264 U.S. 331 (1923), Railroad Commission v. Southern Pacific Company

Citation:264 U.S. 331, 44 S.Ct. 376, 68 L.Ed. 713
Party Name:Railroad Commission v. Southern Pacific Company
Case Date:April 07, 1924
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 331

264 U.S. 331 (1923)

44 S.Ct. 376, 68 L.Ed. 713

Railroad Commission


Southern Pacific Company

United States Supreme Court

April 7, 1924




1. In view of the policy and provisions of the Transportation Act, establishment of a new union station for several interstate carriers, involving the abandonment of their separate stations, extensive changes and relocations of their main tracks, and very great expense, cannot be brought about by voluntary action of the carriers or order of a state commission in the absence of a certificate of the Interstate Commerce Commission, under pars. 18-21 of § 402 of the act. P. 342.

2. The provisions of the Transportation Act, § 402, pars. 121, that no interstate carrier shall extend its line of railroad unless and until the Interstate Commerce Commission shall certify that public convenience requires it, and forbidding the Commission to authorize such extension unless it finds it reasonably required in the interest of public convenience or necessity or that the expense

Page 332

will not impair the carrier's ability to perform its duty to the public, construed as not confined to extensions with a purpose to include new territory to be served by a carrier, but as including proposed extensions of main tracks within a city to a proposed new union station, involving changes in the intramural destinations of carriers and in the handling of interstate traffic, and necessitating great expense. P. 344.

190 Cal. 214 affirmed.

Certiorari to a judgment of the Supreme Court of California annulling, upon review, an order of the state Railroad Commission which sought to require the above-named railroads to eliminate certain grade crossings and establish a new union terminal depot in the City of Los Angeles.

Page 338

TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether the State Railroad Commission of California has power to require the Southern Pacific Company, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company, and the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company to build an interstate union depot in the City of Los Angeles.

The proceedings were begun in 1916 before the Railroad Commission by complaints of civic associations and others against the railway companies. Before the hearing and the decision were had, the Transportation Act of Congress of 1920 was enacted. In December, 1921, after two hearings, an amended order against the railways was made by which they were required to remove certain grade crossings and to build a union terminal within a certain defined area in the city.

The railway companies sought review of this order in the supreme court of the state, and their three writs were heard and disposed of as one case. The supreme court of the state held that the order was beyond the power of the State Railroad Commission because the subject matter was committed to the Interstate Commerce Commission by the Transportation Act of 1920. The court further held that, if the order had effected the elimination of grade crossings alone, it would have been valid, but that, associated as it was with the establishment of the union station, it must be annulled. We have brought the case of the Commission against each of the railways here by certiorari.

Lines of the three railways approach Los Angeles from the north and come together in the city near the North Broadway viaduct, as it crosses the Los Angeles River. Thence the Salt Lake and Santa Fe lines follow the bed of the Los Angeles River, one [44 S.Ct. 377] on its east and the other on its west bank. The Salt Lake passenger station is at First

Page 339

Street. Its main line from Pasadena and Glendale comes from the north, but its line from Salt Lake comes in from the south. From north to south in Los Angeles, its line hugs the east bank of the river for three miles. The Santa Fe station is opposite that of the Salt Lake Railway on the west bank. The Santa Fe hugs the west bank for three miles in the city. One of its lines leaves Los Angeles by the north for Chicago. Another leaves the city by the south, through Riverside, for Chicago. The Southern Pacific does not follow the river bed after passing under the Broadway Viaduct, but extends in a southwesterly direction until it reaches the north end of Alameda Street. From that point, it runs south through the city at grade on that street. Its station is at Fifth Street, and lies southwesterly from the Salt Lake and Santa Fe stations and a quarter of a mile distant from them. The eastern main line of the Southern Pacific crosses the river at Alhambra Avenue, joins the San Francisco main line, and reaches the station from there by the same tracks on Alameda street. The Southern Pacific occupies Alameda Street on grade and longitudinally in both directions from its station for three miles. Its lines toward the south go to San Pedro and Santa Ana.

The order of the Railroad Commission requires the abandonment of the passenger stations of the three railways. The Southern Pacific station is a comparatively modern depot, and would be adequate for many years. Those of the other two companies are not adequate, but they have ample ground upon which to construct suitable stations. The order required the removal from Alameda Street of the main line of the Southern Pacific for three miles, permitting the use of its tracks in that street for switching during a few hours at night. The order also required that, by viaducts over the river and over the Salt Lake and Santa Fe tracks on the river banks, grade crossings should be eliminated. The order further required

Page 340

that the three railways should purchase jointly land enough in an area reaching from Alameda Street to the river and from Aliso Street to Alhambra Street to erect a suitable union station, to be situated somewhere near a square called the Plaza. The railways are directed to make such additions to, extensions of, improvements and changes in, the existing railroad facilities of said companies as may be reasonably necessary and incidental to the use of said union passenger station. This would require the removal of the present station of the Southern Pacific from Fifth Street toward the Plaza at least half a mile, and the stations of the Santa Fe and the Salt Lake from First Street on the river to the Plaza, more than a quarter of a mile. The changes to be effected under the order will require, in the abandonment of the Southern Pacific main track on Alameda Street for three miles, a joint use by the Southern Pacific of main tracks on the river bank with either the Salt Lake or the Santa Fe, or the construction of its own main tracks on one side or the other along the river bank. The main tracks of the Salt Lake must be extended across the Los Angeles River on a viaduct to the area selected for the union station. The main track of the Santa Fe runs along the river side of the selected area, but an extension of its main tracks will have to be made to bring it into the new station.

The order requires the joint use of land, tracks, and terminal facilities valued at $28,050,691, the abandonment of three existing passenger stations of the railways as such, and the ultimate capital expenditure for all recommendations of from $25,000,000 to $45,000,000.

The Railroad Commission, in the supreme court of the state, pressed the argument that, in view of its finding that the union station was an indispensable element in getting rid of the grade crossings, it had the incidental right to order its building. The court rejected the...

To continue reading