The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reiterated its intention to hold tolls on the Dulles Toll Roadat their current rate through 2018. The announcement, made at the Airports Authority’s monthly board meeting on Wednesday, is the result of a concerted effort to reduce costs on the Silver Line Project, which is funded in part by tolls, and remains predicated on receipt of a low-interest federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan and the previous commitment of $300 million by the Commonwealth of Virginia to off-set toll increases.
“Our objective from the very beginning of our stewardship of the Metrorail Project has been to reduce the burden placed on users of the Dulles Toll Road” said Airports Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Potter. “We have already realized significant savings from debt refinancing, a lower than expected winning bid for the major design-build contract for Phase 2 of the project and the important contribution of $300 million from the Commonwealth of Virginia during the 2013 legislative session. Securing the TIFIA loan is the final piece of the puzzle to let us freeze toll rates for the next five years.”
The Airports Authority, along with its project partners Fairfax County and Loudoun County, were invited to apply for a low-interest TIFIA loan in February. While the loan still requires final federal approval, it would directly benefit drivers on the toll road. By supplying financing at more favorable interest rates than through private capital markets, less money would need to be generated by tolls to cover long-term financing costs for the project. A decision on the loan application is expected in the near future.
At its meeting the board also authorized the issuance of $450 million Dulles Toll Road Revenue Refunding Bonds. If the TIFIA loan is approved, this round of bonds, which are guaranteed against future revenue generated by tolls on the Dulles Toll Road, would fund the remaining portion of the Dulles Toll Road share of the Silver Line Project.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Board Chairman Frank M. Conner III. “Assuming our TIFIA loan application is successful, and we have every indication it will be, when these bonds are issued later this year the Airports Authority will have secured financing for the full amount of the project expected to be covered by tolls from the Dulles Toll Road. This will allow us to take much of the uncertainty out of future toll rates and to work to find additional cost savings that can be passed along to drivers.”
The bonds are expected to be issued in May.
Comparison of Potential Dulles Toll Road Trip Cost (Mainline + Ramp Toll)
Click here for full presentation
COV = Commonwealth of Virginia ($300 million contribution)
PV = Present Value at 3%
The board also was provided an update on the progress of the Silver Line Project. On Phase 1, the Airports Authority continues to review the April 9 Declaration of Substantial Completion by contractor Dulles Transit Partners. The 15-day review includes hundreds of pages of technical documentation and testing results necessary to determine if the project is ready to be turned over to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority for its testing and other preparations before revenue service can begin.
Phase 2, which will bring the rail line through Washington Dulles International Airport into Loudoun County, continues to move forward with final design work and site testing in anticipation of major construction beginning later this year.
Project executive director Pat Nowakowski was also honored for his work on Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the project. It was announced that Nowakowski will be taking a major leadership position at another transit organization and will be moving into that job next month.
“Pat has skillfully guided this large and complex project in a way that few people could have done,” Potter said. “His knowledge, experience, expertise, energy, integrity, dedication, leadership and his deep sense of public service make us all proud and grateful to have him as a colleague.”
Other business at Wednesday’s board meeting included the introduction of Bryan Norwood as vice president for public safety. He joins the Airports Authority having served as chief of police in Richmond, Va., and Bridgeport, Conn. He will oversee the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department and Fire/Rescue Department.
Additionally, air traffic statistics for February 2014 demonstrated the significant impact on air travel from the severe winter, which included numerous winter storms. Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, combined, served 2.7 million passengers for the month, down 5.6 percent from the year before. Though weather impacts brought both airports’ passenger totals down for the month, Washington Dulles International continued to increase its international passenger traffic, growing by 1.9 percent compared with last year. The full air travel statistics for February can be viewed here.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, established in 1987 by the governments of Virginia and the District of Columbia, manages and operates Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports, which together serve more than 40 million passengers a year. The Airports Authority also operates and maintains the Dulles Airport Access Road and the Dulles Toll Road and manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail system into Loudoun County, Va. No tax dollars are used to operate the toll road, which is funded by toll revenues, or the airports, which are funded through aircraft landing fees, rents and revenues from concessions. The Silver Line construction is funded by a combination of toll-road revenues, airport contributions and federal, state and local government appropriations. The Airports Authority is led by a 17-member board of directors appointed by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the president of the United States.