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AGO 1960 No. 165 - December 16, 1960
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS - STATE - TOLL BRIDGE AUTHORITY - BRIDGES - TEN MILE LIMITATION ON OTHER CROSSINGS APPLIES TO INTERSTATE BRIDGES.

The construction of a bridge on Government Island eight and one half miles east of the interstate bridge by the State of Washington is prohibited by RCW 47.56.220 which forms part of the Vancouver-Portland bond resolution.

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                                                               December 16, 1960

Honorable Al Henry
State Senator
Sixteenth District
Rio Vista
White Salmon, Washington                                                                                         Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 165

Dear Sir:

            We are in receipt of your letter of October 25, 1960, in which you request the advice of this office on the following question:

            Do the provisions of the Vancouver-Portland interstate bridge bond indenture prohibit the construction of a bridge eight and one half miles east on Government Island?

            Our answer is that RCW 47.56.220, which forms part of the Vancouver-Portland bond resolution, prohibits the erection, construction, or maintenance of such a bridge by the State of Washington or any of its municipal corporations or subdivisions within ten miles of the interstate bridge.  We do not deem it advisable at this time to express our opinion as to the legality of the State of Oregon constructing such a bridge.  A bridge can be legally constructed on Government Island either beyond the ten-mile limit, or within ten miles provided that the consent of the bondholders can be obtained.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            It is our understanding that a bridge is proposed eight and one half miles east of the Vacouver-Portland bridge on Government Island, to be financed jointly by Multnomah County, Oregon, and Clark County, Washington, and the Port of Camas-Washougal.  We are advised that the distance from the middle of the interstate bridge to the west end of Government Island is 5.7 miles, and from the west end to the east end of Government Island an additional 5.4 miles, a total of 11.1 miles, as scaled from U.S.G.S. quads.

            The Vancouver-Portland interstate bridge bond indenture does not contain any provision specifically prohibiting other crossings.  Existing law of the State of Washington, however, does prohibit other crossings within ten miles of a toll bridge, and such law has been held by our supreme court to be part of any toll bridge bond resolution.  In State ex rel. Washington Toll Bridge Authority v. Yelle, 156 Wash. Dec. 82 (1960) [[56 Wn.2d 86]], on pages 93 and 94, the court pointed out:

            "Section 218/declares that RCW 47.56.220, made part of the resolution, constitutes a contract for the benefit of the holders of the bonds,9/. . .

            ". . .

            "9/Existing law is a part of every contract (Fischler v. Nicklin, 51 Wn. (2d) 518, 319 P. (2d) 1098; Dopps v. Alderman, 12 Wn. (2d) 268, 121 P. (2d) 388; L. J. Dowell, Inc. v. United Pac. Cas. Ins. Co., 191 Wash. 666, 72 P. (2d) 296; In re Kane, 181 Wash. 407, 43 P. (2d) 619), and, consequently, this provision may be disregarded as surplusage except to the extent that the explicit inclusion of the statute, and the emphasis on a certain part thereof, is an indication of the intent of the framers of § 21 of the resolution."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Section 13, chapter 173, Laws of 1937 (RCW 47.56.220) referred to in the aforementioned opinion prohibits any other crossing within ten miles of a toll bridge so long as any bonds are outstanding and unpaid:

            "As long as any of the bonds issued hereunder for the construction of any toll bridge are outstanding and unpaid, there shall not be erected, constructed or maintained any other bridge or other crossing over, under, through or across the waters over which such toll bridge is located or constructed, connecting or joining directly or indirectly the lands or extensions thereof or abutments thereon on both sides of the waters spanned or crossed by such toll bridge within a distance of ten miles from either side of such toll bridge . . ."

            By its provisions, section 13, chapter 173, Laws of 1937 (RCW 47.56.220) is made binding on the state and its municipal corporations and subdivisions and even limits the powers of the legislature:

            ". . . The provisions of this section shall be binding upon the Washington Toll Bridge Authority, the State of Washington and all of its departments, agencies or instrumentalities as well as any and all private, political, municipal and public corporations and subdivisions, including cities, counties, and other political subdivisions and the prohibitions of this section shall restrict and limit the powers of the legislature of the State of Washington in respect to the matters herein mentioned as long as any of such bonds are outstanding and unpaid and shall be deemed to constitute a contract to that effect for the benefit of the holders of all such bonds."

            The Vancouver-Portland bridge was constructed jointly by the States of Oregon and Washington pursuant to contract entered into by both states.  See State ex rel. Oregon State Highway Commission v. Yelle, 47 Wn. (2d) 804, 289 P. (2d) 1027 (1955).  The authorizing legislation of the State of Washington is chapter 132, Laws of 1953, as  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] amended by chapter 152, Laws of 1955 (RCW 47.56.310 47.56.345).  RCW 47.56.345 provides that this legislation authorizing the interstate bridge shall be additional and concurrent to the provisions of chapter 47.56 RCW:

            "Except as may be otherwise specifically provided in RCW 47.56.310 through 47.56.345, the provisions of chapter 47.56 shall govern and be controlling in all matters and things necessary to carry out the purposes of RCW 47.56.310 through 47.56.345.  Nothing in RCW 47.56.310 through 47.56.345 is intended to amend, alter, modify or repeal any of the provisions of any statute relating to the powers and duties of the Washington toll bridge authority except as such powers and duties are amplified or modified by the specific provisions of RCW 47.56.310 through 47.56.345 for the uses and purposes herein set forth, and RCW 47.56.310 through 47.56.345 shall be additional to such existing statutes and concurrent therewith."

            RCW 47.56.220 is one of the provisions of chapter 47.56 RCW and constitutes a safeguard to bond purchasers that the security of their investment will not be jeopardized.  We conclude that RCW 47.56.220 is incorporated as a matter of law in the Vancouver-Portland bridge bond indenture.  This statute, by its terms, prohibits the State of Washington or its municipal corporations or subdivisions from erecting, constructing, or maintaining any other bridge within ten miles of the interstate bridge.

            There is no exception set forth in this statute for bridges over interstate waters.  Inasmuch as no such exception is set out in the statute we must conclude that the legislature intended RCW 47.56.220 to be applicable to all bridges whether or not they cross interstate waters.  It is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that where the language of a statute is plain it admits of but one meaning and interpretation is unnecessary.  Our court, in In re Eaton's Estate, 170 Wash. 280, 285, 16 P. (2d) 433 (1932), stated:

            "'And if the words of the statute are in themselves precise and unambiguous no more is necessary than to  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] expound these words in their natural and ordinary sense, the words themselves in such case best declaring the intention of the Legislature.'  Maxwell, Interpretation of Statutes (6th ed.), p. 1."

            The legislature itself is limited by the provisions of RCW 47.56.220 and cannot change RCW 47.56.220 to allow construction of another bridge within ten miles so long as any of the Vancouver-Portland bonds are outstanding, and unpaid.  In Chanango Bridge Co. v. Binghamton Bridge Co., 3 Wall (U.S.) 51, 18 L.Ed. 137, the supreme court of the United States held that a legislature was unconstitutionally impairing the obligations of a contract when it chartered another company to build a bridge within the two-mile limit of a previously granted exclusive toll bridge franchise.

            An interstate bridge can, of course, be authorized by Oregon as well as by the State of Washington.  If Oregon were to unilaterally authorize a bridge within ten miles of the interstate bridge, it would be acting contrary to the provisions of RCW 47.56.220 which forms a part of a bridge project bond resolution based on an Oregon-Washington contract, and, necessarily, acting without the concurrence or consent of our state.  In accordance with longstanding policies of this office we will not express our opinion at this time as to the validity of Oregon building such a bridge, until it appears that such action is contemplated by our sister state, and until the Oregon attorney general has had an opportunity to review the legality of such action.  We call to your attention that a bridge can legally be built on Government Island either by constructing the bridge beyond ten miles from the present interstate bridge, or within ten miles provided the consent of the bondholders can be obtained.  Our supreme court held, in State ex rel. Washington Toll Bridge Authority v. Yelle, supra, that RCW 47.56.220 may be waived by the bondholders.  The consent of the bondholders to the building of the proposed bridge would constitute such a waiver and would legally permit the bridge to be constructed within the ten-mile limit.

            We conclude, therefore, that RCW 47.56.220 is incorporated in the Vancouver-Portland interstate bridge bond resolution and prohibits  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] the State of Washington or any of its municipal corporations or subdivisions from erecting, constructing or maintaining another bridge within ten miles of the interstate bridge.  We do not deem it advisable at this time to express our opinion as to the legality of the State of Oregon constructing such a bridge.  We call to your attention that a bridge on Government Island can legally be built either beyond the ten-mile limit, or within ten miles provided that the consent of the bondholders can be obtained.

            We trust the foregoing is satisfactory.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

STANTON P. SENDER
Assistant Attorney General

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