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Votes

Residents Feel Slighted

RA and chamber to join forces over sudden toll increase.

Reston residents — those against as well as for Rail to Dulles — voiced concerns over being left out of the toll increase discussions.

The proposal [is to] would raise the state's portion of the funding for the Dulles Rail by increasing tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. A 25-cent increase on the tolls would mean the toll on ramps would rise to 50 cents per entry/exit, and to 75 cents at the main toll plaza. While the amount of the increase is generating some discussion, the fact CTB released the proposal to the public less than two weeks before it is set to vote on it on Thursday, Feb. 17, is generating a lot of discussion.

Speaking at a meeting hosted by Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) on Thursday, Feb. 10, Joe Ritchey, a commercial real estate consultant from Reston, read a statement on behalf of Tracey White, the president and CEO of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce (GRCC).

In the statement, White wrote that the chamber has been a consistent supporter of Rail to Dulles. She said there are more than 900 members of the chamber, and they often ask about developments in terms of transportation in the area. She said the lack of information on the toll increase proposal, and the short time between the announcement of it and the decision on it is "unacceptable." She asked that the CTB have the courtesy to hear the residents' opinions.

The Reston Association (RA) called a special meeting of the Board of Directors on Friday, Feb. 11. The board moved to take a position on the issue, and to attempt to join forces with the GRCC to make a stronger statement to the CTB. The collaboration would show the CTB that Reston's business and residential communities are united.

The RA's position is to be comprised of four parts.

* The RA feels the Reston community was not properly informed, and was not given a chance to have in input in the process.

* The RA took the position that western Fairfax County and Loudoun County would be paying a majority of the cost for the Dulles Rail funding if the toll increase proposal goes through, while Tysons Corner would enjoy most of the benefit, with four metro stations to be built in the area.

* Meetings held throughout the week in different localities are not public hearings, but meetings for residents to discuss the proposal.

* Reston will need additional transportation money in the future to improve its local roads, which will see more traffic as a cause of toll increases.

ANOTHER ARGUMENT against the proposal is that the state is not the one paying for its 25 percent commitment for funding the Dulles Rail Project. "This is absolutely unfair to people in Reston," said Glenn Downing, a resident. "If it's a state function, then why are [the people of Reston] paying for it?" asked Downing.

Another Reston resident, John Palatiello, called the toll increase a tax. He added that the state of Virginia has a $1 billion surplus because of tax increases, and that the money is being spent on everything but Dulles Rail. "If this ‘tax’ is imposed, if the tolls are increased, it needs to be imposed by the General Assembly," said Palatiello, because it is made up of elected officials. The CTB is not elected. "This is taxation without representation," he said. He added he is skeptical about the Rail to Dulles project, and that he will likely not see it completed in his lifetime.

Not all who spoke at the meetings were upset with the proposal and its short notice. Jeff Fairfield said he never had a problem paying a quarter to avoid route 7. He is concerned about what Reston may become if the rail is not built. "I do not want to live here in 15 years if we don't have rail," he said. He is concerned about air quality due to the congestion, as well as the congestion itself.

Ed Robichaud, a Reston resident, said the reason why Reston became so built up was primarily because of the Dulles Toll Road. He added he does not have any children, but pays taxes to support local schools, just like the local non-commuters should support the rail project. "It's a public responsibility," he said.

THE RA BOARD PLANS to present its position to the CTB at the video conference meeting to be held on Wednesday, Feb. 16, as well as in person at the CTB public hearing on the morning of the decision, Thursday, Feb. 17. It is also planning on sending a letter to the CTB, as well as to the elected officials representing Reston's residents, Del. Kenneth Plum (D-36) and state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32), explaining its position on the issue.

Ritchey, speaking on his own behalf, said a majority of people are in favor of rail. However, he said, Reston probably has the worst return on its investment as far as state money is concerned. He would ask the CTB for a more equitable solution, such as placing tolls where Route 123 intersects the Toll Road, inside the Beltway. Putting tolls there would ask the residents of McLean and Tysons Corner to contribute to the process, as well as allow for a slighter increase in tolls, for example to 35 cents instead of 50 cents. He added he would like to see the RA/GRCC partnership include the Herndon Town Council and the Herndon-Dulles Chamber of Commerce.