Judge won't allow tunnel tolls during appeal

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Associated Press & 13News

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 22 at 6:59 AM

PORTSMOUTH-- A Portsmouth judge has ruled the state can't toll the tunnels from Portsmouth to Norfolk while it appeals his earlier ruling declaring the tolls unconstitutional.
 
Circuit Judge James A. Cales Jr. denied the state's request to suspend his May 1 ruling on Tuesday.
 
That ruling stemmed from a group of businesses and residents who sued in 2012 claiming the Virginia Department of Transportation and Elizabeth River Crossings don't have the authority to impose taxes. The lawsuit claims the tolls are taxes because the existing tunnels' construction costs have been paid. The state wants the tolls to build a second tunnel and refurbish the existing tunnels, among other things.

Late Tuesday evening, Attorney General spokesman Brian Gottenstein told WVEC.com, "We are disappointed the judge denied the stay, and we will aggressively pursue a remedy with the Supreme Court of Virginia."
 
Elizabeth River Crossing Attorney Stuart Rapheal said regardless of the court's decision, they'll continue building.

Plaintiff's attorney Patrick McSweeney said the judge's decision today means there will be no tolls.
 
"He didn't stop the construction, he stopped the tolling. But, if they want to go ahead and put a gun to the States head, something's wrong with that contract. And that's what the General Assembly needs to start focusing," said McSweeney.
 
McSweeney said they expect the case to be picked up by the Supreme Court and a hearing to be scheduled for October 2013.  He said if all goes well, a decision will be decided by the end of the year.

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