Latest on Portsmouth tolls

A copy of the Hampton Roads map with a ring of fire engulfing the region has circulated around city halls and in the community. (City of Norfolk staff)
A copy of the Hampton Roads map with a ring of fire engulfing the region has circulated around city halls and in the community. (City of Norfolk staff)

Folks outside of Hampton Roads may not be aware of the ongoing battle over tolls in our region. But everyone needs to pay a little attention, because if the ruling against the public-private partnership holds, all Virginians are going to be on the hook to reimburse the private part of that deal.

The story so far: tolls of $1.59 ($1.84 during rush hour) for the Downtown and Midtown tunnels, scheduled to start 2/1/14, were ruled unconstitutional. The private partner in this deal, Elizabeth River Crossings, has already been given control of the tunnels and has begun making improvements. Should the court’s ruling be upheld by the state Supreme Court, Virginia could owe ERC as much as $1 billion.

The judge who ruled against the tolls puts the blame on those who negotiated this mess.

If the state suffers any damages, “the state did it themselves… by entering this Faustian contract,” Circuit Judge James A. Cales Jr. said in a court hearing Tuesday.

Of course, by the time the decision is made – all parties believe it will happen before February 1 – the folks who took us down this path will probably be gone.

I don’t see how – given the ruling on HB3202 – the Supreme Court does anything other than uphold Cales’ ruling. Of course, we’d be much further along in this process – and less likely to owe ERC $1 billion – if the AG’s office hadn’t tried to move the case to federal court.

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