Friday, August 8, 2008

Frank Wolf's Rail Presumption

Amid all the blather a few weeks ago about candidates being presumutuous, the 10th District's Dulles Rail project faced a new hurdle as a lawsuit launched against it proceeded. The lawsuit hinges on whether it is legal to transfer management of public assets to private entities in order to get something else done.
The suit, filed in January 2007 by users of the Dulles Toll Road, seek to reverse the state’s hand-off of the highway — and its revenue — to pay for the Metro extension’s initial 11.6-mile phase. It says the Kaine administration needed legislative approval to give the toll road to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is managing the rail project.

If successful, the suit would prove a major snag for the project managers by scuttling a large part of the funding for the $2.6 billion track, which would run from Falls Church to Reston. - The Washington Examiner
It seems that the MWAA may run afoul of the same unconstitutional taxation issue that sunk the NVTA. The reason that this is important is that the Federal rail money which was approved with so much ballyhoo is contingent upon Virginia and other localities making up their side of the funding. And transferring the Toll Road to the MWAA is the Virginia plan for doing so. That is why the MWAA lawsuit is critical. If the MWAA is unable to take over the Toll Road, Virginia cannot fund its part of Dulles Rail, and the conditional approval to proceed achieved in April could be withdrawn.

But don't tell that to the people in charge of the program. To them, it's full speed ahead even if they do hit an iceberg.
What happens if the authority loses the suit?

"It does not kill this project," says Authority President Jim Bennett. "All of the parties are committed moving this project forward."

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., says if the lawsuit fails, final approval for federal funds could come in February and a groundbreaking in March.

The first phase would be finished by 2013. -
It seems our congressman is resting the future of the most important transportation project in the history of his district on a hope that this lawsuit fails. Frank Wolf is presuming that all will be well. This is in spite of the fact that some of the very same opinions were expressed right up until the very moment the NVTA was overturned.

Can we trust Frank Wolf's presumption? We couldn't when Dulles Rail hit the rocks before, as the FTA's original denial came as a complete surprise to him. We couldn't trust Frank Wolf to help the thousands of 10th district families who saw their homes foreclosed upon. We couldn't trust his much-vaunted "study group" to actually solve any of the problems we face in resolving the Iraq crisis. He won't even respond to his constituents to explain his position on Iraq! And we cannot trust Frank Wolf's presumption now on Dulles Rail. Ensuring the success of this project, if the success of this project is what we want, will require a strong advocate for the 10th District's concerns. It will require Judy Feder's election on November 4th.

Frank Wolf is marking time after 27 years in Congress, hoping that leaders in Richmond or the FTA will solve his districts' problems while he takes credit. Well, I say we give credit where credit is due, to the people of the 10th District who have been solving our own problems while Frank Wolf shows up for photo ops. It's time to put Judy Feder, one of those problem-solving people in Congress.

(With a tip-o-the-hat to Loudoun County Traffic. Cross posted from Leesburg Tomorrow.)

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