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U.S. Supreme Court

International Bridge Co. v. New York, 254 U.S. 126 (1920)

International Bridge Co. v. New York

No. 46

Argued December 16, 1919

Restored to docket for reargument January 26, 1920

Reargued October 11, 12, 1920

Decided November 22, 1920

254 U.S. 126


1. In an action to recover penalties from a bridge company for failure to build foot and carriage ways upon its railway bridge as required by an act amending its charter, it is premature to inquire whether a distinct and independent provision, reducing the tolls chargeable for vehicles and pedestrians below the limits fixed in the charter, impairs the obligation of the charter contract, since the invalidity of the toll reductions would not affect the requirement to build the additions. P. 254 U. S. 130.

2. Under acts of New York and Canada consolidating a New York with a like Canadian corporation, the new company constructed a bridge over the Niagara River for railroad uses only. The original charters provided for constructing foot and carriage ways also, that of New York in permissive, but that of Canada in mandatory language, and the acts of consolidation bound the new company to all the duties of each of its constituents. Held: that the new company had no charter contract immunity from being required to add the foot and carriage ways in New York under power reserved by the state to amend the charter, and that such requirement was not inconsistent with the contract clause of the Constitution, nor, in the absence of anything to show that the additions would not yield a reasonable return, could it be held to violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Id.

3. The Act of June 30, 1870, c. 176, 16 Stat. 173, in recognizing as a lawful structure any bridge constructed across the Niagara River in pursuance of New York Laws, 1857, c. 753, and amendments (Laws 1869, c. 550), subject to the supervision of the Secretary of War and his approval of the plans, recognized that the existence of the bridge company and its right to build on New York land came from New York, and the facts that the bridge when built, as a railroad bridge chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 254 U. S. 127

only, was devoted wholly to international commerce and that Congress by the Act of June 23, 1874, c. 475, 18 Stat. 275, declared it a lawful structure and an established post route for mail of the United States, did not supplant the authority of the state to require the company to equip the bridge with way for foot passengers and vehicles, as contemplated by its charter. P. 254 U. S. 131.

4. The Act of 1874, supra, by declaring the bridge lawful as built, did not repeal the authority given by the Act of 1870, supra, to build subject to the approval of the Secretary of War, and the fact that this bridge was twice rebuilt without foot and carriage ways with the Secretary's consent, but under plan approved by him and providing for such additions in future, supports, rather than negatives, the view that the power of the state to require them was contemplated throughout, and that Congress did not seek to divest it. Id.

5. The mere fact that a bridge is international, crossing an international stream, does not, of itself, divest the state of power over its part of the structure, in the silence of Congress. P. 254 U. S. 133.

6. The Act of March 3, 1899, 9, C. 425, 30 Stat. 1151, in requiring the assent of Congress to the erection of bridges over navigable waters not wholly within a state, does not make Congress the source of the right to build, but assumes that the right comes from the state. Id.

7. The conveyance of a part of the land under the bridge to the United States for a public purpose not connected with the administration of the government did not affect the authority of New York over the residue within the state, and, taken in connection with the acts of the government before and after the grant, does not invalidate, even in part, the New York act requiring the additional construction. P. 254 U. S. 134.

223 N.Y. 137 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 254 U. S. 128

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