The Dulles Greenway is a privately owned 14-mile toll road that connects Washington Dulles International Airport with Leesburg, Virginia. The Greenway is the first private toll road in Virginia since 1816.
Since the Greenway’s dedication on September 29th 1995, commuters have enjoyed a non-stop alternative to Routes 7 and 28. Previously, a trip from Leesburg to Dulles during rush hour would take approximately 30 minutes. That same trip, utilizing the Greenway’s 65mph speed limit and complete lack of traffic signals, is now less than 15 minutes.
The Greenway also maximizes traffic flow by offering electronic toll collection through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart-Tag/E-ZPass System. Smart-Tag/E-ZPass is the quickest, most convenient toll payment method available. The Greenway’s Smart-Tag/E-ZPass lanes process six times as many vehicles per hour as conventional cash payment lanes.
The Greenway is a leading example of the current trend towards the privatization of public facilities. The Greenway demonstrates how the public and private sectors can join together to supplement the existing transportation infrastructure without raising taxes. This project represents a new paradigm for cooperation between the public and private sectors for resolving infrastructure issues.
The Dulles Greenway is regulated by the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) though it is not regulated like a utility. The Greenway receives no exclusive service territory. There is no monopoly aspect to the Greenway, because motorists have viable alternative un-tolled routes available to them should they seek to avoid paying tolls.
The Virginia Highway Act of 1988 provided that an operator of any project does not have the power of eminent domain; the operator must acquire necessary property through private means, which was a costly and time-consuming exercise for the private investors in the Greenway. Finally, the SCC sets authorized returns, as with a utility; however, unlike a utility, the horizon is finite. After a specified term, during which the investors may seek to earn a return, the Greenway is then dedicated to the Commonwealth of Virginia, at no cost to the Commonwealth. Once turned over to the Commonwealth, the investors will have no further involvement in or potential return from the Greenway.
In addition, a recently executed amendment to the Act authorizes annual toll increases between 2013 and 2020 at the greater of growth in CPI plus one percent, GDP growth, or 2.8%, with additional increases if necessary to offset more rapid growth in property taxes or to ensure that the Partnership has sufficient revenues to achieve debt service coverage ratios.