Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Frank Wolf's Greenway Gambit"

Cross posted from Leesburg Tomorrow with permission of the author

Frank Wolf's Greenway Gambit

Frank Wolf either has an issue with the free-market and private ownership, or is making political hay while the sun is shining on the issue of Greenway toll increases.
How accurate is the financial information the company that owns the Dulles Greenway provided to Virginia? Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., wants Virginia's attorney general to investigate.

"I think they are going to find it's a Ponzi scheme," Wolf tells WTOP. "It think they're going to find that this whole setup is set up in such a way that the toll payer has no protection."

Wolf opposes the toll increases that will more than double what commuters pay now. The increase will make the Dulles Greenway the most expensive toll road in the nation. The road carries an average of 57,000 vehicles a day. - WTOP News

This statement comes after Wolf's previous statements suggesting that the state should take over the Greenway. In 2005, an Australian company, Macquarie, took over the Greenway from TRIP II, then the road's operating company. In the original statements about the takeover, Macquarie estimated the tolls of the Greenway to be $3.00 in 2007.
Current peak toll of US$2.40 for cars (US$2.30 for ETC motorists) with a schedule of staged increases to reach US$3.00 in 2007. Tolls are regulated by the SCC and tolls beyond 2007 will be set through application to the SCC.

And there they are today. The application recently approved by the SCC will raise those tolls in the coming five years. The basis for this increase is that the owners of the road are due a "reasonable return" based on their investment, in accordance with the original legislation authorizing the road. The Greenway is operated as a Public/Private Parternship, a program promoted by the Federal government.

The dirty secret about Frank Wolf's Greenway complaints is that he has had the power to affect change since the original idea was penned in 1988. For almost twenty years, he chose not to.

Frank Wolf has been in Congress since 1981, and during the period of Republican control of Congress, from 1995-2007, Frank Wolf could have taken action in Congress to mitigate the iniquities of a private-public toll road in his district. He has been a senior member of one of the most powerful Committees in the House of Representatives: the Appropriations Committee. He has inserted earmarks in legislation to make sure that retired cops could get paid to look at online porn. If iniquitous tolls were truly an issue close to his heart, surely in the twelve years of the Republican Congressional majority, during which the Toll Road was operable, Frank Wolf could have crafted legislation to provide for better regulation of the road's owners?

Unless, of course, this issue has only become important now that he is in the minority, and faces a real challenge to his seat? Unless it is now convenient to blame Richmond under a Democratic administration there? This is a state road, governed by a state law, and overseen by a state regulator, so why should our Congressional representative get involved? Surely there are more important issues Congress should be dealing with? If Frank Wolf needs a suggestion, the Federal issue of immigration sits unreformed.

There can be no doubt that tolls on the Greenway are an issue, but Frank Wolf's credibility on the issue is doubtful.

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