What’s the real story?

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The Real No Tolls Facts on the Comprehensive Agreement between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Elizabeth River Crossings, LLC (ERC) for the Midtown Tunnel, Downtown Tunnel and MLK Extension

The VDOT-ERC agreement is unconstitutional in that it effectively creates a tax imposed by VDOT and ERC. (The Virginia Courts already ruled that a “toll” collected to finance construction is a tax.) Under the Virginia Constitution, only the General Assembly has the authority to tax.

The cost of the Midtown Tunnel/Downtown Tunnel/MLK project has been projected at $2.1 billion; it will cost over $22 billion in tolls over nearly six decades. (This does not include the loss of dollars due to the multiplier effect, where dollars spent locally contribute multiple times within the economy.)

There was no economic impact study done for the region or any of the cities affected by the agreement. Only a toll feasibility study was done and it was considered proprietary information and not available to the public.

Beginning in January 2014, BEFORE THE NEW TUNNEL IS BUILT, tolls on existing Midtown and Downtown tunnels are currently set to be $1.84 one way for cars and $7.36 for trucks during rush hours; $1.59/cars and $4.77/trucks off-peak. This totals $956.80 per car and $3,827.20 per truck if drivers use a tunnel five days a week. (Truckers often make up to ten trips a day to and from the ports here.)

Starting in 2017, if there is no delay in completing the new tunnel, tolls on all tunnels can be increased by ERC 3.5% OR MORE per year until 2070.

There will be no toll booths. Drivers must use E-Z Pass or pay a penalty of $3.18, for a total of $5.02 one way. The fees associated with an E-ZPass are: $35 initially for a transponder, a $25 deposit if no credit card number is attached to the account, and $1 per month for on-line monthly statements.

This contract gives the task of maintaining the roads and tunnels to Elizabeth River Crossings LLC. That means our toll money is being used for road maintenance while everyone else in the Commonwealth has road maintenance provided by VDOT. We are the only region in Virginia to pay out of pocket to maintain our roads and tunnels.

We will be sending money out of the local and state economies to enrich private corporations, while the increased transportation costs of goods and services are passed along here to consumers.

The contract guarantees a return on investment to ERC of 13.5% at a time when few investments pay close to that. If an alternate route (e.g., a third crossing) is built that diverts traffic from the tunnels causing the return on investment to drop, the state will pay ERC for the loss of revenue.

The new tunnel will not solve any of our traffic issues since there are no improvements to the roads the new Midtown tube will serve. We will pay over $22 billion to move a traffic jam up the road a bit!

6 thoughts on “What’s the real story?

  1. What is the math behind these weekly cost estimates? They’re both off by a factor of 10… 10 trips 5 days a week in a car is almost 40 dollars, not 400

  2. Has anyone considered since this was crafted by bob McDonnell that corruption could be involved. Who is to say Bob is collecting water from only one well. Maybe a FOIA request should be made concerning his communication with ERC.

  3. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Virginia Supreme Court judge that ruled on the lawsuit Vrs this contract was heavily involved throughout the life of the PPTA? The PPTA is the act that allowed the now former felon Governor McRolex the sole ability to sell our already paid for tunnels with no overview or approval. I believe Judge Mims lobbied for this act earlier in his career, then signed it into law as Attorney General, and finally made judgement on the lawsuit over selling our tunnel to a private corporation. Enlight of the former Governor’s guilty verdict for corruption charges this entire deal needs the Department of Justice to review it.

    • A couple of slight inaccuracies there – here’s the complaint that Terry Danaher filed with the Judicial Independent Review Commission:

      Complaint to Judicial Inquiry & Review Commission
      Re: Supreme Court of Virginia Justice William C. Mims, Attachment #1

      The Supreme Court of Virginia hearing on Elizabeth River Crossings OPCO, LLC, v. Record No. 130954 Danny Meeks, et al., and Virginia Department of Transportation v. Record No. 130955 Danny Meeks, et al., took place on September 11, 2013.
      In the original lawsuit that prompted this appeal, Circuit Court Judge James A. Cales ruled on May 1, 2013, that the General Assembly had “exceeded its power by ceding the setting of toll rates and taxes in violation … of the Constitution of Virginia.” His ruling called into question provisions of the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995 (PPTA), including the delegation of taxing authority and the lack of legislative participation in setting toll rates involving profits to a public service corporation. Since the Supreme Court of Virginia’s decision in this case stood to impact the constitutionality of the PPTA, Justice William C. Mims should have recused himself for the following reasons:
      1) Justice Mims was a delegate in the Virginia General Assembly, where he voted for the precursor of the PPTA in 1994 and for the PPTA in 1995.
      2) Justice Mims was a senator in the Virginia General Assembly, where he introduced SJ 198 Study; VDOT Office of Public-Private Partnership, requesting that VDOT “study the need for, responsibilities of, and budget for an Office of Public-Private Partnership within its organizational structure.”[http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?001+sum+SJ198]
      3) Justice Mims, as senator, was a patron of the Public Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, the provision for which “are similar to those in the PPTA of 1995.” [http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?021+sum+SB681]
      4) Justice Mims was Chief Deputy Attorney General of Virginia from 2006-2009, during which time his office was involved in defending a related case, Marshall v. NVTA. The Attorney General during this period was Robert McDonnell, the current governor whose administration negotiated the contract at the heart of this lawsuit.
      5) Justice Mims was Attorney General of Virginia from 2009 to 2010; he then became a partner and lobbyist in the firm Hunton & Williams, which represented appellants in this case, some of whom were also represented by the Office of the Attorney General. (It should be noted that Justice Mims was quoted in an April 10, 2010, article in the Times-Dispatch as having said he “will disqualify himself from cases from the attorney general’s office…”)
      Canon 1 of Canons of Judicial Conduct states that “A judge shall uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.” Commentary on this canon states that “violation of this Canon diminishes public confidence in the judiciary and thereby does injury to the system of government under law.”
      Page 1 of 2
      Canon 3 states that “A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently.” Rule E under this canon requires disqualification “in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where: (a) The judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding; (b) The judge served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter, or the judge has been a material witness concerning it.”
      I believe, as do other witnesses, that Justice Mims, by not recusing himself from this hearing, compromised the integrity and impartiality of the Supreme Court of Virginia and any resulting opinion in this case.

      Submitted by

      Theresa L. Danaher
      413 Dinwiddie Street
      Portsmouth, VA 23704

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