Greed, and by Extension the Greedway, is Good

By Lloyd the Idiot

I simply have had enough of the uninformed whining about the tolls on the Dulles Greenway and the misguided attempts to artificially lower them.

Here’s the deal.  The Greenway (not the Dulles Toll Road) is privately owned.  It was built on private land with private money.  No land was condemned by the state to build it, and, in fact, the Greenway pays more than $3 million per year in property taxes to Loudoun County. (The Greenway owners, by the way, are doing a crappy PR job  — there’s some really good info on their site that they need to get out).

As a private entity, and even considering the rather unusual structure by which the owners are repaid and the road turned over to the state, the owners have every reason to maximize revenue. The toll is one factor of that revenue, but the number of paying customers is the other. Thus, to maximize revenue, the owners must price the road according to what the market will bear.  If it’s too high, no one will use it and they’ll lose money.  Simple free enterprise economics.  The relatively high fee is more likely a function of the market (that is, the disastrous state of transportation in northern Virginia) than the greed of the owners.  The owners can charge that rate because they can, and they can because the alternatives stink.

If you don’t like the toll, don’t pay it and suck up the longer commute. Just don’t give me the mindless populist drivel we hear every election season, particularly from supposedly free market Republicans, that localities need to control the rates or that the rates should just be  . . . lower.   We need to encourage creative solutions to our traffic problems, and discouraging future attempts at private roads certainly isn’t helping matters.  Let the free market work, and we’ll all be better off in the long run.


  • Loudoun Insider says:

    Of course if the state actually spent the proper proportion of transportation dollars in NOVA that we provide to the state this wouldn’t be such a sore spot.

  • True. We may have well have shot ourselves in the foot with paying for the Greenway, but, then again, we probably wouldn’t have had anything if left to the GA.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    Greater privatization would do wonders. Your analysis is spot on. Everyone always mentions tolls, but forgets users. There is a limit to how high the prices can go.

  • G.Stone says:

    I second your spot onness! Very well said. It is amazing what happens when you lace a topic with the facts that support the truth.

  • G.Stone says:

    “We need to encourage creative solutions to our traffic problems, and discouraging future attempts at private roads certainly isn’t helping matters. Let the free market work, and we’ll all be better off in the long run.”

    This is your money gram of the post. Excellent, it is about time.

  • Ross Patterson says:

    One might wonder how someone like Rep. Frank Wolf, who’s represented the Greenway’s district in Congress for over 30 years, could possibly not understand Lloyd’s point in this post. But he clearly does not:

    “I believe that the original state law creating the public-private partnership to allow a private corporation to own and operate the Greenway is flawed because it fails to protect the consumer. Instead it protects the bottom line of the foreign-based Greenway owner.” (,93,122)

    But at least he’s consistent – he appears to hate the High Occupancy Toll lanes (“Lexus lanes”) under construction on the Beltway as much as he hates the Greenway. Of course, that’s a mostly-publicly-funded privately-owned-and-operated plan, a highly suspicious scheme in its own right.

  • Thanks, Stone.

    The check’s in the mail.

  • FedUp says:

    I absolutely agree that the owners have every reason to maximize revenue and I’m sick of politicians complaining about the rates, especially Loudoun supervisors when the county takes in $3 million in property tax revenue each year. That leads to higher tolls and the BOS could set up a system to refund that money to Loudoun residents who use the road.

    Don’t look to private roads as a solution to our road funding problems. The Greenway was the first private toll road to be built in Virginia since 1816 and I don’t think another has been built since then. Maybe there is a good reason for that. The road has had financial woes since day one when motorists balked at paying the high toll rates that were needed to make the road profitable.

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