State says tunnel tolls could still go into effect despite judge’s decision

Portsmouth, Va.- Even though a Portsmouth judge ruled that the contract between VDOT and ERC is unconstitutional, the state says tolls could still go into effect on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnel roadways and the MLK extension by February 2014.

“The state will move to get a stay so that while that stay is in place, the projects will continue to move forward and to my understanding, that would allow tolls to move forward also,” says Aubrey Layne with the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

If the Virginia Supreme Court takes on the case as Hampton Roads representative on the commonwealth transportation board, Aubrey Layne explains, It sets their own time table so it’s possible tolls will be put in before the case is ever heard.

“The fact of the matter is if there’s no tolls, there won’t be a project; the tolls were put in place to pay for the project,” says Layne.

Layne also explains if the Supreme Court does uphold the decision that the general assembly overstepped its boundaries in delegating tolling authority to VDOT, it could hurt projects already completed.

So, by upholding Wednesday’s decision, it would bring those projects into question.

The ruling creates uncertainty for other public-private partnerships and could cost the state a lot of money.

“There’s at least a billion dollars in debt on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels that would have to assume. There are damages to the contractor that would take place. That could impact not only the state’s resources but its triple a credit rating,” says Layne.

Related: 

Judge rules against tunnel tolls

Tolls get their day in court

Group fighting against tunnel tolls headed to court

Group files lawsuit against tolls

Work begins at Downtown and Midtown Tunnels to install tolls

Despite delay, lawsuit against tolls moving forward

Elizabeth River Crossings buys ads to educate drivers about upcoming tolls