By on February 3, 2010

A pair of lawmakers want to bring a unique form of photo enforcement to Virginia. The state Senate yesterday voted 40-0 to expedite consideration of legislation introduced by state Delegate Tom Rust (R-Herndon) and Senator Mark Herring (D-Leesburg) allowing the use of automated ticketing machines to fine people up to $600 for driving on a road without a state-approved purpose. The cameras are similar to those that photograph vehicles accused of using a toll road without paying. In this case, however, the cameras would be deployed on a free, fourteen-mile road adjacent to a toll route designed solely for the use of people driving to Dulles international Airport. The owners of cars infringing the proposed law would be mailed a “bill” in the mail.

“In the event a violation of the authority regulation is identified via the photo-monitoring system or automatic vehicle identification system, the operator of the Dulles Access Highway shall send a bill in the amount of the fine plus the applicable administrative fee to a registered owner of a vehicle as part of the enforcement process prior to seeking further remedies under this section,” House Bill 1295 states.

Under existing statutes, drivers who have “airport business” may use the access highway. Such purposes are not clearly defined, but the airport grounds include a hotel and gas station that many frequently use in order to escape the increasing cost of the adjacent toll route. Because a machine is unable to determine purpose, Rust and Herring’s bill would automatically convict any vehicle owner who receives a bill in the mail.

“Proof of a violation of the authority regulation governing the use of the Dulles Access Highway shall be evidenced by information obtained from the photo-monitoring system,” HB1295 states. “It shall be prima facie evidence that the vehicle described in the summons issued pursuant to this section was operated in violation of the authority regulation governing use of the Dulles Access Highway.”

The law admits no defense to the charge made against the vehicle owner other than proving the car had been stolen or supplying the name of someone else who may have been driving.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority would use a private vendor to collect the fines which start at $50 for a first violation, rise to $200 for a second, $350 for a third and $600 for a fourth. It is quite possible to obtain four violations, worth a total of $1200, by unknowingly using the road before receiving any notice from the airport authority.

Rust’s bill was assigned to a House Transportation subcommittee on Sunday. A copy of his legislation is available in a 155k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 1295 (Virginia General Assembly, 1/21/2010)

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24 Comments on “Virginia: New Form Of Photo Ticketing Proposed...”


  • avatar
    johnny ro

    better idea, remove tolls from other road, and remove these knuckleheads from office. They get paid to sit around and dream this sort of thing up while the world is falling apart?

    I need my coffee.

    • 0 avatar
      AccAzda

      Man..
      I hate to say this..

      This is hysterical.
      If it weren’t so maddeningly true!

      I feel bad for the poor bastards down there.

      And.. since when did Leesburg get a rep?!

  • avatar
    findude

    Ah, the Dulles access road.

    For many frequent violators this is about time, not money. If you drive during rush hour, you can easily save 30 minutes, especially eastbound in the mornings. That adds up to 2.5 hours a week doing mornings only. Tickets used to be about $80, and my friend reported he got ticketed 3 times a year (fine only, no points). So, he spent $240 on tickets and saved about $180 a year on tolls — net outlay about $60 a year for a time gain of 125 hours (minus the time cost of getting pulled over 3 times) which he figured was an extra three weeks of time he could bill customers at $100+/hour or spend having a leisurely breakfast with his kids and dropping them off at school.

    He did this for YEARS, and definitely came out ahead. It helped that he could switch between three different cars to keep his visibility down.

  • avatar
    Selektaa

    findude, could you clarify, what was your friend pulled over and ticketed for? Was it speeding? Are people currently not allowed on that road unless you’re going to the airport?

    I’m genuinely confused about how this whole situation works.

    • 0 avatar
      johnthacker

      “Are people currently not allowed on that road unless you’re going to the airport?”

      This. It’s a special set of lanes in the Toll Road for people who are going or coming from the airport. From the Toll Road, only by using those lanes and entering or leaving via the airport can you avoid tolls entirely. All other exits have tolls. People eastbound enter the airport only to turn around and leave immediately via the special no-toll lanes, and people westbound enter the airport via the no-toll lanes and then leave immediately via VA 28 or other roads.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Example:

      Here’s the route the state treasury wants you to go

      And here’s a free route (from the same start and end points) to avoid the tolls that the above bill is addressing

      The toll is rather stiff as mentioned above and if you drive through or near the airport you can access the free eastbound lanes. The intent of those lanes was not to penalize airport users who then have to travel all the way into D.C.

  • avatar
    Joshua Johnson

    So the government is not only telling people where they can and cannot drive, they are punishing them for reducing congestion on the other available roads…makes a whole lot of sense.

    • 0 avatar
      johnthacker

      Luckily, that’s not what the bill says. The Newspaper is being extremely misleading here.

      The bill says that the cameras are set up on the “Dulles Access Highway.” The Dulles Access Highway is a set of lanes located *inside* the Toll Road. There is no way to get to the Dulles Access Highway except from the Toll Road and from the Airport itself; you take lanes marked “Airport Traffic Only” to get to it. The entire purpose of the lanes is to go to the Airport from the Toll Road or vice versa.

      The entire reason that exists is that they want to the Airport to be a free stop without toll coming or going. Some people, however, try to evade the tolls by using the Airport lanes, going in the Airport, and then turning around inside the airport and/or leaving by a different exit. This is just about trying to catch those people.

  • avatar

    It’s even better: They want to pay you to buy a Prius, or a TDI Golf, to save fuel, so that you can sit at a toll booth wasting fuel (in the TDI moreso, I guess) waiting to pay your toll. If you decide to bypass the toll, to save time and fuel, they charge you even more.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    From Wikipedia:
    The Dulles Access Road is a four-lane, 13.65-mile (21.97 km) highway that runs “inside” the Dulles Toll Road along its median. There are no general-access exits from the west-bound lanes, and no general-access entrances to the east-bound lanes, with the exception of gated slip ramps to and from the toll road that buses and emergency vehicles can use…The Dulles Airport Access Road can be used only for travel to and from Dulles Airport and other businesses (such as air freight, hotels, and gas stations) on the airport grounds. Although it is illegal to use the Access Road without conducting such “airport business”, some commuters evade the toll and the traffic on the Toll Road by taking the Access Road to the airport, then “backtracking” to their exit.

    Now, the cameras might be a dumb idea, but what they’re trying to do here is catch people who are using Dulles Airport as a turnaround spot to avoid the tolls even though they’re not going to the airport. (I think in Dallas there’s a similar toll road that goes to DFW, has no toll at the airport, and people try to evade the toll by cutting through the airport.) The Newspaper’s description is tendentious and misleading.

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      Tax avoidance, whenever possible, is every free man’s civic duty. At his own risk of course.

    • 0 avatar
      DaveDFW

      The situation at DFW was somewhat different. The roads around DFW airport are free, but congested at commute time. The road through the airport is less congested and has both north and south entrances and exits.

      DFW had set the parking fee schedule such that if you got in and out within a certain amount of time “parking” was free. People would drive through the airport to avoid the highway congestion, and would not pay anything due to the parking fee structure.

      DFW addressed the problem by charging a large fee for a very short trip inside the airport–presumably the amount of time needed to drive without stopping from entrance to exit. In effect, turning the airport road into a toll road for through traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      Ernie

      THANK YOU. The article was hurting my farking brain!

      —- It’s not as dumb (the concept, not the cameras) as it seems. That’s be wonderful if they put this type of lane system in for JFK; that’s the only reason I ever head south of White Plains . . . ever.

      Nothing worse than getting caught up in some regional congestion for a purpose-specific trip.

      —- Overall, we can flag this as “good luck with that” — they’ll miss a good share of the guys who are flouting the system, and get negative publicity when they ticket someone with a rental car and a south dakota license.

    • 0 avatar
      johnthacker

      DaveDFW, thanks for explaining that about DFW. I knew there was something about DFW and people using it as a through route and tolls, but I’m not from the area.

  • avatar
    CorvairDan

    As a law abiding citizen, I want people to follow the laws and rules. BUT inforcement is to be done in a manner that the PEOPLE want. We don’t want cameras. The government is to serve us, not the other way around. I don’t care what kind of road this is. Cameras are just another tax. It has nothing to do with safety, but money. Some studies show stop light cameras increase accidents after they are installed.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    Just toll the whole stupid route.

  • avatar
    findude

    Local (DC, northern VA) lore has it that the Dulles Access road was funded by the US Congress because elected officials wanted a clear, uncongested route to the airport. As I recall, it is not part of the VA state highway system, but is owned either by the Airport Authority, Dulles Airport itself, the FAA, or something like that. It was never intended as a commuter route and is not funded out of the state’s highway fund.

    I will confirm that the concept absolutely works–I have never run into any traffic problems on my way to or from Dulles Airport.

    Depending on the time of day, it can actually be FASTER to pay the toll and take the toll road as the 55 speed limit is very enthusiastically enforced on the Dulles Access Road by its own special police force that have no other apparent mandate. The toll road, has the same speed limit, but typical speeds are at least 70 mph, so you can get to the airport faster if you have EZ Pass and there is no traffic.

    Regarding my earlier post, other enterprising commuters employ similar strategies with regard to HOV lanes–playing the odds and cost of getting tickets against the value of their time. When VA first allowed hybrid vehicles to use HOV-2 lanes with a single driver only, a lot of people bought a Prius after a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation that included the value of their time. Some companies even gave their executives Prius leases for that reason. Now there is a 3-point penalty for 2nd time HOV offenders in addition to the fine, so it is not so attractive.

    • 0 avatar
      johnthacker

      As I recall, it is not part of the VA state highway system, but is owned either by the Airport Authority, Dulles Airport itself, the FAA, or something like that.

      That’s actually new. The Toll Road was under the authority of VDOT, but they gave it to the Airport Authority in November 2008, once the Metro construction to the airport started. That’s partially why the tolls went up (and go up in 2011 and 2012), to help pay for the Metro construction.

      The Greenway, OTOH, that goes out further west, was privately owned and built.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    You got to love how technology is continually being used against us. Maybe instead of spending billions on all this crap they could fire the morons coming up with this nonsense and instead open up the road with another lane or two to lessen congestion and quit making everyones life so miserable. Polititians these days answer to everything is throw more money technology and fines at the problem instead of fixing the core issues. Unbelievable!!!!

  • avatar
    chuntmd

    I’m missing something, how does the camera “know” your on official airport use? I can pick from DCA, BWI and IAD with IAD being the farthest at 50 miles.. Both DCA and BWI are serviced by mass transit got to wait till at least 2016 for the Metrorail extension.

    • 0 avatar
      johnthacker

      I’m guessing that they’ll do something based on the length of time between ingress and egress. Of course, someone’s going to complain that they were just really fast picking someone up at the terminal– at which point the cops will give them a speeding ticket based on the Mean Value Theorem.

    • 0 avatar
      Ernie

      I’m guessing:
      1) collect the people that use it 5+ days a week.
      2) Cross reference for Liveries and Airport workers

      There’ll probably be not much else since it’s easy to just ticket a mess of people and meaculpa for mistakes . . .

  • avatar
    Bruce from DC

    This is kind of a whine, folks. Unlike everyone else who has commented — apparently — I was around when this thing was built, which was 1962 when Dulles airport was opened. At that time, the airport was “in the sticks” and the DC suburbs did not extend outside of the capital beltway. The Dulles Access road ran between the capital beltway and the aiport, period. For more than a decade, the airport was hugely under-utilized; and the Dulles Access road was a great place to go and find out just whose car was really fast because there was no one else on the road — and no police. The road was designed for 65 mph speeds (that was the original speed limit, reduced to 55 in the first “energy crisis” and never subsequently raised) so triple-digit speeds were not a suicidal idea. In fact, as late as 1987, I claimed the unofficial record for getting to the airport from downtown DC (via the access road and US route 66) of 20 minutes, for the 26 mile distance — and that was in the afternoon, not at 3:00 a.m. This was achieved, in part, by triple digit speeds on the access road, something which was entirely possible — and reasonably safe to do — at the time. Given today’s level of traffic at any time other than 3:00 a.m., it would not be safe.

    Of course, since that time, the utilization of Dulles Airport has gone way up, and the airport has been repeatedly expanded. All of this means that the volume of airport traffic on the access road has gone way up. As a not infrequent user of that road to catch evening flights out of town, the last thing I want is a bunch of commuters clogging the road and delaying my trip to the airport.

    So, I don’t have much sympathy for commuters who get nailed for using the Dulles Access road, regardless of how it is accomplished (although the details of how this is going to work elude me). And, “findude” is correct, the Dulles Access road is not part of the public highway system, paid for by highway fuel tax dollars. It was paid for as part of the original construction of the airport and is operated and patrolled by the Washington Area Airport Authority, which also operates Reagan National Airport on the Potomac River across from DC.

    Eventually, growth in offices and residences followed in the direction of the airport and the parallel toll road was built — and was, from the beginning, a toll road. That’s how it was paid for.


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