Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dulles Toll Road Transfer Being Challenged

According to an Associated Press article on the WJLA TV-7 Web site, "The same court that two months ago struck down Virginia's regional transportation financing plans is now considering a similar case challenging the state's planned transfer of the Dulles Toll Road to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority."

The Virginia Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by two northern Virginia residents against state transportation officials and agencies. The lawsuit alleges the transfer would violate the state Constitution because it wasn't approved by the General Assembly.

Richmond Circuit Judge Margaret Spencer dismissed the lawsuit in March 2007, ruling that the state has sovereign immunity against such claims. Plaintiffs Patrick Gray and Gray Nagle appealed, and a decision is likely in June.

In February, the court unanimously ruled that the state improperly delegated taxing power to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which is not elected by the citizens. The decision essentially gutted the General Assembly's 2007 transportation funding plan.

That ruling was one of several that Patrick McSweeney, attorney for the plaintiffs, cited in arguing that the Dulles Toll Road transfer also is unconstitutional. Under the 50-year deal, the airports authority would operate the road and collect tolls, some of which would be spent on construction of a 23-mile Metrorail extension to Dulles.

The article notes that state Deputy Secretary of Transportation Barbara Reese said the transfer is awaiting federal regulatory approval.

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