Judge rules against tunnel tolls
Portsmouth, Va.- A Portsmouth Circuit Court judge has ruled in favor of those fighting against the tolls on the Midtown Tunnel, Downtown Tunnel, and the Martin Luther King Freeway.
He ruled that by putting the three roadways together, the state was only looking for revenue and that makes the tolls a tax, saying VDOT does not have the authority to levy a tax.
Only government officials have the authority to impose a tax and the judge says the General Assembly overstepped its boundaries by giving the power to authorize a toll to VDOT.
NewsChannel 3 has confirmed that the state will appeal.
The Office of the Attorney General has released a statement to NewsChannel 3:
“The revenues raised through the tunnel tolls were user fees to be used solely for a single transportation project. As such, we still believe the tolls cannot be considered a tax and that it is completely within VDOT’s authority to set reasonable tolls to pay for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the project. Certainly, we are disappointed with the court’s decision. We expect to appeal.
If this ruling stands and becomes the law of Virginia, it would threaten the commonwealth’s ability to use public-private partnerships to construct major transportation projects. Many tolled projects could require legislative approval before proceeding, which would mean significantly increased costs and construction delays.”
NewsChannel 3 is gathering additional details from the courtroom. They will be posted as they become available.