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Judge shoots down Narrows Bridge lawsuit

"Thurston County Superior Court Judge Daniel Berschauer plunged a dagger into the heart of the citizens' group seeking to derail construction of a second Narrows Bridge on Friday when he agreed to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Peninsula Neighborhood Association against the state Department of Transportation.In addition to throwing out the association's suit, Berschauer also affirmed the constitutionality of the controversial Public-Private Initiatives Act by which the state proposes to build the tollbridge.PNA first filed its suit in July, charging DOT with a laundry list of constitutional and procedural violations in its efforts to build the bridge -- which 80 percent of residents in the community closest to the bridge oppose.Most notably, the association believes that for the state to allow a private company, United Infrastructure Washington, to build and maintain the bridge amounts to the granting of a state-sanctioned monopoly. The association also questions whether the state's contract with United Infrastructure includes adequate public oversight over how toll rates are set.Berschauer, however, while conceding DOT's handing of the project hasn't been perfect, ruled that none of the issues raised by PNA was worth scrubbing the project over.Not every stumble by the (Department of Transportation) renders the regulations invalid, he said. It can, but not always.The association can appeal the results of Friday's court action, and members of the group vow to do just that. But they concede the odds of preventing the bridge from being built just got a lot longer.I won't lie to you, PNA attorney Shawn Newman said following the decision.It's hard enough to win a case at this level. At the next level, you have the added burden of the appeals judge knowing your case has already been thrown out once. That makes it twice as hard.But we'll move on, Newman said. This is just round one in a long fight. Don't underestimate the resolve of these people to obtain justice."

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