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Public Service Coordinated Transport v. Delaware River Port Authority

Decided: April 14, 1971.

PUBLIC SERVICE COORDINATED TRANSPORT, A CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DELAWARE RIVER PORT AUTHORITY, A BODY CORPORATE AND POLITIC CREATED BY COMPACT BETWEEN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Goldmann, Leonard and Fritz. The opinion of the court was delivered by Fritz, J.A.D.

Fritz

This is an action by plaintiff Public Service Coordinated Transport to recover from defendant Delaware River Port Authority a portion of certain bridge tolls paid under protest. Plaintiff paid these tolls from a date when defendant raised the tolls until a reduction in the tolls some months later following an administrative hearing regarding the reasonableness of the toll structure. Plaintiff seeks to recoup the difference between the amount of the tolls paid and the later adjustment.

The essential facts are not in dispute. Defendant is a bistate body corporate and politic created by compact between

the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, consented to by the Congress of the United States. That compact authorized defendant to own and operate the Walt Whitman and Benjamin Franklin Bridges which cross the Delaware River between Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Defendant's toll rates have at all times been and remain subject to the provisions of section 503 of the General Bridge Act of 1946 as amended (33 U.S.C. ยง 526), which reads as follows:

Amount of tolls

If tolls shall be charged for the transit over any interstate bridge of engines, cars, street cars, wagons, carriages, vehicles, animals, foot passengers, or other passengers, such tolls shall be reasonable and just, and the Secretary of Transportation may, at any time, and from time to time, prescribe the reasonable rates of toll for such transit over such bridge, and the rates so prescribed shall be the legal rates and shall be the rates demanded and received for such transit.

Plaintiff is a motor carrier of passengers for hire and operates, among other services, interstate service between points in New Jersey and points in other states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its buses annually make numerous crossings over the Delaware River on defendant's bridges.

Defendant charges tolls for vehicular crossings of the aforementioned bridges. During the latter part of January 1968 defendant announced its intention of increasing its various toll rates effective February 1, 1968. The purpose of such increase was to provide financing for the construction of two new bridges, a high-speed transportation facility between Lindenwold, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, and certain other facilities and improvements. Included among other increases was the raising of the bus toll rate from 50 cents to $1 per crossing.

Subsequent to the increase in rates, complaints with respect thereto were made to the Federal Highway Administrator who, by virtue of a chain of legislation and delegation,

succeeded to the authority of the Secretary of the Army as prescribed in section 503 of ...


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