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AGO 1950 No. 384 - November 17, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

STATE HIGHWAYS ‑- ABANDONMENT ‑- BRIDGES

A bridge upon a state highway is a part thereof, but becomes a part of a county road, and must be maintained by the county or counties as such, upon certification by the Director of Highways to the board or boards of county commissioners of the county or counties involved that the same is no longer necessary as a part of such state highway.

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                                                               November 17, 1950

Honorable Wilbur G. Hallauer
Representative, First Legislative District
Post Office Box 1398
Oroville, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 384

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of October 28, 1950, asking a question which, for the reasons hereinafter explained, we state as follows:

            May the Department of Highways abandon an asset (the Brewster Bridge) which the legislature entrusted to it?

            You are advised:

            A bridge upon a state highway is a part thereof, but becomes a part of a county road, and must be maintained by the county or counties as such, upon certification by the Director of Highways to the board or boards of county commissioners of the county or counties involved that the same is no longer necessary as a part of such state highway.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            In your letter you advise that a new bridge is being constructed over the Columbia River and that you have been informed that the Department of Highways plans to return the Brewster Bridge to the counties involved as soon as the new bridge upstream is completed.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            On November 3, 1950, we wrote to the Director of Highways asking for certain information as to the description of the roads involved and his intention to abandon the bridge.

            On November 8, 1950, the Director of Highways replied and we quote his letter in full:

                        "PSH No. 10, Brewster Bridge

            "Reference is made to your letter of the 3rd relative to the certification of the portion of highway presently used as the route of Primary State Highway No. 10 between Brewster and Bridgeport to Douglas County to become a part of the county road system.

            "Provision is made for such certification under Chapter 125, Laws of 1945, in the latter part of Section 10, Chapter 187 of the Laws of 1937 as amended, under 'Conveyance to Counties.'  Under the provisions of this act, it would seem to be the duty of the Director of Highways to make such certification at such time as a part of a route has become no longer necessary as a part of a primary or secondary state highway."

            We must assume from this letter that the Brewster Bridge may become unnecessary as a part of the state highway system and will be certified as such properly to the counties in which the bridge is situated, notwithstanding the director's reference to one of such counties.

            However, we respectfully refer you to the Director of Highways for information as to such matters as deal with the location of the bridge or as may have a bearing on the question of whether or not the same is necessary as a part of the State Highway System.

            Section 3, chapter 149, Laws of 1945, made the Brewster Bridge a part of State Road No. 10.

            Assuming that the Brewster Bridge is no longer necessary as a part of State Road No. 10, it becomes a part of a county road upon certification thereof by the Director of Highways to the Board of County Commissioners of the county in which any portion of such bridge may be located by virtue of chapter 125, Laws of 1945 (6450-10 Rem. Supp. 1945).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In our letter of February 5, 1931, to the Honorable A. E. Olson, member of the House of Representatives, we advised that where the Director of Highways has selected a new route he no longer has authority to maintain the old road between the same points without special legislative authority.

            In our letter of August 16, 1938, to the Honorable Lynn J. Gemmill, Prosecuting Attorney of Chelan County, we advised that a bridge abandoned by the State Highway Department belonged to the county.

            In our letter of November 2, 1949, to the Honorable Ronald R. Hull, Prosecuting Attorney of Yakima County, we advised that the Malloy Bridge became a part of the county road system upon proper certification by the State Highway Department.

            While the legislature entrusted the Brewster Bridge to the Department of Highways as long as it was a part of the state highway system, it also entrusted the bridge to the counties in which any portion of the same may be situated in the event the bridge did not remain a part of the state highway system, and the Director of Highways would have no authority to maintain the bridge as a part of the county road system without specific legislative authority.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

E. P. DONNELLY
Assistant Attorney General

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