Allowing a lower court’s decision to strike down Virginia’s Public Private Transportation Act would deprive citizens of a “necessary tool to meet a pressing public need” and potentially “undermine public-private partnership statutes in other states.” That was the key message delivered last Friday by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
The association, along with the National Conference of State Legislatures filed a “friend of the court” brief July 19 in the case of Elizabeth River Crossings OPCO, LLC and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) v. Danny Meeks. At issue is a lower court ruling which held that Virginia’s public private partnership (P3) enabling legislation was unconstitutional because it allowed VDOT to set toll rates on the Midtown Tunnel Extension project in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. ARTBA’s brief argues that as manager of the state’s roadways, VDOT is the most qualified entity to determine toll revenues needed to support the Hampton Roads project.
P3’s have become a useful tool in helping cash-strapped states meet the public’s growing transportation needs. ARTBA stressed that, if allowed to stand, the lower court’s holding would prevent Virginia from entering into future P3 project agreements and also potentially put existing projects relying on tolls at risk. A number of other states have P3 enabling legislation that is structured similarly to the Virginia statute, and ARTBA is concerned the lower court ruling, if upheld, could foster challenges in other states.
The case will now proceed to oral arguments, though an exact date has not yet been set.
An in-depth discussion of the case and its potential impact on P3 projects in other parts of the country will take place this Thursday, July 25 as part of ARTBA’s milestone 25th Annual Public Private Partnerships Conference in Washington, D.C. Contact ARTBA’s Hank Webster at (202) 289-4434, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.