State wants bridge lawsuit dismissed

"The state’s motion to dismiss a citizen group’s lawsuit over construction of a second bridge across the Tacoma Narrows will be heard on Nov. 19.The hearing was originally scheduled for Sept. 21, but Thurston County Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Berschauer asked for a postponement until Oct. 8 in order to consider the more than 1,000 pages of documentation submitted by the state and the plaintiff, Peninsula Neighborhood Association.When PNA’s attorney had a scheduling conflict on that date, the proceeding was reset for Nov. 19.“We think this bodes well for our case,” said PNA spokesman Randy Boss. “There are a lot of substantive issues on the table, and the fact that the judge needs more time means he’s going to weigh the facts very carefully. We’re encouraged by these developments.”PNA filed its lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation in July, alleging numerous violations of the Public-Private Initiatives Act. By law, any public works project built in partnership with a private company must have the approval of the “affected community.” State Transportation Secretary Sid Morrison gave the proposed bridge plan the go-ahead after 53 percent of voters in a five-county area approved the measure in an advisory election last November.In the areas closest to the bridge, however, more than 80 percent of those voting were opposed the measure, raising questions about what constitutes the “affected community.” State attorneys asked in court for PNA’s lawsuit to be dismissed. Boss scoffed at the prospect of that happening. “Our original lawsuit was very concise, but their motion was so bloated that there must be 50 points of law for the judge to consider,” he said. “If even one of those points is found to be without merit, the case will go to trial.”Assuming Boss is right and the motion to dismiss is not upheld, PNA’s lawsuit would likely be heard in the latter part of 2000, which would throw a monkey wrench into the state’s plans to break ground on the new bridge by next December.“No bonding company in the country will lend money on a project with a lawsuit hanging over its head,” Boss said. “The state is going to have to shorten this process somehow or find another way to resolve it.”"

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