Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1956 No. 188 - January 18, 1956
AGO Opinion Header Image
Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

RAILROADS ‑- GRADE CROSSINGS ‑- CITIES OF FIRST CLASS ‑- JURISDICTION

In the absence of any language in section 8, chapter 310, clearly demonstrating that it was the legislature's intention to confer jurisdiction upon the commission in respect to signals and the apportionment of the cost for railroad crossings located within cities of the first class, such jurisdiction is lacking.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                 January 18, 1956

Honorable A. B. Comfort
State Representative
Twenty-sixth District
915 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 188


Dear Sir:

            This is in response to your letter of December 21, 1955, previously acknowledged, wherein you asked whether the Public Service Commission has jurisdiction over railroad crossings located within the city limits of the city of Tacoma.  In this connection you refer to section 8, chapter 310, Laws of 1955.

            It is our view that the Public Service Commission does not have jurisdiction over the matters set forth in section 8, chapter 310, Laws of 1955, in respect to railroad grade crossings located within cities of the first class.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The statutes pertaining to railroad grade crossings, installation of signals and apportionment of costs in certain instances are generally codified in RCW 81.52.080 through 81.52.330.  In section 81.52.300 (as amended in 1953) it is provided that:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "RCW 81.52.080 through 81.52.300, shall not be operative within the limits of first class cities, and shall not apply to street railway lines operating on or across any street, alley, or other public place within the limits of any city, except that no streetcar line outside of cities of the first class shall cross a railroad at grade without express authority from the commission. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            From the above section it is clear that the legislature has expressly withheld from the commission jurisdiction in respect to grade crossings located within cities of the first class.  Thus, railroad grade crossings located in the city of Tacoma would be outside the scope of the commission's jurisdiction under the provisions of the above‑quoted section.

            The instant question concerning commission jurisdiction over certain matters pertaining to grade crossings in cities of the first class is raised by virtue of the enactment of section 8, chapter 310, Laws of 1955.  Chapter 310, in the title, provides that it is an act relating to railroad grade crossings, and amends certain sections of RCW.  Section 8 thereof provides, in part, as follows:

            "Whenever the director of highways or the governing body of any city, town or county shall deem that the public safety requires signals or other warning devices, other than sawbuck signs, at any crossing of a railroad at common grade by any state or county highway, road, street, alley, avenue, boulevard, parkway or other public place actually open and in use or to be opened and used for travel by the public, he or it shall file with the public service commission a petition in writing, alleging that the public safety requires the installation of specified signals or other warning devices at such crossings or specified changes in the method and manner of existing crossing warning devices. . . . The commission shall also at said hearing receive evidence as to the benefits to be derived by the railroad and the public, respectively,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] and shall on the basis of such benefits apportion the cost of installation of such signals or other warning devices, other than sawbuck signs, between the railroad, municipality or county affected, or if the highway is a state road or parkway, between the railroad and the state."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The problem, thus, is whether section 8 above gives the commission (1) jurisdiction over railroad grade crossing signals located within cities of the first class, and (2) the right to apportion the cost of installing these signals.

            In this connection, it should be noted that in RCW 81.52.100 (which is also amended by section 3 of this same chapter 310, Laws of 1955) it is expressly provided that:

            ". . . The commission may provide in the order authorizing a grade crossing, or at any subsequent time, that the railroad company shall install and maintain proper signals, warnings, flagmen, interlocking devices, or other devices or means to secure the safety of the public and its employees. . . ."

            The principle is well settled that the Public Service Commission has only such powers as have been expressly granted to it by the legislature, or have, by implication, been conferred upon it as necessarily incident to the exercise of those powers expressly granted.  State ex rel. Puget Sound Navigation Co. v. Department of Transportation, 33 Wn. (2d) 488.  It thus would appear to follow, since the legislature, in RCW 81.52.300, supra, expressly withheld from the commission jurisdiction over grade crossings located in cities of the first class, and since the act in RCW 81.52.100 makes provisions for signals and warning devices that if the legislature intended to remove the exclusion of jurisdiction over such grade crossings by section 8, chapter 310, it would have done so expressly by appropriate language applicable to RCW 81.52.080 through 81.52.300, specifically either RCW 81.52.100 or 81.52.300.

            The phrase "any city" found in section 8 above is not, in our view, persuasive as demonstrating legislative intent to give the commission jurisdiction over  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] warning signals on grade crossings within cities of the first class.  This same phrase also appears in RCW 81.52.100 and 81.52.130.  RCW 81.52.100,supra, has reference to the installation of signals and warning devices but contains no provisions for the apportionment of costs.  Section 8 also deals with signals, with the further provision for the apportionment of costs.  Both RCW 81.52.100 and section 8 of chapter 310 deal substantially with the same subject matter.  However, by the express terms of RCW 81.52.300, supra, RCW 81.52.100 is expressly not applicable to cities of the first class.

            It is difficult for us to conclude that the phrase "any city," in section 8,supra, makes the provisions of this section applicable to cities of the first class when RCW 81.52.100, involving a similar subject matter and containing the same phrase, is not applicable to grade crossings located within cities of the first class.

            In construing a statute, all acts relating to the same subject matter or having the same purpose should be read together as constituting one law.  State v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681.  When all of the statutes dealing with grade crossings and warning signals are construed together, the conclusion is compelling that the legislature, in section 8,supra, did not intend to give the commission jurisdiction over the matters embraced therein when all other matters pertaining to grade crossings located in cities of the first class are excluded from commission jurisdiction.

            In our view, in the absence of any language in section 8, chapter 310, clearly demonstrating that it was the legislature's intention to confer jurisdiction upon the commission in respect to signals and the apportionment of the cost for railroad crossings located within cities of the first class, we must conclude such jurisdiction is lacking.

            We trust the above will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


ROBERT L. SIMPSON
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo