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Tolls may soar on road to Dulles

Wednesday - 12/7/2011, 1:50pm  ET

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Whether or not drivers on the Dulles Toll Road want the Dulles Rail project or not, they are helping to pay for it -- and they may get hit with an even larger bill in the near future.

About 75 percent of the financing for the second phase of the project -- the section that will run from Reston to Dulles International Airport and continue into Loudoun County -- is coming from toll road revenue.

While toll road rates will jump by 25 cents in January, there is no further toll increase schedule yet in place. But indications are that higher-than-expected cost estimates related to the project's second phase could push tolls way up -- as much as about $7 for a one-way trip by 2020, according to some estimates.

"I don't envision that in the next few years there will be a year without toll increases," Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Boardmember Robert Clarke Brown, head of the authority's Finance Committee, told reporters Wednesday. "There probably will be a year sometime in the next five years where it is more than a 25-cent increase."

The authority has hired a firm to look at the potential costs of tolls and the effects certain toll levels would have on traffic on the Dulles Toll Road.

"There's a lot of financial engineering (going on)," Brown said.

Much of the increase in toll rates will depend on the amount of federal, local and state financing added to the funding stream for the project's $2.8 billion second phase.

"There is no silver bullet (to help bring down the costs of tolls)," Brown said. "But at this point the counties (Fairfax and Loudoun) and the toll road are tapped out."

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)