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Bridge foes file another lawsuit
"Two months after the Washington State Supreme Court delivered what many considered a knockout punch to plans to construct a second bridge over the Tacoma Narrows, the issue is back in front of a judge again.On Wednesday, attorneys for the Peninsula Neighborhood Association filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court seeking an injunction to prevent the state from moving ahead with its plans until the legal problems cited by the Supreme Court are resolved - assuming they can be.Quite simply, we want the state to stop spending the taxpayers' money on a project the court considers illegal and unenforceable, said Shawn Newman, attorney for the Gig Harbor-based citizens' group.The arrogance of the (Washington State Department of Transportation) is astonishing to me, added John Mayers, PNA's president. They originally ignored an 80 percent local vote against the bridge, and they didn't stop when their privatizing scheme doubled the bridge cost to $800 million. Now they're ignoring the Supreme Court decision.PNA's original lawsuit seeking to block the bridge was thrown out by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Daniel Berschauer last spring. But PNA appealed to the Supreme Court, which in November issued a ruling in the group's favor on two key points.First, the court said plans to build a new toll bridge while limiting the existing span to one-way traffic were a violation of state laws which forbid tolls on existing bridges or roads.Second, the court said the state's contract with United Infrastructure Washington to build the bridge was unenforceable because it gave a private company the ability to set toll rates on a public structure.Undaunted, several weeks after the court decision UIW and WSDOT signed a letter of agreement that reaffirmed both parties' commitment to building the bridge. The letter authorized UIW to continue to expend funds and incur liabilities against the contract.Since the ruling, UIW and WSDOT have continued to work on the project by condemning small businesses and family homes, Mayers said. We're asking the court to intervene and force WSDOT to respect the law.Officials from the state and UIW have insisted since the Supreme Court decision was announced that it wouldn't kill the bridge project. The justices, they point out, found no constitutional problems with the contact, only violations of the law. In order for work to continue, it's just a question of amending the law - or the contract - during the upcoming legislative session.Wednesday's lawsuit is intended as a wakeup call to anyone who might agree with that line of reasoning.It's a warning shot across their bow, Newman said. Our goal is to give the legislature pause. We want them to understand this isn't going to be a quick fix and that PNA isn't just going to go away.The state has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit. "