OOIDA says MassPike lawsuit is ‘action we support’

| 6/9/2009

While OOIDA is not a named plaintiff in a toll-payer lawsuit against the Massachusetts Turnpike, OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said he supports those who choose to get involved.

More than 1,700 plaintiffs, including truckers and commuters, have accused the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority of diverting toll revenue to other areas such as the Big Dig tunnel project. The plaintiffs say it is unconstitutional to use toll revenue for purposes other than managing the turnpike.

Johnston said OOIDA stands behind truckers who sign on to the lawsuit, which was filed by a group of toll payers on May 8.

“While this is not an action we initiated, it is certainly an action we support,” Johnston told Land Line.

“As we have often stated, tolls are taxes and it’s important to hold accountable those authorities with the arrogant attitude that they can simply do as they please with the revenue that toll roads generate, including increasing the cost of using them with no accountability to the public who is forced to absorb those costs.”

Turnpike officials, meanwhile, say the state government authorized the use of turnpike money to service the debts associated with the political hot potato known as the Big Dig.

Lawsuit plaintiffs were in Middlesex Superior Court on Monday, June 8, demanding that turnpike assets be held as collateral in case a ruling favors toll payers.

The judge in the case took the information under advisement but did not rule Monday to attach the turnpike properties to the lawsuit.

As it currently stands, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is marked for dissolution by state law, and its duties are to be consolidated into a state-operated transportation agency.

Should the turnpike continue on that course prior to a ruling in the toll-payers’ lawsuit, any turnpike liabilities would be assumed by the new agency, a source close to the case said.

So far, plans to reduce the Big Debt and reform transportation within the state include possible toll increases and/or a possible fuel-tax increase.

– By David Tanner, staff writer