Citizens Demand "Stop the P3 Toll Lane Boondoggle"
As Virginia's Secret Contract with Toll Company Is Revealed

press release

June 8, 2021

 

Citizens and community leaders rally today against the plan to build privatized toll lanes on the Beltway and I-270. The rally comes as the Maryland Transportation Authority votes on a contract with Transurban, the giant Australian toll lane operator.

MDTA is moving to approve the contract before the environmental review is completed and the facts are known about the environmental, fiscal and social risks of the project. Moreover, the action ignores extensive evidence of favoritism in the award of the contract to Transurban and an ongoing challenge by one of the losing bidders.

“This is a traffic jam plan, not a traffic relief plan,” said Linda Rosendorf of DontWiden270. “Seven lanes of traffic on I-270 will merge into two lanes north of Shady Grove. The backups at the merges will be even worse than they are now."

“The toll lane scheme means 50 years of guaranteed congestion,” added Barbara Coufal of Citizens Against Beltway Expansion. “Unless the free lanes are backed up, nobody will pay the $20, $30, and $40 tolls Transurban needs to make a profit.”

The rally comes as an until-now-secret contract between Transurban and the Virginia Dept. of Transportation has begun to come to light. On Friday, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation released a copy of the "Development Framework Agreement" under the Freedom of Information Act. This contract gives Transurban the sole right to extend its Virginia Beltway toll lanes to the Maryland border.

Entire paragraphs and even pages of the contract are blacked out because Transurban asked to keep them confidential. “Every one of these blacked-out clauses is being kept secret for a reason,” said Ben Ross of the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition. “It may be secret to give Transurban an advantage over its competitors, which would add to the evidence that the Maryland toll lane procurement was rigged. Or it may be secret to give Transurban an advantage over the public, which would be even worse.”

“The Hogan Administration is cutting corners by putting the private toll lanes contract up for a vote prematurely. Maryland cannot afford to start sealing the deal on a multibillion dollar project that poses such significant, long-term risks to our communities, climate, and public lands,” said Josh Tulkin, Director of Maryland Sierra Club.


Virginia Toll Road Contract Blocks Future Rail Connection to Maryland

If "495 Next" Project Is Approved, Taxpayers Will Have to Pay Private Road Builder

For Each Passenger Who Rides the Train Until 2087

Anti-Transit Contract Provision Was Hidden from Public for 14 Years
 

press release

May 22, 2021

 
 
An anti-transit "poison pill" hidden in the contract between Virginia and Transurban, the operator of the Beltway toll lanes, would effectively block any future rail line over the American Legion Bridge if Virginia goes ahead with its "495 Next" toll lane extension project. This provision, concealed from the public since the contract was signed in 2007, was revealed in a Washington Post article this morning:
under Virginia’s contract with Transurban, the Australian company that operates the state’s Beltway HOT lanes, the company could seek compensation from the state if a new rail line in the corridor siphoned off toll revenue. The contract expires in 2087, said a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The state's payment is equal to the total reduction in Transurban's toll revenue that results from travel by train instead of driving. Each passenger who rides the train until 2087 would add to the amount taxpayers fork over. This exorbitant added cost would almost surely make it financially infeasible to lay tracks along or over the Beltway.

The 495 Next project extends the toll lanes from their current terminus, just past Tysons, to the George Washington Parkway. This section of the Beltway is the only route for a rail line from the bridge into Virginia that does not run through parkland and expensive residential neighborhoods.

The specifics of how the anti-transit "poison pill" was concealed in contract fine print are below.


Here is how the anti-transit contract provision revealed today was hidden from the public for 14 years. Links to the full text of the contract are on the VDOT website.

Start from Section 9.02(j):

So what's a "Department Project Enhancement"? Exhibit A of the contract is the definitions. But if you look at the definition of "Department Project Enhancement," you won't get the answer. You need to look here:

So now you look at the definition of HOT Lanes Right of Way:

On a quick reading, that sounds like it means only the actual HOT lanes and the medians next to them. But wait! "Access control line" isn't defined in the contract but it has a specific meaning in traffic engineering. These lines encompass the entire controlled-access roadway, and most commonly are located at the edge of its right-of-way. Exhibit B-3 of the Virginia contract confirms that the HOT Lanes Right of Way extends to the edge of the I-495 right of way. In addition, it shows the area extending even farther outward at interchanges.

Typical page from Exhibit B-3. This page shows hatching (called "crosshatching" by traffic engineers) across the entire width of the Beltway and extending to the Tysons Corner Mall perimeter road.

Finally, how much money will Virginia taxpayers need to cough up? The "Concessionaire Damages" are the compensation owed to Transurban if a rail line enters the Beltway ROW. These definitions say it is Transurban's entire loss of revenue on their Virginia Beltway toll lanes, until the agreement expires in 2087: