National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Boston and Maine Corporation Interstate Commerce Commission v. Boston and Maine Corporation, Nos. 90-1419

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtKENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST
Citation118 L.Ed.2d 52,503 U.S. 407,112 S.Ct. 1394
PartiesNATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, et al., Petitioners, v. BOSTON AND MAINE CORPORATION, et al. INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION and United States, Petitioners v. BOSTON AND MAINE CORPORATION, et al
Docket Number90-1769,Nos. 90-1419
Decision Date25 March 1992

503 U.S. 407
112 S.Ct. 1394
118 L.Ed.2d 52
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, et al., Petitioners,

v.

BOSTON AND MAINE CORPORATION, et al. INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION and United States, Petitioners v. BOSTON AND MAINE CORPORATION, et al.

Nos. 90-1419, 90-1769.
Argued Jan. 13, 1992.
Decided March 25, 1992.
Syllabus

The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 (RPSA) created petitioner National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), a private corporation, to provide intercity and commuter rail passenger service. The Act permits Amtrak to enter into "trackage rights" agreements to use tracks owned and used by freight railroads, 45 U.S.C. § 562(a); and allows Amtrak to ask petitioner Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to condemn railroad property "required for intercity rail passenger service" if Amtrak and the railroad cannot agree upon sale terms, § 562(d). For purposes of the ICC's condemnation order, Amtrak's "need for the property" "shall be deemed to be established" unless the conveyance will significantly impair the railroad's ability to carry out its obligations as a common carrier and unless Amtrak's obligations can adequately be met by the acquisition of alternative property. Ibid. Amtrak had a trackage rights agreement with respondent Boston and Maine Corporation (B & M) to operate its "Montrealer" train between Washington, D.C., and Montreal. Amtrak claims it was forced to discontinue this service because of B & M's poor maintenance of its track segment. Subsequently, Amtrak entered into an agreement with petitioner Central Vermont Railroad (CV) which provided that, among other things, Amtrak would acquire the B & M track and reconvey it to CV, and CV would grant trackage rights to Amtrak and usage rights to B & M. When B & M did not accept Amtrak's purchase offer for the track, Amtrak sought and received an ICC order compelling conveyance for just compensation. The ICC found, among other things, that § 562(d) created a statutory presumption of Amtrak's need for the track, which B & M failed to rebut. The Court of Appeals remanded the case for further proceedings, concluding that, because Amtrak did not intend to retain the track, it needed only its use, not its ownership. While petitions for rehearing were pending, § 562(d) was amended to allow Amtrak to subsequently convey title to acquired property to a third party if the ICC finds the reconveyance furthers the RPSA's purposes. Nonetheless, the court

Page 408

denied rehearing, holding that the condemnation was not valid because the property was not "required for intercity rail passenger service."

Held:

1. The ICC's decision was based on a reasonable interpretation and application of § 562(d). Pp. 417-424.

(a) The ICC's interpretation of the word "required" is due deference as a reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous term in a statute that the ICC administers. See, e.g., Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 81 L.Ed.2d 694. The existence of alternative dictionary definitions for "required" indicates that the statute is open to interpretation. The ICC's interpretation gives effect to § 562(d)'s presumption of need. In contrast, the Court of Appeals' view—that "required" establishes a separate condition that Amtrak's condemnation authority is limited to property that is indispensable to its operations—is in clear tension with the presumption. In addition, § 562(d)'s amendment confirms the ICC's definition, while the Court of Appeals' strict rule would make the amendment superfluous by barring condemnation whenever Amtrak's purpose is to reconvey property. Pp. 417-420.

(b) The ICC was not required to make specific findings regarding Amtrak's actual need for the condemnation because its oversight responsibility is limited to ensuring that condemned property will be used in Amtrak's rail operations. The statute's structure and its presumption of need create a strong inference that it authorizes Amtrak to make a reasonable business judgment that condemnation is advisable, unless the statutory presumption is rebutted. P. 420-421.[[SC2Q!]] (c) B & M's several arguments against the ICC's interpretation are rejected. The eminent domain power has been given to the ICC, not a private entity, and thus is not limited as suggested by cases such as United States v. Carmack, 329 U.S. 230, 243, n. 13, 67 S.Ct. 252, 258, n. 13, 91 L.Ed. 209. Furthermore, this case turns on the need for deference to the agency, not to Amtrak. The ICC's interpretation of § 562(d) also did not violate the "public use" requirement of the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause, since the agency's determination that the condemnation will serve a public purpose by facilitating Amtrak's rail service was not irrational. See, e.g., Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229, 240-241, 104 S.Ct. 2321, 2329-2330, 81 L.Ed.2d 186. Moreover, the agency did not err in concluding that the statutory prerequisite that the parties were "unable to agree upon terms for the sale" mandated nothing more than a factual determination that they would be unable to reach agreement through further negotiations. Nor did it make inadequate factual findings in concluding that B & M had not rebutted the presumption of need. The ICC was not unreasonable in consid-

Page 409

ering the effect of trackage rights and the just compensation award in assessing whether the conveyance would significantly impair B & M's ability to carry out its obligations, or in interpreting the availability-of-alternative-property provision as referring only to whether Amtrak could provide service using an alternative route, not whether a lesser interest in property would suffice to meet Amtrak's needs. Pp. 421-424.

2. The parties' challenges to the ICC's just compensation finding as well as certain other issues should be resolved on remand. P. 424.

286 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 911 F.2d 743 (1990), reversed and remanded.

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and STEVENS, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and SOUTER, JJ., joined.

WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN and THOMAS, JJ., joined.

John G. Roberts, Jr., Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Irwin Goldbloom, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Justice KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) issued an order, upon the request of petitioner National

Page 410

Railroad Passenger Corporation, requiring conveyance of 48.8 miles of railroad track from respondent Boston and Maine Corporation (B & M) to the Corporation. In these consolidated cases we must decide whether the ICC's decision was based on a reasonable interpretation and application of § 402(d) of the Rail Passenger Service Act, 45 U.S.C. § 562(d), the statute the Corporation invoked in the proceeding. We hold the ICC's decision is authorized by the statute, and so reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which set aside the agency's action.

I

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, or Amtrak, is a private, for-profit corporation created by Congress in the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 (RPSA), Pub.L. 91-518, 84 Stat. 1328, 45 U.S.C. § 501 et seq. The purpose of Amtrak is to provide modern and efficient intercity and commuter rail passenger service. §§ 501, 541. Amtrak is not an agency or instrumentality of the United States Government, § 541, but it has been supported over the years by congressional appropriations. Most of Amtrak's passenger trains run over existing track systems owned and used by freight railroads. In the RPSA Congress authorized Amtrak to enter into "trackage rights" agreements which would allow Amtrak to use those tracks. When Amtrak and a freight railroad are unable to agree on the terms of such an agreement, Amtrak may request the ICC to order the track to be provided on reasonable terms. § 562(a).

In 1973 Congress amended the RPSA to add subsection (d) of § 402, 45 U.S.C. § 562(d). Section 562(d) provides in pertinent part:

"(1) If the Corporation [Amtrak] and a railroad are unable to agree upon terms for the sale to the Corporation of property (including interests in property) owned by the railroad and required for intercity rail passenger

Page 411

service, the Corporation may apply to the Commission [ICC] for an order establishing the need of the Corporation for the property at issue and requiring the conveyance thereof from the railroad to the Corporation on reasonable terms and conditions, including just compensation. Unless the Commission finds that—

"(A) conveyance of the property to the Corporation would significantly impair the ability of the railroad to carry out its obligations as a common carrier; and

"(B) the obligations of the Corporation to provide modern, efficient, and economical rail passenger service can adequately be met by the acquisition of alternative property (including interests in property) which is available for sale on reasonable terms to the Corporation, or available to the Corporation by the exercise of its authority under section 545(d) of this title,

"the need of the Corporation for the property shall be deemed to be established and the Commission shall order the conveyance of the property to the Corporation on such reasonable terms and conditions as it may prescribe, including just compensation."

Amtrak may condemn nonrail property under a somewhat similar provision, § 545(d), a statute not at issue here.

The Amtrak train the "Montrealer" began offering passenger service between Washington, D.C. and Montreal in 1972. In parts of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire the train used the tracks of the Connecticut River Line (Conn River Line), portions of which are owned by B & M and other portions by the Central Vermont Railroad (CV). B & M and CV have operated freight trains on the Conn River Line under reciprocal trackage...

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254 practice notes
  • Ass'n of Am. Railroads v. Dep't of Transp., Civil Action No. 11–1499 (JEB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 31, 2012
    ...Decl. of Thomas Dupree, Exh. H (AAR Comment on Proposed Metrics and Standards) at 2; Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407, 410, 112 S.Ct. 1394, 118 L.Ed.2d 52 (1992) (“Most of Amtrak's passenger trains run over existing track systems owned and used by freight rai......
  • Guido v. Booker, No. 98-3266-RDR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • February 18, 1999
    ...the plain language of the statute." Sisneros v. Booker, 981 F.Supp. at 1376, citing National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407, 417, 112 S.Ct. 1394, 1401, 118 L.Ed.2d 52 Page 1300 DISCUSSION ENTITLEMENT TO EARLY RELEASE Petitioner at least implies in his pro se peti......
  • Smith v. Brown, No. 93-7043
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • August 12, 1994
    ...to the original stage of veterans' benefits proceedings. See National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., --- U.S. ----, ----, 112 S.Ct. 1394, 1401, 118 L.Ed.2d 52 (1992) (clues can be derived from structure as well as language); see, e.g., United States National Bank, --- U.S. at......
  • Iowa Utilities Bd. v. F.C.C., Nos. 96-3321
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • October 14, 1997
    ...if the FCC's interpretation of this ambiguous provision is a reasonable one. National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407, 417, 112 S.Ct. Page 801 1394, 1401, 118 L.Ed.2d 52 (1992). Our analysis leads us to conclude that the FCC's rule conflicts with the Act's design ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
254 cases
  • Ass'n of Am. Railroads v. Dep't of Transp., Civil Action No. 11–1499 (JEB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 31, 2012
    ...Decl. of Thomas Dupree, Exh. H (AAR Comment on Proposed Metrics and Standards) at 2; Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407, 410, 112 S.Ct. 1394, 118 L.Ed.2d 52 (1992) (“Most of Amtrak's passenger trains run over existing track systems owned and used by freight rai......
  • Guido v. Booker, No. 98-3266-RDR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • February 18, 1999
    ...the plain language of the statute." Sisneros v. Booker, 981 F.Supp. at 1376, citing National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407, 417, 112 S.Ct. 1394, 1401, 118 L.Ed.2d 52 Page 1300 DISCUSSION ENTITLEMENT TO EARLY RELEASE Petitioner at least implies in his pro se peti......
  • Smith v. Brown, No. 93-7043
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • August 12, 1994
    ...to the original stage of veterans' benefits proceedings. See National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., --- U.S. ----, ----, 112 S.Ct. 1394, 1401, 118 L.Ed.2d 52 (1992) (clues can be derived from structure as well as language); see, e.g., United States National Bank, --- U.S. at......
  • Iowa Utilities Bd. v. F.C.C., Nos. 96-3321
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • October 14, 1997
    ...if the FCC's interpretation of this ambiguous provision is a reasonable one. National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407, 417, 112 S.Ct. Page 801 1394, 1401, 118 L.Ed.2d 52 (1992). Our analysis leads us to conclude that the FCC's rule conflicts with the Act's design ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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