3/29/2017Virginia Governor Slams Macquarie And Its Tolling Practices
Budget amendment targets Macquarie for overbilling Virginia motorists in Elizabeth River tolling project.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) says he is fed up with Macquarie. Since 2012, the Australian toll road giant and its Swedish partner, Skanska, have run the downtown and midtown toll tunnels and the MLK freeway extension in Hampton Roads under a deal that does not expire until the year 2070. McAuliffe said on last week's "Ask the Governor" program on WTOP radio that he would take action to curb Macquarie's abuse of motorists.
"That midtown tunnel, where the tolls are so exorbitant, this woman had sixteen or seventeen thousand dollars of tolls, bills and fines," McAuliffe said. "Stop it. We're going to go down and deal with that issue, but I'm not going to tolerate that. I will not let our Virginia residents get ripped off. We're not going to do it. These companies, Macquarie, big companies, they're going to be held accountable."
Transurban has already been forced to settle claims, similar to those now made in Hampton Roads, that it has been "ripping off" motorists with excessive fees and fines. The difference is that Macquarie-Skanska has been caught trying to force motorists into settling toll violations out of court, where a legal cap of $2200 in fines applies under a law enacted last year. McAuliffe on Tuesday released the text of his amendment to next year's state budget that would explicitly forbid the use of state power to enforce any toll settlements for more than $2200. In addition, McAuliffe's transportation secretary, Aubrey Layne, threatened to cancel Macquarie-Skanska's tolling contract.
"I remind you that failure to administer tolls in a reasonable manner consistent with the provision of Section 5.01 of the comprehensive agreement could be considered a default," Layne wrote to the Macquarie-Skanska team. "First time offenders who meet the criteria for the toll relief program in the Hampton Roads region should be offered an opportunity to settle all of their outstanding violations for $1100 with a payment plan if they have signed up to participate in the program and have acquired an E-ZPass."
While the governor painted the tolling issue in partisan terms by blaming the situation on his Republican predecessor, Bob McDonnell, McAuliffe himself has continued to push forward with plans to impose new tolls on existing freeways. The forthcoming Interstate 66 toll lanes will be run by Spain's Cintra and France's Meridiam, while Interstate 395 tolls will be collected by Australia's Transurban.
A copy of the governor's amendment is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.