- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

D.C. officials are downright greedy and jealous.

Unappreciative of the bejeweled crown that the Fore Fathers bestowed upon the District, they are becoming despotic-like, raping not only the common city dweller for financial gain, but ever thinking of new ways to go after other taxpayers.

So goes Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s fiscal 2015 budget request, which proposed toll roads.

The D.C. Council ponders the issue on Tuesday and should concede that it’s another way to execute a commuter tax, something their counterparts in Maryland and Virginia have always greeted with a thumbs-down.

Now there’s the new nascent threat: D.C. officials are eyeing high-occupancy vehicle lanes and toll roads for motorists entering the District.

The project is part of a $5.9 million study, and it’s under consideration by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, on which Virginia and Maryland have a voice.

Proposed by the city’s planning and transportation brain trust, the no-longer-free roadways would be on the 14th Street Bridge, the Southeast/Southwest Freeway and Interstate 295 near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and National Harbor in Maryland.

And, according to the plan, even if some lanes of those roadways are designated for high-occupancy vehicles, or HOV lanes, the study will consider “subsequent conversion” of the HOV lanes into high-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes.

Once D.C. goes HOT, it’ll hit a point of no return.

In other words, cross a bridge or freeway into the nation’s capital and motorists will have to pay extra.

To take your kids to the Smithsonian or attend an event at the Kennedy Center.

Catch a Nats game.

Jog along the National Mall.

Canoe on the Potomac.

Dine at a new eatery.

Go to school or work.

The list is endless, for sure.

That’s why the admonition to just say no is so important.

Because D.C. is not a state, it cannot levy a tax on commuters from Virginia, Maryland or any other state.

The District has no senators and no representatives, and it’s nominal House delegate has no vote with which to barter.

That’s why D.C. officials love conjuring up ways to get their grubby paws on other people’s money, and one of the biggest deliverables has been the transportation/traffic cash cow.

They milked it with the red-light cameras.

The speed-traps.

The don’t-block-the intersection cameras.

The meter-maid crews who slap your windshield with a pink slip.

The technology that captures license plates when drivers fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or when a pedestrian has the right of way.

The District has been deploying such gadgetry since 1999, claiming it as a public safety necessity.

But like I said, speed and red-light camera tickets are cash cows for the District, with revenue jumping from an estimated $43 million in 2011 to more than double that, $95.6 million, in 2012.

Indeed, the District’s fiscal 2014 budget projected revenue of $31.7 million alone from 100 new cameras to be deployed this year.

Believe it.

You may be near-sighted right now, perhaps saying to yourself, “Well, one more toll won’t hurt our wallets too much.”

But that’s not the way D.C. officials think. Before too long, they’ll figure a way to make you pay to leave the city, too.

That way they can brag about catching you coming and going.

They won’t need a commuter tax.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.