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BARTRON v. DELAWARE RIVER JOINT TOLL BRIDGE COMMN.

March 22, 1954

BARTRON et al.
v.
DELAWARE RIVER JOINT TOLL BRIDGE COMMISSION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FORMAN

In the amended complaint and amendment thereof filed herein the plaintiffs, Arthur D. and Katherine Bartron and Nicholas or Nick Ronca of the County of Northampton, Pennsylvania, allege, among other things, that they reside in the vicinage of the bridge which crosses the Delaware River between the Village of Delaware in Warren County, New Jersey and the Township of Upper Mt. Bethel, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, (designated hereinafter as the Bridge) and that they and thousands of citizens residing in their vicinage use the said Bridge to carry on their normal duties 'necessary for daily pursuits'.

The complaint further charges that the plaintiffs and many others have purchased property and created businesses in the immediate vicinity of the Bridge on the basis that it would continue to function as a free bridge; that as a result of the closing and demolition of the Bridge the businesses and occupations of plaintiffs and others in the vicinage would be substantially injured and their properties depreciated in violation of their constitutional rights not to be deprived of their property without due process of law, not to be discriminated against and not to be denied the equal protection of the laws.

 It is further charged that the defendant has no power or authority to close or demolish the Bridge but that it is its legal duty to maintain it at its present location.

 The plaintiffs prayed for a temporary and permanent injunction to restrain defendant from closing or demolishing the Bridge.

 An order was issued based upon the complaint and supporting affidavits directing the defendant to show cause why the application of plaintiffs for the relief for which they prayed should not be granted.

 On the return day thereof the defendant appeared and responded to the application of the plaintiffs. It was agreed by the parties that since the issues were not factual but legal questions, and it being stipulated that the defendant would file an answer to the amended complaint as amended, the case was heard as if on final hearing.

 Argument was made by counsel for the respective parties and briefs were filed.

 In 1912 and 1913 the legislatures of the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania respectively passed laws *fn1" in which a joint commission was created for the purpose of acquiring toll bridges over the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania located north of the Stone Arch Bridge at Trenton. Provision was made for the payment of purchase prices and condemnation judgments of such bridges up to $ 500,000 to be contributed by each state to be spent at a rate not greater than $ 100,000 of each state's contribution in each year. In each of said statutes, it was further provided that immediately upon the acquisition of the toll bridges by the commission the toll charges thereon should cease and the bridges should be free to the traveling public under such laws of the respective States and rules and regulations of the joint commission as may be prescribed.

 Subsequent acts of the legislatures of Pennsylvania and New Jersey implement the administration of the objectives of the commission.

 In 1927 and 1928 the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Legislatures in supplemental enactments, *fn2" designated it as the 'Joint Commission' and gave it additional powers over and above those originally granted to 'provide for the construction and maintenance of free bridges across the Delaware river * * *.' N.J.S.A. 32:11-1.

 On December 18 and 19, 1934 respectively, the Governors of each state executed the Agreement proposed by the enactments of their Legislatures.

 On August 30, 1935, the Congress of the United States passed an act reciting, and giving consent to, the terms of the said Agreement. *fn5"

 The reasons for the Agreement between the states is evidenced in the introductory clauses of their respective enactments authorizing the execution of the Agreement of 1934. The language of each is identical except as it names the other State and the description of its legislation, so we may consider the New Jersey enactment as representative of both States in the following expression:

 'Whereas, The commission on behalf of the state of New Jersey, existing by virtue of the provisions of the act approved the first day of April, one thousand nine hundred and twelve (chapter two hundred and ninety-seven), and its supplements and amendments thereto, and the commission on behalf of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, existing by virtue of the act approved the eighth day of May, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen (pamphlet laws one hundred forty-eight), and its supplements and amendments thereto, acting as a point commission, have acquired various toll bridges over the Delaware river between the state of New Jersey and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and

 'Whereas, Additional bridge facilities between the two states will be required in the future for the accommodation of the public and the development of both states; and

 'Whereas, Such additional bridge facilities should be developed without the expenditure of large sums from the public revenues; and

 'Whereas, It is highly desirable that there be a single agency for both states empowered to further the transportation interests of these states with respect to that part of the Delaware river north of the stone arch bridge of the Pennsylvania Railroad from Trenton to Morrisville; now, therefore, * * *.' N.J. Laws of 1934, c. 215, pp. 498-499. N.J.S.A. 32:8-1.

 Thereafter on June 13, 1947 the legislatures of the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania enacted statutes *fn6" respectively authorizing the Governors of both States to enter into a Supplemental Agreement to the Agreement of 1934.

 On August 4, 1947, the terms of the said Supplemental Agreement were recited and consent was given thereto in a statute enacted by the Congress of the United States. *fn7"

 Again the preamble of the legislation authorizing the execution of the Supplemental Agreement discloses its purposes in the following language, as contained in the New Jersey statute, substantially identical with that used by the Pennsylvania Act:

 "1. That the Governor is hereby authorized to enter into a supplemental compact or agreement, on behalf of the State of New Jersey, with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, amending the Agreement entitled 'Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey Creating the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission as a Body Corporate and Politic and Defining Its Powers and Duties,' which was executed on behalf of the State of New Jersey by its Governor on the eighteenth day of December, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-four, and on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by its Governor on the nineteenth day of December, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-four, such supplemental compact or agreement to be in substantially the following form;

 "'Supplemental agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey amending the agreement entitled 'Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey Creating the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission as a Body Corporate and Politic and Defining Its Powers and Duties,' by extending the jurisdiction, powers and duties of the commission and defining such additional jurisdiction, powers and duties.'

 "Whereas, The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (hereinafter referred to as the 'commission') was created by a compact or agreement entitled 'Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey creating the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission as a body corporate and politic and defining its powers and duties,' executed on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by its Governor on the nineteenth day of December, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-four * * * and under the provisions of which compact or agreement the commission was authorized to administer, maintain and operate certain bridges over the Delaware river and now maintains and operates the same as joint State-owned free bridges; and

 "Whereas, Because of the great increase in traffic and loads over said bridges since their construction, many of said bridges are now inadequate or unsafe, and it will be necessary to rehabilitate or replace some or all of said bridges with new bridges at the same or different locations in order to provide safe, adequate and convenient facilities for traffic crossing the Delaware river; and

 "Whereas, It is necessary that the commission have power to issue and sell its bridge revenue bonds for rehabilitating or replacing existing bridges with new bridges at the same or different locations, for acquiring or constructing additional bridges, and for refunding any bridge revenue bonds of the commission, and that the commission also have power to fix, charge and collect tolls, rates, rents and other charges for the use of any such new bridge or bridges; now, therefore; * * *." N.J. Laws of 1947, c. 283, pp. 990-992, N.J.S.A. 32:8-10 note.

 Provisions for further supplements to the Agreement of 1934 were enacted by the Legislature of New Jersey in 1951 and 1952. *fn8" Also in 1952 the New Jersey Legislature passed an Act *fn9" authorizing the disposition of certain property by the Commission subject to the approval of the State Highway Commissioner and providing for the proceeds thereof to be paid into the Treasury of the State of New Jersey. Finally on December 21, 1953 a concurrent resolution *fn10" passed the Senate and Assembly of the New Jersey Legislature requesting the Attorney General of New Jersey to sue in the Superior Court of that State to enjoin the Commission from closing or demolishing the bridge under suit here.

 Since the passage of the initial legislation in 1912 and 1913 the original joint commission and its legislative successors acquired and operated 16 bridges freed of tolls and have constructed and operate five toll bridges. ...


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