toll booth, so it is not equivalent to the number of drivers using the highway.
So far in 2013, there is another slight decline in toll road usage — about 1 percent in January, as compared to January 2012, according to authority records.
Tolls this year increased 50 cents per trip, 25 cents at the main plaza and 25 cents at the ramps.
A sharper drop occurred in 2011, when there was a 3 percent decline in toll road usage over 2010, according to authority records.
In 2010, there were more than 104.6 million transactions, according to airports authority reports, representing a decline of more than 4 million trips a year between then and last year.
While the authority is meeting its revenue projections, due to higher revenue from the increased toll rates, there is some concern about the long-term shift in traffic patterns.
“From the local perspective, that just drives those cars onto neighboring roads,” said Tom Davis, vice chairman of the MWAA Board of Directors.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust (D), whose district encompasses many of the roads that can be used to avoid the toll, said he heard a lot of complaints about cut-through traffic when the authority first raised tolls but has not heard many complaints recently.