Kemper Freeman’s lawsuit has failed to make it past summary judgement. The Superior Court of Kittitas County filed a summary judgment on Freeman’s lawsuit against the State of Washington, finding the use of part of the highway for light rail is allowed under state law.
The issue in question stems from the 1944 Amendment under the state’s constitution stating:
All fees collected by the State of Washington as license fees for motor vehicles and all excise taxes collected by the State of Washington on the sale, distribution or use of motor vehicle fuel and all other state revenue intended to be used for highway purposes, shall be paid into the state treasury and placed in a special fund to be used exclusively for highway purposes. Such highway purposes shall be construed to include the following:
(a) The necessary operating, engineering and legal expenses connected with the administration of public highways, county roads and city streets;
(b) The construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair, and betterment of public highways, county roads, bridges and city streets; including the cost and expense of (1) acquisition of rights-of-way, (2) installing, maintaining and operating traffic signs and signal lights, (3) policing by the state of public highways, (4) operation of movable span bridges, (5) operation of ferries which are a part of any public highway, county road, or city street;
(c) The payment or refunding of any obligation of the State of Washington, or any political subdivision thereof, for which any of the revenues described in section 1 may have been legally pledged prior to the effective date of this act;
(d) Refunds authorized by law for taxes paid on motor vehicle fuels;
(e) The cost of collection of any revenues described in this section:
Provided, That this section shall not be construed to include revenue from general or special taxes or excises not levied primarily for highway purposes, or apply to vehicle operator’s license fees or any excise tax imposed on motor vehicles or the use thereof in lieu of a property tax thereon, or fees for certificates of ownership of motor vehicles.
Freeman argued that since I-90 was built with motor vehicle taxes, it cannot be leased or sold to Sound Transit for use with light rail. The court disagreed, stating:
The court agrees Article 2, Section 40 restricts the use of motor vehicle excise taxes to the use for highway purposes but it does not restrict the State from eventually declaring the highway surplus and then using it for non-highway purposes, provided, however, that the motor vehicle funds used to constuct the highway are in effect repaid to preclude any allegation that the State is circumventing the intent of Article 2, Section 40.