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CSX TRANSPORTATION v. PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION (05/02/89)

decided: May 2, 1989.

CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., PETITIONER
v.
PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in the case of City of New Castle v. Department of Highways (now Transportation) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Shenango Valley Transportation, Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway Company, The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, The Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company, Erie Railroad Company, City of New Castle Water Company, Pennsylvania Power Company, The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, and Manufacturers Light and Heat Company, (Mahoning Avenue Viaduct -- L.R. 77), No. C-16920, adopted April 7, 1988.

COUNSEL

David P. Helwig, with him, Gary F. Sharlock, Sharlock, Repcheck & Mahler, and R. Lyle Key, Jr., for petitioner.

Linda C. Smith, Assistant Counsel, with her, John B. Wilson, Deputy Chief Counsel, and Daniel P. Delaney, Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Christel L. Ertel-Kahlbaugh, Assistant Counsel, with her, Stephen F. J. Martin, Assistant Counsel, and John L. Heaton, Chief Counsel, for intervenor, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Craig, Doyle, Barry, Colins, McGinley and Smith. Opinion by Judge Colins.

Author: Colins

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 530]

CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSXT) petitions for review of an order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) which, inter alia, overruled CSXT's exceptions and imposed upon it the responsibility of maintaining Abutment "M" and the superstructure of Span "A" of a bridge commonly known as the Mahoning Avenue Viaduct. This bridge carries Mahoning Avenue, a state highway, over and above the Shenango River, the tracks of The Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company and Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), and the right-of-way owned by CSXT.

The Mahoning Avenue Viaduct became part of the state highway system in January, 1960. At that time, pursuant to a complaint filed by the City of New Castle, the Commission ordered that the concerned parties perform tasks to rehabilitate the bridge, which was in need of repair.*fn1 In its order of May 9, 1960, the Commission assigned maintenance responsibilities for the bridge to the various parties. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company (B&O Railroad) was ordered to furnish all material

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 531]

    and to do all work necessary to maintain Abutment "M" and the superstructure of Span "A" of the bridge, at its sole cost and expense. CSXT is the successor-in-interest to the B&O Railroad, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company and the Pittsburgh & Western Railroad Company (P&W).

The results of an inspection conducted on the bridge in 1983 revealed that it was once again in need of repair. The Commission issued an Emergency Order on September 8, 1983, requiring that the bridge be posted for a maximum load limit of ten tons. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Department) submitted preliminary plans for the reconstruction of the bridge to the Commission on July 19, 1984. A field investigation was conducted which revealed the need for extensive repairs to bring the bridge up to the maximum legal load limit. On September 14, 1984, the Department petitioned to reopen the record in Docket No. C-16920 in order to facilitate rehabilitation of the bridge. The Commission granted the Department's petition, approved the construction plans and ordered the Department to complete the work at its initial expense.

On May 20, 1987, a hearing was held for the purpose of determining the allocation of construction costs and the assignment of future maintenance responsibilities between the parties. At this hearing, CSXT offered testimony which indicated that neither C&O nor any of its affiliated companies had tracks under the Mahoning Avenue Viaduct at the time of the hearing. Further testimony indicated that P&W had previously owned tracks under this bridge and that these tracks were operated by B&O Railroad. The railroad line formerly operated on these tracks was known as the New Castle Branch. CSXT presented exhibits which indicated that in its decision and order dated September 4, 1980, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) found that public convenience

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 532]

    and necessity permitted the abandonment of the New Castle Branch by P&W and service thereon by B&O. The ICC thereafter authorized this abandonment by certificate and decision dated November 26, 1980. An engineer employed by CSXT testified that physical removal of the tracks upon which the New Castle Branch had operated was completed in September of 1983.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert P. Meehan filed his Recommended Decision on February 16, 1988, therein imposing upon CSXT the responsibility of maintaining Abutment "M" and the superstructure of Span "A" of the bridge. CSXT filed timely Exceptions to the ALJ's Recommended Decision.*fn2 CSXT also filed an application for a certificate of public convenience to abandon the crossing*fn3 with the Commission on March 30, 1988.*fn4 The Commission adopted the ALJ's recommendation regarding CSXT's future maintenance responsibilities and overruled CSXT's exceptions in its opinion and order entered June 1, 1988. CSXT filed a timely petition for review of that order with this Court.

CSXT presents three issues on appeal: (1) whether the Commission lacks the authority under Section 2702 of the Public Utility Code (Code)*fn5 to allocate maintenance responsibility for the Mahoning Avenue Viaduct to CSXT; (2) whether the Commission's authority affecting the abandonment of the New Castle Branch, including that portion which formerly crossed beneath the bridge, has been preempted by Section 10903 of the Revised Interstate Commerce Act;*fn6 and (3) whether such allocation

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 533]

    was just and reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.

We shall first address the issue of preemption. In determining whether a federal statute preempts a state law we must examine the construction of the two statutes and determine whether they are in conflict with one another. Furthermore, "if Congress evidences an intent to occupy a given field, any state law falling within that particular field is preempted." Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corporation, 464 U.S. 238, 248 (1984). The intent to occupy a given field may be explicitly stated in the federal statute's language or may be implied from the statute's structure and purpose. Jones v. Rath Packing Co., 430 U.S. 519 (1977). It must be noted that as a general rule, preemption is not favored. Florida Lime and Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132 (1963). Keeping these principles in mind, we must examine the nature and purpose of both Section 10903 of the Revised Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 10903, and Section 2702 of the Code, 66 Pa. C.S. § 2702. We must then determine whether the Code interferes with the purpose underlying the federal statute and whether there can be no other conclusion drawn but that one preempts the other.

The Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, cl. 3, affords to Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. In enacting the Revised Interstate Commerce Act, Congress has empowered the ICC to authorize the abandonment of railroad lines and rail transportation. Section 10903 of the Revised Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 10903, states:

§ 10903. Authorizing abandonment and discontinuance of railroad lines and rail transportation

(a) A rail carrier providing transportation subject to the jurisdiction of ...


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