Va Supreme Court approves Hampton Roads tunnel tolls - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Va Supreme Court approves Hampton Roads tunnel tolls

Posted: Updated:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Tolls on two existing tunnels to help pay for a third one in traffic-choked Hampton Roads are legally permissible user fees, not an unconstitutional tax, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

The justices unanimously reversed Portsmouth Circuit Judge James A. Cales Jr.'s ruling last May that the tolls were unconstitutional. The tolls are scheduled to begin Feb. 1, starting at nearly $2 for passenger vehicles and increasing over time through 2070.

The Department of Transportation and a private partner, Elizabeth River Crossings, signed a $2 billion agreement in 2011 to build and operate a second Midtown Tunnel rube between Portsmouth and Norfolk and renovate the existing Midtown and Downtown tunnels. The deal was done under the 1995 Virginia Private Partnership Act.

Cales ruled in May that the General Assembly had improperly ceded its taxing authority by giving "unfettered power to the Department of Transportation to set toll rates without any real or meaningful parameters."

However, the Supreme Court cited three reasons for concluding the tolls are a user fee instead of a tax: They pay for a benefit not shared by the general public, drivers are not compelled to use the tunnels, and the tolls are collected solely to pay for the project and not to raise general revenues.

The court also found that the legislative power to set user fee rates may be constitutionally delegated to the transportation department and Elizabeth River Crossings.

A group of residents who believe the tolls are unfair and onerous filed the lawsuit challenging the tolls. Their attorney, Patrick McSweeney, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

The transportation department and Elizabeth River Crossings had said that if Cales' ruling had stood, it would have dismantled a 167-year-old procedure for setting tolls, and would have put other ongoing and future transportation projects in jeopardy. Stuart A. Raphael, attorney for Elizabeth River Crossings, said a win by the plaintiffs also would have prompted "copy-cat challenges" to public-private partnership laws in other states.

"The Supreme Court of Virginia got it right on the law and also avoided the very bad consequences that would have resulted if the trial court's ruling had not been reversed," Raphael said.

Work on the tunnel projects is continuing, and the Supreme Court expedited its hearing in the case.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Motorcyclist dies in Nelson Co. crash

    Motorcyclist dies in Nelson Co. crash

    Sunday, July 27 2014 8:16 PM EDT2014-07-28 00:16:34 GMT
    Nelson County - (VA State Police)Virginia State Police Sr. Trooper E.D. Everhart responded to a two-vehicle crash Saturday (July 26) in Nelson County. The crash occurred at 10:30 a.m., at the intersection of Routes 29 and 56. A 2009 Harley Davidson FLHT was traveling north on Route 29 when it crossed the center of the roadway into the southbound lanes. The motorcycle then struck a southbound 2010 Honda Civic. The moto...
    Nelson County - (VA State Police)Virginia State Police Sr. Trooper E.D. Everhart responded to a two-vehicle crash Saturday (July 26) in Nelson County. The crash occurred at 10:30 a.m., at the intersection of Routes 29 and 56. A 2009 Harley Davidson FLHT was traveling north on Route 29 when it crossed the center of the roadway into the southbound lanes. The motorcycle then struck a southbound 2010 Honda Civic. The moto...
  • Prostitution sting nets 31 arrests

    Prostitution sting nets 31 arrests

    Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
    31 people are in trouble with the law after a three day prostitution sting in Richmond. Police told NBC12 they targeted specific areas where residents and business owners complained about the illegal activity.
  • Confederate Flag Protest in Lexington

    Confederate Flag Protest in Lexington

    Saturday, July 26 2014 7:30 PM EDT2014-07-26 23:30:10 GMT
    Organizers from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans held a rally in Lexington. This comes after the administration at Washington and Lee University recently decided to remove Confederate flags from Lee Chapel. 250 People from Maryland to Georgia participated in the rally. They say he purpose of the rally is to get the administration at Washington and Lee University to reverse their decision adn to education those who may have some misconceptions about the Confederate flag. Historian David Ch...
    Organizers from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans held a rally in Lexington. This comes after the administration at Washington and Lee University recently decided to remove Confederate flags from Lee Chapel. 250 People from Maryland to Georgia participated in the rally. They say he purpose of the rally is to get the administration at Washington and Lee University to reverse their decision adn to education those who may have some misconceptions about the Confederate flag. Historian David Ch...
  • Accident causing lane closures on Interstate 81-North

    UPDATE: Interstate 81 lane reopens after Botetourt Crash

    UPDATE: Interstate 81 lane reopens after Botetourt Crash

    Friday, July 25 2014 8:49 AM EDT2014-07-25 12:49:42 GMT
    Two lanes are still closed but traffic is now passing on the right shoulder.
    Two lanes are still closed but traffic is now passing on the right shoulder.
  • UPDATE: Crash on Interstate 81 in Montgomery Co.

    UPDATE: Crash on Interstate 81 in Montgomery Co.

    Friday, July 25 2014 9:09 AM EDT2014-07-25 13:09:04 GMT
    All lanes on I-81 southbound are closed due to a tractor trailer crash near mile marker 120
    All lanes on I-81 southbound are closed due to a tractor trailer crash near mile marker 120
  • Floydfest attracts people from all walks of life

    Floydfest attracts people from all walks of life

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 11:26 PM EDT2014-07-24 03:26:58 GMT
    FloydFest 13 kicked off on Wednesday. Thousands of people from different walks of life will attend various events. Some come to the music festival to escape the monotony of everyday living."
    FloydFest 13 kicked off on Wednesday. Thousands of people from different walks of life will attend various events. Some come to the music festival to escape the monotony of everyday living."

Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.