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Virginia Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Tunnel Tolls

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The Virginia Supreme Court heard an hour of arguments on a judge's ruling that charging tolls on two existing tunnels to help pay for a new one is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs' attorneys say the Virginia Department of Transportation is forcing residents to pay a $2 fee for the Downtown and Midtown tunnels, in addition to taxes already paid for completed projects.

They also argue that toll revenues will pay for projects outside their region from which they don't benefit. Sen. Kenneth Alexander says the state Constitution does not give VDOT taxing authority.

"If the toll revenues are going to stay at that facility at the point of collection, then there's no argument," he says. "But when the monies are going to be moved elsewhere outside of the region... then that's a problem. That's a tax."

The state's attorneys say the tolls are properly authorized user fees, and money generated will pay for related projects allowed by the Constitution. Transportation Board Commissioner Gregory Whirley says the state can't afford to lose this lawsuit.

"We have tolls at Dulles toll road, we have a number of other tolling facilities around the state," Whirley "It could have wide reaching effects if we are not allowed to toll."

One option is to tax all state residents if the High Court strikes down the tolls, and restructure deals with the companies who have been promised a return on investment until the year 2070.

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