September 8, 2017 News · Press Releases and Announcements

Ed Gillespie Stood by Silently as his Political Ally Flushed Hundreds of Millions of Taxpayer Dollars the Toilet


by Prateek Mishra

Ed Gillespie Stood by Silently as his Political Ally Flushed Hundreds of Millions of Taxpayer Dollars the Toilet

Today Ed Gillespie’s Koch-funded allies Americans for Prosperity launched a misleading attack over an unsuccessful economic development project that led Governor Terry McAuliffe and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam to oversee significant reforms of the Virginia Economic Development Project.

Unfortunately for Virginians, Gillespie never had the courage to speak up about the $300 million that his friend and political ally Bob McDonnell wasted on the US 460 project in Hampton Roads. That wasteful and unnecessary project was never even permitted before Governor McAuliffe and Ralph Northam took office and it was canceled before any more money was wasted.

Gillespie also stood by silently as McDonnell negotiated the Midtown-Downtown Tunnel deal that allowed a private company to strap Hampton Roads families with insanely high tolls before the McAuliffe-Northam administration stepped in to reduce them and offer relief for low-income drivers.  

Ed Gillsepie chaired Bob McDonnell’s campaign. He was a close friend and adviser to the Governor during his administration. He stood by silently while Governor McDonnell flushed hundreds of millions of dollars down the toilet on a road that was never built, and then asked taxpayers to pay extravagant tolls just to get to work the same way they always had.

So the next time Ed Gillespie or his allies shriek about failed projects, ask him: “Where were you when Bob McDonnell wasted $300 million on Route 460 and then blew the Midtown-Downtown Tunnel deal? And what were you doing when Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam had to step in and clean up your mess?”

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Gillespie Was McDonnell’s 2009 Campaign Chair And Close Friend During McDonnell’s Governorship

Gillespie Joined Bob McDonnell’s Gubernatorial Campaign As General Chairman. "Another former chairman of a national political party is wading into the Virginia governor’s race, but not as a candidate. Ed Gillespie, ex-head of the Republican National Committee and briefly chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, is signing on as general chairman of Bob McDonnell’s bid for governor. McDonnell, currently attorney general, is unopposed for the Republican nomination for governor. He steps down as AGnext Friday to run full time for the state’s top office.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/13/09]

Gillespie In 2011: “Voters Now Think Of McDonnell When They Think Of Virginia Republicans.” “A Politico article in August 2011 floated the possibility of McDonnell running down the line. (The article also mentions that former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie thought ‘voters now think of McDonnell when they think of Virginia Republicans,’ something he’s probably betting against now that he’d like said voters to elect him — especially since McDonnell’s brand of Republicanism failed to do wonders for Ken Cuccinelli, although having ‘the personality of a stone,’ as McDonnell’s former chef and scandal linchpin alleged, may not have helped either.)” [Washington Post,1/22/14]

McDonnell’s US 360 Project Cost Virginia $300 Million And Was Criticized By Republicans

Bob McDonnell Aggressively Pursued US 460 Project Without Getting Environmental Permits, Which Cost Virginia $300 Million. “Bob McDonnell will go into history as the first of 72 Virginia governors to be convicted of corruption, but we should remember him as well for a second scandal that cost the taxpayers a ton of money.  McDonnell’s curious, long-standing obsession with building a new highway parallel to U.S. 460 outside Hampton Roads led his administration to spend $300 million (and counting) without first ensuring that the project would receive necessary environmental permits.” [Washington Post, Robert McCartney, 10/11/14]

  • Republican Delegate Lingamfelter: “There Is No Way To Make This Appear As Anything Other Than What It Is, Which Is A Major Foul-Up.” “McDonnell’s fellow Republicans are not letting party loyalty stand in the way of their indignation. ‘There is no way to make this appear as anything other than what it is, which is a major foul-up,’ Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William) said.” [Washington Post, Robert McCartney, 10/11/14]
  • Republican House Appropriations Chairman Jones: "The Terms of The Deal Were Very Unfavorable To The Commonwealth, And We Should Have Never Signed." “Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was equally appalled. ‘It certainly leaves one speechless,’ Jones said. ‘The terms of the deal were very unfavorable to the commonwealth, and we should have never signed.’” [Washington Post, Robert McCartney, 10/11/14]

McAuliffe-Northam Administration Recouped $46 Million Of The $300 Million That Virginia Lost On US 460

The McAuliffe-Northam Administration Reached A Settlement That Recouped $46 Million For Virginia. “The final bill has come due on the abortive U.S. 460 toll expressway pushed by the administration of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell — $260 million, most of it to a private contractor paid by the state without a federal permit to build the road through hundreds of acres of wetlands. Under a settlement announced Thursday by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — who halted the project more than a year ago — the state will recover $46 million already paid to US 460 Mobility Partners and avoid paying $103 million in additional claims submitted by the developer under the terms of a contract that critics say shifted all the project’s risks to the state.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/2/15]

The McAuliffe-Northam Administration Passed Legislation To Bring More Transparency To Public-Private Transportation Deals. “McAuliffe and state legislators say they already have protected the state from repeating those mistakes by passing legislation, which the governor has signed, to require more public transparency in public-private transportation deals and more accountability from state officials who make them.  The new law was sponsored by House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, a fierce critic of the U.S. 460 deal who said he also was motivated by a public-private transportation agreement to expand and renovate the tunnels between Norfolk and Portsmouth.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/2/15]

McDonnell Negotiated Deal That Allowed For Escalating Tolls On Norfolk And Portsmouth Tunnels

McDonnell Negotiated A Deal That Allowed For Companies To Collect Billions In Tolls Over 58 Years. “Instead, Virginia officials have agreed to spend slightly more than $580 million on the project, more than twice the investment from the companies behind the deal. With no competition, the companies won the right to collect billions of dollars in tolls over 58 years.” [Washington Post, 10/17/15]

  • Virginian-Pilot Editorial: “Tolls Amount To About $1,000 A Year Tax On Living And Working On Opposite Sides Of The River, A Condition That Was Free In 2011.” “The financial consequences for working-class folks from the region are, of course, profound. At $3.90 a day for a round-trip, ERC’s tolls amount to about $1,000 a year tax on living and working on opposite sides of the river, a condition that was free in 2011.” [Virginian-Pilot, Editorial, 11/17/16]

  • Virginian-Pilot Editorial: “The ERC Deal Was So One-Sided And Damaging To The State’s Interests That The Entire Protocol For Public-Private Transportation Deals Was Changed.” “The ERC deal was so one-sided and damaging to the state’s interests that the entire protocol for public-private transportation deals was changed. A deal like it should now be impossible.  Where the McDonnell administration – strapped for cash – was desperate to build anything at any cost, future administrations will be under no obligation to proceed with a private project unless it accrues real benefits to the commonwealth.” [Virginian-Pilot, Editorial, 11/17/16]

McAuliffe-Northam Administration Lowered Tolls On Norfolk And Portsmouth Tunnels

McAuliffe-Northam Administration Announced Initial Toll Rates Would Be Cut In Half For Downtown-Midtown Tunnel Projects. “Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that initial tolls on the Midtown/Downtown tunnels in Hampton Roads will be lowered by half the level expected, with tolling beginning February 1. Toll rates, overall, will remain lower than what was originally planned for the construction of the $2.1 billion Elizabeth River Tunnels project. Construction includes building a new Midtown Tunnel tube, rehabilitating the existing Midtown and Downtown tunnels and extending the Martin Luther King Boulevard.” [Governor McAuliffe, Press Release, 1/15/14]

McAuliffe-Northam Administration Capped Toll Fees And Reimbursed Residents Who Paid Fees Above The New Toll Caps. “Among the reforms – reimbursement for residents who have had to pay fines that exceeded $2,200. McAuliffe said Friday that reimbursement checks should be in the mail within 60 days.  The Fridayannouncement also came a day after Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) named a new chief executive officer. Philip Shucet, the former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, will take over for former CEO Gregory Woodsmall.   Fees will now be capped at $2,200 for first offense on a failure to pay tolls. People who are enrolled in the toll relief program cannot be fined more than $1,100.” [WAVY, 3/31/17]

McAuliffe Introduced A Toll Relief Program Which Gave Qualifying Residents A 75-Cent Refund On Their Eighth Trip Of The Month. “In October 2016, the governor introduced a tunnel toll relief program — a first of its kind in the nation — which gives qualifying residents a 75-cent refund on tolls after their eighth trip of the month.” [WAVY, 3/23/17]

Ralph Northam Stood Up Against Exorbitant Tolls in Hampton Roads, While Ed Gillespie Was Silent 

2013: Northam Criticized The Virginia Supreme Court’s Ruling That Tolling For The Elizabeth River Crossings Were “Legal User Fees.” "The $2.1 billion, 58-year Elizabeth River tunnels deal was crafted under the auspices of the 1995 Public-Private Transportation Act primarily to construct a second Midtown tube and to extend a freeway in Portsmouth. The contract was completed in 2011 under Gov. Bob McDonnell and his transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton, who is from Northern Virginia. Opponents of the tunnel tolls sued the state and its private partner, Elizabeth River Crossings, calling the arrangement unconstitutional. A Portsmouth judge sided with the plaintiffs last spring, but the Supreme Court of Virginia reverse his decision on Oct. 31, saying the tolls were legal user fees, clearing the way for them to begin on Feb. 1. […] Norfolk Democrat Ralph Northam, said through a spokesman on the day of the court decision that he was disappointed in the ruling and would ‘work to rework the agreement so it is fair for Virginia families and businesses.’” [Virginian-Pilot, 11/9/13]

Northam Said He Would Fight To "Rework The Agreement" As Lieutenant Governor "So It Is Fair For Virginia Families And Businesses." “Statements on the tolls ruling from the candidates for statewide office in Tuesday’s election: […] Ralph Northam, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor: ‘I have led the fight to prevent excessive tolls on the people of Hampton Roads and I am disappointed by the court’s decision. As Lt. Gov. I will work to rework the agreement so it is fair for Virginia families and businesses. I want to work with Democrats and Republicans to reform the Public Private Transportation Act to ensure that communities have more oversight of local transportation projects.” [Virginian-Pilot, 11/1/13]

  • 2012: Northam: “The Midtown PPTA” Has Led To “Exorbitant Tolls” And “We Must Scrap It And Start Over.” Ralph Northam wrote in the Virginian-Pilot, “The Midtown PPTA has gone from a bitter pill worth swallowing to a poison pill that will do much more harm than good. We must scrap it and start over. The exorbitant tolls of $1.84 per trip at peak hours, coupled with the outrageous allowance for a minimum 3.5 percent annual increase, would hurt our region enough, but other factors make the deal even worse. Charging tolls on existing roads before any new facility has opened runs afoul of general principles of fairness and government accountability. The exclusion of light rail from the project, especially as we face the dual problems of congestion and rising gas prices, flies in the face of common sense. Finally, allowing a 13.5 percent rate of return on a government contract simply wastes taxpayer dollars.” [Ralph Northam, Virginian-Pilot, 3/30/12]

  • Northam Said, “The Decision Whether To Charge Tolls On Existing Roads Should Be Made By The General Assembly, Not By The Virginia Department Of Transportation.” Asked by the Virginian Pilot, “Do you favor requiring a General Assembly vote before tolling existing roads in Virginia?” Northam replied, “The decision whether to charge tolls on existing roads should be made by the General Assembly, not by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Elected representatives of the people are in the best position to determine whether the revenue-generating benefits of tolls outweigh the burdens tolls impose on their constituents. Community leaders can bring local stakeholders together to make transportation decisions. This year, I voted to quash efforts to impose tolls on I-95 without approval from the General Assembly.” [Virginian-Pilot, 10/27/13]

2012: Northam Introduced Legislation To “Give Regional Transportation Organizations Final Say Over Public-Private Partnerships.” “A proposal by Sen. Ralph Northam that would give regional transportation organizations final say over public-private partnerships was defeated in committee Wednesday to the dismay of several Hampton Roads localities. The Senate Transportation Committee, on a 6-8 vote, killed the bill that Northam said was inspired by the recent public-private partnership entered into by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration to expand the Midtown Tunnel between Norfolk and Portsmouth. The Norfolk Democrat's measure would not have affected that project, but Northam said it would give federally mandated regional transportation planning organizations, such as the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, a seat at the table in developing public-private partnerships once a project is approved to go forward. That was not the case when the agreement was reached on the Midtown Tunnel, which will have peak hour tolls of $1.84 and off-peak tolls of $1.59, Northam said. With the contract allowing tolls to go up 3.5 percent per year over 58 years, Northam said it will eventually cost the average commuter roughly $1,000 a year to use the tunnel. ‘If other projects are built, whether 460 is built or whether the third crossing is built, and tolled with the potential for the tolls to go up each year it's going to cripple Hampton Roads,’ Northam said.” [Daily Press, 1/19/12; SB 469, Introduced 1/11/12]

  • Northam Cosponsored Legislation Requiring The Legislature Approve All Road Tolls. “Requires General Assembly approval for tolling of any interstate, state primary, or state secondary highway system component.” [HB 2129, Introduced 1/9/13]

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