Clean air is becoming ever more costly, as society struggles to find man-made controls to halt man-made pollution. So, cutting the cost of these controls, without compromising the cleanup effort, is a good idea. The state transportation 'u department's plan for state ownership of 20 auto emissions test stations seems a step in that direction.
State ownership would prevent Maryland from being held hostage by a single vendor that owns all the emission-control stations. Competitive bidding by private companies to run the stations would be encouraged. At the moment, Envirotest Technologies Inc. owns and operates the state's 10 emissions test stations, earning $7 million a year. It was the sole bidder on the 1988 contract.
Legislators are right to question the limited financial analysis of DOT's $60 million plan. They want assurances that direct state ++ ownership is cheaper than private ownership. Separate bids for building the stations (which would then be bought by the state) and another set of bids for operating the stations might be preferable to DOT's proposal to combine everything into one bid package.