Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission Enjoys Surplus

The Washington Times reports:

Virginia legislators are considering whether to impose more state control over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which is run by a commission that has been criticized for excessive spending of toll revenues.


The Daily Press reported in June that commissioners spent toll revenue on expensive trips to attend seminars and want to spend almost $900 million for two more tunnels on the little-used span that connects Virginia Beach to the state's Eastern Shore.

The bridge commission spent $37,625 on staff travel in 2004 and paid for commissioners and spouses to travel to Paris in 2003, at a cost of $20,000.

The trips were financed by bridge-tunnel tolls, which were raised last year to $12 each way for most vehicles.

The bridge commission has a $90 million surplus.

The General Assembly's auditing arm has questioned the need for two new tunnels and asked bridge commissioners for a traffic study to show whether the new tunnels will be necessary in 2020, when they are slated for completion.

It sounds like something may need to be done here. Besides the junket to Paris (lots of bay bridges in that inland city?), the surplus and debate over the necessity of new tunnels suggests that tolls might be too high. It's a bit disturbing if a travel-happy bureaucracy is making major infrastructure decisions in place of a legislature considering the needs of the whole state.

The article mentions several proposed changes. Most seem worthy of consideration as long as they improve the situation over the long term and avoid micromanagement.

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