PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - A group of residents fighting against tolls at two area tunnels filed a lawsuit against VDOT and the Elizabeth River Crossings Thursday.
The citizens, represented by Richmond attorney Patrick McSweeney , want to stop the Virginia Department of Transportation and Elizabeth River Crossings, a private company, from imposing tolls on drivers who use the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.
"We're ready to fight," Portsmouth Vice Mayor Charles Whitehurst said.
Citizens Against Unfair Tolls gathered outside of the Portsmouth Circuit Court Thursday afternoon to protest the toll which will cost drivers between $1.59 and $1.84 each time they drive through the tunnels.
"It's going to impact each household $1,000 a year," Portsmouth resident and plaintiff Danny Meeks said. "Our citizens and the people of Portsmouth just can't afford that."
The group raised $150,000 to hire McSweeney to fight the case. Meeks says he gave $40,000 toward that fee. Thursday, McSweeney filed the lawsuit claiming the deal to build another tube at the Midtown tunnel and extend the Martin Luther King Freeway is illegal.
"Here we [have] a private entity and VDOT, [both] unelected [entities] reaching an agreement that in effect sets taxes, not just tolls," McSweeney said.
McSweeney says he even expects to take the fight to Virginia state Supreme Court.
"We have a lot invested in this case," McSweeny said. "Certainly, we expect that."
So far no court dates are set, but McSweeney believes the first date will happen within three to four months.
Currently, proposed tolls at the two tunnels are delayed until 2014. Earlier this year in the midst of the debate, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell faced mounting pressure from lawmakers and citizens in Hampton Roads. The governor asked the Commonwealth Transportation Board to set aside $100 million to put the project off.
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