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U.S. Supreme Court

Seaboard Air Line Ry. Co. v. Railroad Comm'n, 240 U.S. 324 (1916)

Seaboard Air Line Railway Company v.

Railroad Commission of Georgia

No. 170

Argued January 13, 14, 1916

Decided February 21, 1916

240 U.S. 324




It is within the power of a state, acting through an administrative hoard, to require railroad companies to make physical track connections where public necessity exists therefor.

In determining whether such public necessity exists, just regard should be given, on the one side, to probably resulting advantages, and, on the other side, to the necessary expenses to be incurred.

A finding of public necessity for a physical track connection cannot be supported by the mere declaration of the commission; there must be sufficient evidence to support it.

In this case, held that the finding of the Railroad Commission of Georgia that public necessity existed for a physical connection of tracks of two railroads at a point in the state was, as held by both courts below, supported by the evidence, and the order of the Commission chanrobles.com-red

Page 240 U. S. 325

made pursuant to power conferred by § 264, Georgia Code, was fully justified.

213 F. 27 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the validity of an order requiring switch connections made by the Railroad Commission of Georgia, are stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 240 U. S. 326

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

After hearing the interested parties, the Railroad Commission of Georgia concluded that making and maintaining physical connection at Lawrenceville, Georgia (a manufacturing town with two thousand inhabitants) between Lawrenceville Branch Railroad and Seaboard Air Line Railway would be practicable and to the public interest, and accordingly passed an order that, within four months, the roads should provide and maintain one, together with sufficient interchange tracks to care for traffic moving between them. No definite point for the connection was prescribed; opinion was expressed that expenses should be borne equally by the two companies, and they were directed to report their action within thirty days. chanrobles.com-red

Page 240 U. S. 327

Appellant brought this proceeding in the United States District Court Northern District of Georgia, alleging the order was null and void and asking that its enforcement be enjoined. That court heard additional evidence and, upon the whole record, concluded the challenged order was not unreasonable and the Commission was fully justified in making it. 206 F.1d 1. Injunction was accordingly denied and suit dismissed, and this action was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals. 213 F. 27.

Section 2664, Georgia Code 1910, gives the Railroad Commission

"power and authority, when in its judgment practicable and to the interest of the public, to order and compel the making and operation of physical connection between lines of railroad crossing or intersecting each other, on entering the same incorporated town or city in this state."

Wadley Southern Ry. v. Georgia, 235 U. S. 651.

It is within the power of a state, acting through an administrative body, to require railroad companies to make track connections where the established facts show public necessity therefor, just regard being given to advantages which will probably result on one side and necessary expenses to be incurred on the other. The facts being established, the question then presented is whether, as matter of law, there is sufficient evidence to support a finding of public necessity -- the mere declaration of a Commission is not conclusive. Wisconsin &c. R. Co. v. Jacobson, 179 U. S. 287, 179 U. S. 295-296; Oregon R. & Nav. Co. v. Fairchild, 224 U. S. 510; Great Northern Ry. v. Minnesota, 238 U. S. 340, 238 U. S. 345.

The state commission and both courts were of opinion that the facts sufficed to show public necessity for the connection in question, and that it could be constructed and maintained without unreasonable expenditure. The only substantial question before us is whether such finding chanrobles.com-red

Page 240 U. S. 328

is plainly erroneous because the evidence is insufficient to support it, and, having examined the record, we are unable to say the facts disclosed do not give the essential support. The judgment of the court below is accordingly



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