The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has served as a shining example on how public-private partnerships could be used to move critical infrastructure projects. The agency, however, might have lost that luster.
In early May, a Portsmouth Circuit Court found the $2.1 billion contract with a private contractor that would allow tolls on two tunnels beneath the Elizabeth River between Norfolk and Portsmouth to be unconstitutional. According to Judge James A. Cales Jr., the tolls are a tax that can only be set by the Virginia General Assembly under the state constitution. The Public-Private Transportation Act shifts the taxing authority over to a third party, which Cales said was unconstitutional.
VDOT is now trying to appeal the decision, and the Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to hear the expedited appeal.
If the Portsmouth verdict is upheld, Virginia could suffer $3.5 billion in losses from public-private partnerships.