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AGO 1955 No. 127 - August 22, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


TOLL BRIDGE AUTHORITY ‑- SECOND LAKE WASHINGTON BRIDGE ‑- STATUTORY WESTERN APPROACHES

1. Approach connecting second Lake Washington bridge with proposed Tacoma-Seattle‑Everett Toll Road would not fulfill statutory requirement.

2. Western approaches to second Lake Washington Bridge may be constructed in stages.

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                                                                 August 22, 1955

Washington Toll Bridge Authority
Governor's Office
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 127

Attention:  Mr. D. B. Hedges, Secretary
Gentlemen:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on two questions regarding the western approaches required by the statute authorizing a second Lake Washington bridge.  The general problem arises because it appears from traffic and engineering studies that it would not be financially feasible to construct a project which included as an initial component a new throughway from the bridge to the main business district of Seattle, although the estimated toll revenue would support a bond issue sufficient to cover present construction of a project including a connection between the bridge and the proposed Tacoma-Seattle‑Everett toll road near Tenth Avenue North and Roanoke Street.  Your questions have been paraphrased for convenience as follows:

             Orig. Op. Page 2

            1. Would an approach running from the western terminus of the bridge on Madison Point to the proposed Tacoma-Seattle‑Everett toll road near Tenth Avenue North and Roanoke Street satisfy the statutory requirement?

            2. Could western approaches be constructed on a stage basis, so that the project would include initially such a component as is mentioned above or an alternate of equivalent extent on another location, with the understanding that after payment therefor tolls would be continued to finance extension or new construction of the approaches through to the main business district of Seattle?

            Our conclusions are:

            1. No.

            2. Yes.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            1. The first inquiry is whether a connection between the bridge and the proposed toll road would satisfy the statutory approach requirements.

            Section 1, chapter 192, Laws of 1953, codified as RCW 47.56.280 (1953 Supp.), provides in relevant part that:

            "The Washington toll bridge authority is hereby directed to study, make surveys and, if found feasible, construct an additional bridge, including approaches thereto, across Lake Washington.  * * *"  (Italics added.)

            The underscored language is essentially the same as that used in both previous and subsequent bridge authorizations.  See RCW 47.56.030, 47.56.040, 47.56.090, and 47.56.100; RCW 47.56.010 (1953 Supp.); and chapters 152 and 208, Laws of 1955.  InState ex rel. Washington Toll Bridge Authority v. Yelle, 197 Wash. 110, construing statutes having the same effect (particularly RCW 47.56.040, then cited as Rem. Rev. Stat., § 6524-3), the court held,en banc, that the legislature had granted the authority broad discretion in determining the nature and extent of the approaches for any given toll bridge, subject to review only for abuse.

             Orig. Op. Page 3

            TheYelle case involved approaches for the first Lake Washington bridge, described in 197 Wash. at page 127:

            "The so-called approach contemplates a one‑fourth mile long twin-bore tunnel and the construction of an arterial highway for a distance something in excess of six thousand lineal feet on the west side of Lake Washington leading up to the bridge, most of it being very remote from the bridge.  The so-called approaches on the eastern side of the lake cover a distance in excess of sixteen thousand lineal feet, about three miles."

            The court decided that such approaches did not constitute an abuse of discretion in the circumstances, and pointed out, at page 117 of 197 Wash., that:

            "* * * It is not only proper, but also very necessary, to extend the arterial bridge approaches to encourage the flow of traffic to and over the bridge.  * * *"

            Thus, under RCW 47.56.280 (1953 Supp.) itself and previous statutes, the authority could and no doubt would have constructed connections between the bridge and arterials leading to the business district of Seattle to insure a traffic flow sufficient to finance the project.

            However, the legislature chose to be more specific in this case.  Section 3, chapter 192, Laws of 1953, codified as RCW 47.56.300 (1953 Supp.), provides in relevant part that:

            "The approaches referred to in section 1 of this act shall include all thoroughfares, tunnels, overpasses and underpasses necessary for the orderly and satisfactory flow of traffic between the additional Lake Washington bridge and the main business district of the city of Seattle.  * * *" (Italics added.)

             Orig. Op. Page 4

            We must assume that the legislature was aware of the powers and discretion which the authority would have regarding approaches under RCW 47.56.280 (1953 Supp.) standing alone, by virtue of the Yelle decision.  Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn. (2d) 390.  We have no doubt the legislature realized that the approaches in any event would have to afford reasonable access for traffic from the city in order to make the project financially feasible.  RCW 47.56.300 (1953 Supp.) was not necessary to insure such approaches.  Unless the language of that section as underscored above is meaningless (and we may not assume that it is;Guinness v. State, 40 Wn. (2d) 677) it prescribes something more than a connection with arterials leading into the city.  That language in fact seems clearly to require a comprehensive system of approaches from the business district of the city to the bridge.

            The west end of the proposed approach at Tenth Avenue North and Roanoke Street falls short of the business district by any test.  If a connection were to be made with the proposed toll road at that point, and the toll road treated as a part of the approach, another objection would arise.  The approaches are to be financed through tolls on the bridge, and RCW 47.56.300 (1953 Supp.) plainly contemplates that one may travel across the lake to the business district along the approaches by paying the bridge toll.  We are advised, however, that an approach via the toll road would involve payment of toll charges thereon in addition to the bridge toll.  We believe that such an arrangement would be contrary to the legislative purpose.

            We conclude that an approach to intersect the proposed toll road at Tenth Avenue North and Roanoke would not satisfy the terms of RCW (1953 Supp.) 47.56.300.

            2. The second inquiry is whether such an approach (or an alternate of equivalent extent upon another location) could be constructed as an initial component of the project, with the understanding that after payment therefor tolls would be continued to finance the extension or new construction of approaches to the main business district.

            RCW (1953 Supp.) 47.56.300 provides in relevant part that:

             Orig. Op. Page 5

            "* * * the collection of tolls shall not be discontinued on the additional bridge until all such approaches have been constructed and paid for."

            This requirement is similar to that fixed for all toll projects by RCW (1953 Supp.) 47.56.245, although more specific.  It does not compel completion of the entire project within a given period of time but simply provides that the approaches must be finished before the removal of tolls.  While the statutory approaches must ultimately be constructed if the project is undertaken, we find nothing in the law which would prevent advancement of the work by stages if practicable.  From the traffic and engineering studies it appears that no other course is financially possible.

            The closest analogy to be found in the decisions is State ex rel. Washington Toll Bridge Authority v. Yelle, 5 Wn. (2d) 539, in which the court held that the authority had implied power to float a refunding bond issue.  At page 545 of 5 Wn. (2d) the court said:

            "While there is no express power conferred by chapter 173, supra, to issue refunding bonds or bonds to refinance the cost of construction of toll bridges, it is apparent to us, from a reading of this entire act, and especially § 6524-17, supra, hereinbefore referred to, that the legislature intended to vest in the authority a wide discretion in matters pertaining to the construction, operation, maintenance and financing of toll bridges.  * * *"

            The court relied particularly upon RCW 47.56.060 (then cited as Rem. Rev. Stat., § 6524-17) which provides that

            "The authority and all state officials may perform such acts and make such agreements consistent with law, necessary or desirable in connection with the duties and powers conferred upon them regarding the construction, maintenance, operation, and insurance of toll bridges or the safeguarding of the funds and revenues required for such construction and the payment of the indebtedness incurred therefor.  * * *"

             Orig. Op. Page 6

            Likewise in the present situation there is no express authority for stage construction but we believe that it can reasonably be implied from the broad powers granted in chapter 47.56 RCW, and in particular from RCW 47.56.060 as quoted above.  It would involve subsequent financing, perhaps through a refunding issue; and hence does not differ greatly, if at all, in effect, from the power implied by the court.  The fact that the legislative intent and the extensive benefits resulting from the project can be achieved only by this means lends weight to that view.

            We conclude that your second inquiry must be answered in the affirmative.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

A. J. HUTTON, JR.
Assistant Attorney General

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