Frank Cries Wolf

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    Typical Republican charade: Cry that the free market will magically regulate commerce. Sanction a private monopoly then act surprised that it acts to its own advantage. Obfuscate and make unsupportable charges that appeal to emotion. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) should instead be asking why a Spanish firm should own highway 460.

    “In my opinion, the current law protects the interests of the owner of the toll road rather than the consumers of the road.” – Frank Wolf

    It must be an election year. Congressman Wolf is urging Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton to support state legislation to roll back the tolls along the Dulles Greenway. So, this “conservative” Republican calls for greater regulation? Government is the answer? Frank, either read the code or jettison the agenda.

    “It’s highway robbery. It’s a disgrace. Everyone knows that these tolls are ripping people off and there’s not much we can do about it.” – Frank Wolf

    Not true at all.

    Privately held turnpikes have been a part of the Virginia landscape for 300 years. The Virginia Highway Corporation Act of 1988 established the procedures under which the Dulles Greenway was built and is regulated. The law gives the State Corporation Commission “the duty and authority to approve or revise the toll rates charged by the operator.” Wolf is just plain wrong. His argument is with the execution of the law, not the authority. There may be reason for concern with provisions that change the process after January 1, 2013, but these have nothing to do with current tolls and appear to leave the final decision with the Commission.

    It begs the question: If this public-private arrangement has delivered such a lousy outcome, why do members of the Virginia GOP embrace a similar arrangement to build highway 460 with foreign investment and accept a proposed toll from Suffolk to Petersburg of $26.50 each way? In not one discussion of that proposal has there been any criticism of the current law creating such authority.

    There are cases that sanction monopolies, but very few and far between. When they are justified, they must be either closely regulated or government entities. Republicans seem to be confused about their utility and performance (see the ABC store debate). Despite Governor McDonnell’s interpretation of the world of commerce and free markets, a privately held monopoly has no market constraints. Here is a case where the outcome of misapplied free market arguments has the perpetrators of the “free market” hoax calling for government regulation.

    Oh, wait, year after year after year Wolf could have raised this objection with the State Corporation Commission but he has been mute. It isn’t concern for the constituency at all. It is an election year.