Elizabeth River Tunnels Project Toll Agreement Upheld by Virginia Supreme Court in October 31, 2013, Ruling Reversing Circuit Court Decision

On October 31, 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the private group Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) in a lawsuit filed by citizens in July 2012 challenging the agreement for ERC to construct, operate, and maintain a new Midtown Tunnel under the Elizabeth River from Portsmouth to Norfolk, and to pay for the tunnel through tolls.  The new tunnel is to be part of the $2.1 billion Elizabeth River Tunnels Project, which also includes work on existing, associated roads and tunnels  and an annual subsidy to Hampton Roads Transit to increase bus and ferry services between Norfolk and Portsmouth (according to a governor’s news release on the ruling).  According to the case opinion (p. 1), the Supreme Court ruled that the Virginia General Assembly did not unconstitutionally delegate its power of taxation to VDOT and the ERC, and that the VDOT-ERC agreement does not violate the Commonwealth’s police power.  The ruling overturned a May 2013 decision by the Circuit Court of Portsmouth in favor of the original plaintiffs, Daniel Meeks et al.

Va. Supreme Court reverses ruling on tunnel tolls, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/31/13;

Governor McDonnell Applauds Today’s State Supreme Court Ruling: Elizabeth River Tunnels Project Moves Ahead to Improve Transportation in Hampton Roads Region, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/31/13; and

Virginia Supreme Court Opinion, Case No. 1130954, online (as PDF) at http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1130954.pdf.

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