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AGO 1956 No. 308 - August 02, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

THE CONSTRUCTION OF A TOLL BRIDGE PARALLEL TO THE EXISTING LAKE WASHINGTON FLOATING BRIDGE BY THE TOLL BRIDGE AUTHORITY

In the absence of specific legislative authority, the Toll Bridge Authority cannot construct a toll bridge parallel to the existing Lake Washington Bridge to be paid for by the imposition of tolls on both facilities, or by designating the existing bridge one‑way and imposing tolls only on the new bridge.

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                                                                  August 2, 1956

Honorable Andy Hess
Honorable Ed Munro
State Representatives
Thirty-first District
1414 S. W. 158th
Seattle, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 308

Dear Sirs:

            Your request of July 30 set forth the following questions pertaining to the constructing of the Second Lake Washington Bridge:

            (1) Is it correct that the DeLeuw, Cather and Co. recommendations if put in operation, would constitute technically reimposition of tolls on the present Lake Washington Bridge?

            (2) Is it not necessary before the DeLeuw, Cather and Co. toll program could be put in operation to have specific authorization from the Legislature?

            (3) Would it not be beyond the authority of the Toll Bridge Authority for them to adopt the DeLeuw, Cather and Co. program without prior Legislative approval?

            Question No. 1 and No. 2 are answered in the affirmative.  The answer to question No. 3 is set forth in the analysis.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1, chapter 192, Laws of 1953, RCW 47.56.280, authorized the construction of a Second Lake Washington Bridge and provides as follows:

            "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.  The authority shall hold public hearings to assist in the determination of the feasibility and location of such an additional bridge and in conjunction therewith shall consider the preservation of the aesthetic and recreational values of Lake Washington."

            Section 2 appropriates $200,000.00 from the Motor Vehicle Fund to carry into effect the provisions of the act with the sum to be repaid from bonds to be issued to pay for the bridge.

            Section 3 sets forth certain requirements with respect to the approaches and the flow of traffic to the main business district of the City of Seattle, and requires the collection of tolls until all of the approaches have been constructed and paid for.

            As you know, in conjunction with the requirement of public hearings, there has been a considerable difference of opinion concerning the location of the referenced bridge.  The difference of opinion caused the Toll Bridge Authority and Second Lake Washington Bridge Citizens' Committee to agree to secure the services of an independent engineering firm in order to resolve the differences of opinion and in order to consider a report from an unbiased source.  DeLeuw, Cather and Co. was selected.  At a televised meeting on July 17, 1956, the findings of DeLeuw, Cather and Co. were made public.  Before the publication of these findings, discussion had been restricted to a crossing of the lake from Union Bay to Evergreen Point or from Sand Point to Kirkland.  The DeLeuw, Cather and Co. report discussed the Union Bay and Sand Point crossings.  However, it recommended the construction of a Lake Washington bridge parallel to the existing Lake Washington Floating Bridge at a cost of $29,000.000.00.

            With respect to question No. 1, if the recommendations made by DeLeuw, Cather and Co. are followed by the Toll Bridge Authority and the Toll  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Bridge Authority constructs the bridge, then it would be constructed as a toll bridge.  The construction would be adjacent to the existing bridge and, in order to be a feasible toll project, tolls would either be imposed on both bridges or traffic on each bridge would be restricted to one‑way movements with tolls imposed on one bridge only.  Imposition of tolls on one bridge only would affect all traffic in one direction and would indirectly affect the majority of traffic in both directions since the report indicates that a large volume of traffic consists of round trip commuters.  It is therefore apparent that the recommendations of DeLeuw, Cather and Co. would technically constitute reimposition of tolls on the present Lake Washington bridge.

            With respect to question No. 2, our conclusion is that a parallel toll bridge cannot be constructed without specific legislative authorization.  It is our opinion that not only can there be no reimposition of tolls on the existing Lake Washington bridge unless such tolls are authorized by the legislature, but we further believe that the designation of the existing bridge as a one‑way facility and the construction of a parallel bridge adjacent thereto for reverse traffic, placing tolls only on the new bridge, would constitute a circumvention of legislative requirements.  Section 1, chapter 192, Laws of 1953, supra, unquestionably grants to the Toll Bridge Authority the right to construct a Second Lake Washington Bridge as a toll facility.  However, authority to construct as a single project the new bridge together with the imposition of tolls on the existing bridge is noticeably lacking.  Section 1, chapter 208, Laws of 1955, chapter 47.58 RCW, pertains to the improvement of an existing bridge and the construction of a new bridge as a single project.  Section 1 provides in part as follows:

            "Whenever the legislature shall specifically authorize, as a single project, the construction of an additional toll bridge, including approaches, and the reconstruction of an existing adjacent bridge, including approaches,and the imposition of tolls on both bridges. . . The authority shall have the right to impose tolls for traffic over the existing bridge as well as the additional bridge for the purpose of paying the cost of operation and maintenance of said bridge or bridges . . ."  (Emphasis supplied).

            It is apparent that the legislature reserved the right to specify those situations wherein authorization will be granted for the reimposition of tolls on the existing bridge in conjunction with the construction of a new facility.  We are aware of no legislative act  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] specifically authorizing a reimposition of tolls in this instance.

            Furthermore, in accordance with RCW 47.16.020 and 47.56.270, the Highway Commission is required to operate and maintain the existing Lake Washington bridge as an integral part of Primary State Highway No. 2.  It is apparent that the responsibility for operating and maintaining Primary State Highway No. 2 includes traffic traveling in either direction.  It is also apparent that the designation of the existing bridge as a one‑way facility by the Highway Commission in the absence of providing a comparable free facility for the reversed traffic lanes would constitute noncompliance with the legislative mandate.

            With respect to question No. 3, if the term "adopt" as used therein means to concur in the report, the Toll Bridge Authority may concur in the findings if they so desire.  However, as previously indicated, the Authority is precluded from constructing in accordance therewith without specific legislative authorization.

Very truly yours,


DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


PAUL SINNITT
Assistant Attorney General

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