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Dulles tolls could be decided by state budget talks

Tuesday - 3/27/2012, 1:45pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

RICHMOND - It was just one of many items in a huge $85 billion two year state budget plan but it could make a difference in commute costs over the next few years for drivers who use the Dulles Toll Road.

The budget approved Monday by Virginia's Senate included $450 million for the Metro Rail expansion to Dulles Airport, $300 million of which would be used to mitigate toll increases in the first few years of the project and keep the tolls lower than they might be.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is building the entire 23-mile extension of Metro, is using a combination of state, federal and local funds along with tolls to finance construction of the Silver Line.

Phase 1 to Wiehle Avenue is already under construction but Phase 2 out to the airport and beyond is still the subject of much debate.

The $300 million approved by the Senate still faces a hurdle in the House where speaker Bill Howell tells WTOP that his colleagues do not want to borrow the $300 million. The House has already approved $150 million for the Dulles Rail expansion.

That means there could be a big battle over the funding when House and Senate conferees get together over the next week to finalize the budget.

"It's a critical project for Northern Virginia and we're donna fight for it," says Senator George Barker, D-Fairfax.

All of this also plays into a decision facing Loudoun County. The county may opt out of the $5.5 billion Metro extension agreement cutting it two stations short because of concerns about the overall expense to the county.

Loudoun has until July 4 to decide.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)