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Dulles Greenway Tolls

The private group that owns the Dulles Greenway announced yesterday evening that it wants to raise tolls almost yearly between now and 2012, when the rush hour rate would be $4.80. That's a little more than $2 more than drivers pay now and would mean about $10 a day for commuters, which works out to about $2,500 a year.

The Post did a poll about a year and a half ago that asked people whether they preferred tolls or taxes to pay for new transportation projects. By 2 to 1, respondents said they prefer tolls. But I wonder how long support for tolls will last as Maryland and Virginia move to build toll lanes on almost every major road in the region. People tend to be for tolls right up to the second that their route is tolled. That's when they realize that the math isn't on their side.

Let's say your car gets 25 miles per gallon and you drive 50 miles to work. You're using 4 gallons of gas a day. That means gas taxes would have to go up a never-gonna-happen $2.50 a gallon to equal a $10 a day toll. And 50 miles is a pretty long commute.

People who like tolls think they're an equitable way to pay for projects. Why should someone who doesn't take a certain road subsidize those who do? Others like them because they are a deterrent to driving. Handing over a few bucks every time you get in the car tends to make people carefully consider whether to take trips. And still others like them because they detest any new taxes.

But people should remember that while there are a lot of arguments for tolls, unless you can avoid them altogether saving money on your commute is not likely to be one of them.

By Washington Post Editors  |  July 20, 2006; 10:31 AM ET
Categories:  highways  
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