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Column: Gone Rogue

We have a non-elected governing body having a significant impact on our lives: The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Congressman Frank Wolf has lost total confidence in the MWAA board which is dysfunctional and lacks transparency.

Recall the political campaigns for the November 2011 elections which included the projected charge of $17 for a one-way trip on the Dulles Toll Road. Of course, that was scoffed at as being unrealistic. MWAA now projects a one-way toll trip to be $6.75 by 2020 - about four times what it is today with costs escalating in subsequent years. Scoff again, folks!

Congressman Wolf has requested three project audits to be conducted by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The preliminary audit reports are expected to be released no later than May 15, 2012. The rah-rah Dulles Corridor Rail Association should have a busy time with those reports.

Congress passed and the president signed into law last November 2011, an increase in the size of the board from 13 to 17 members; Virginia would get two additional seats, Maryland and the District get one more each. The law allows board members from VA, MD, and DC to be removed "for cause." The law also prevents members from serving passed their appointed term in office. Until now, board members served until their replacement was appointed. The DC member, under house arrest in the Ivory Coast, Africa was allowed to cast votes "in absentia."

In response to the new law, the MWAA Board retained outside counsel to issue opinions on how the board can avoid compliance with the new law. The MWAA spent money lobbying the Virginia General Assembly to defeat a bill that would have allowed the governor to immediately appoint the two new members from Virginia. In defiance of Federal law, the board has allowed two members, whose terms have expired to continue to sit on the board and take votes. The board also lobbied the Virginia General Assembly against the proposed Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for Phase 2 thumbing their nose at a proposed action to withhold state financial support. A PLA, recently approved by the board would add about $800M to the cost of Phase 2. Of note is that the Vice Chairman of the MWAA Board is an active union leader. A conflict of interest?

While we probably should not expect Congress or a congressional sub-committee, or for that matter a division in the Department of Transportation to get involved in the day-to-day operations of Reagan National and Dulles International airports, clearly the current authority is not in the best interests of Northern Virginia, the Dulles Corridor, or for that matter Virginia taxpayers. Recall the overly-ambitious plans of expansion of DIA, the 55 million passenger load expected to magically materialize, the promise of an economic boon to Western Fairfax County, and a South Terminal emptying out on RT 50. After all, we paid for their toy back in the 50s. Perhaps we should form a Dulles Corridor Defense League and take this to the Supreme Court.

Thus come the dangers of establishing an "authority" beholden only to those governing, who somehow lack the political will to fire the incompetents and appoint persons who have the attitude of protecting the taxpayers. Remember Congressman Frank Wolf this November 2012.