The Inside the Beltway tolls are designed to generate revenue for the Outside the Beltway private partner, according to Virginia government officials.
Since 2015, VDOT has been telling the public that I-66 inside the beltway would be tolled as a completely separate idea and project from outside the beltway. And politicians from the Governor of Virginia to general assembly members have been telling taxpayers they have “No Risk” for outside the beltway because the private partner is on the hook for all expenses. Not surprisingly, it turns out none of this is true. According to the office of the Secretary of Transportation, VDOT is tolling the INSIDE the beltway to ensure projected revenue for OUTSIDE the beltway’s partner, and taxpayers have been made liable to pay if Inside the beltway is not tolled.
The big difference between the two I-66 projects that inside the beltway would have tolls across the entire Interstate at peak hours and no new “express lanes” would be added. In 2016, the Virginia legislature would prevent VDOT from tolling reverse commutes and required VDOT to add an eastbound lane from Route 267 to Route 29. The other difference was VDOT would have a private partner to manage only the new lanes outside the beltway.
So why did VDOT want to toll inside the beltway too? They announced that they would give some money to transit and other project they (or NVTC or Commonwealth Transportation Board) found worthy. But the real reason was this:
VDOT’s contractors found that the expected I-66 OUTSIDE the beltway toll revenue will increase significantly if I-66 inside the beltway was converted to tolls. The private partner outside the beltway would need to count on new tolls INSIDE the beltway too so they can make more money from Virginians. After the legislature made the changes above, VDOT gave a huge concession from the taxpayers to the private partner:
The Private Partner I-66 Comprehensive Agreement was amended just prior to signing: A new compensation event was created that requires Virginia taxpayers to pay CINTRA / I-66 Express Mobility Partners LLC if INSIDE the beltway tolling is not implemented as planned. The public private partnership is carefully designed so whenever a compensation event occurs, the public taxpayers must pay the private partner, and pay it handsomely.
See the Comprehensive Agreement, Appendix A, compensation event definition (t) on pages A10-A11 [PDF page 184].
(t) Any change in Law during the Term that, with respect to Interstate 66 between Interstate 495 in Fairfax County and U.S. Route 29 in the Rosslyn area of Arlington County, (i) prior to the imposition of tolling thereon, prohibits tolling of any vehicles with less than two occupants (other than motorcycles) between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays or (ii)at any time after the imposition of tolling thereon, permits non-HOV-3 vehicles to travel at reduced tolls or without tolls between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays.
Suddenly worried that public outcry over INSIDE tolls could pressure the in-session legislature to limit toll with a new law, the Secretary of Transportation’s office just published a warning presentation aimed at ensuring INSIDE tolls never end.
- Traffic and revenue for I-66 outside the Beltway showed significant increase if I-66 inside the Beltway was converted to express lanes
- Benefits could only be realized in P3 procurement if private sector could count on conversion being implemented
- After 2016 compromise with General Assembly 66 contract, prior to execution of contract, was amended to include compensation event if tolls were not implemented as planned. [Secretary of Transportation Presentation]
So if the state or even the legislature decides to end tolling INSIDE the beltway, the state taxpayers are immediately required to pay the OUTSIDE the beltway partner. Wonder who negotiated this poor financial deal on behalf of taxpayer’s wallets? Governor Northam just named Transportation Secretary Layne has been named as the new Virginia Secretary of Finance.