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AGO 1953 No. 139 - September 30, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

HIGHWAYS ‑- ABANDONMENT ‑-COUNTIES‑-  RESPONSIBILITY OF COUNTIES FOR HIGHWAY ABANDONED BY THE STATE.

The bridge across the Columbia River between Kennewick and Pasco lies outside the corporate limits of both cities and can therefore be abandoned by the state under chapter 57, Laws of 1953, and the responsibility for the care and maintenance of the bridge falls upon the counties of Benton and Franklin even though neither county has a road connecting to the bridge.

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                                                              September 30, 1953

Honorable Maloy Sensney
Prosecuting Attorney
Benton County
Fisk Building
Prosser, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 139

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your letter of September 18, 1953, requesting a redetermination of AGO 53-55 No. 131 issued September 10, 1953 [[to Cliff Yelle, State Auditor]].  In that opinion, we advised that it was mandatory for a county to accept the responsibility for the care and maintenance of a bridge which had been abandoned by the state under chapter 57, Laws of 1953.  We are now advised that in the case of the bridge between Kennewick and Pasco, the counties have no roads adjoining said bridge.  The commissioners of the two counties now suggest that responsibility for the care and maintenance of this bridge should fall upon the two cities.

            Our conclusion is that the counties of Benton and Franklin must jointly accept the responsibility for care and maintenance of the bridge.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The theory of AGO 53-55 No. 131 was that a bridge is a public highway, consequently it may be abandoned by the state and turned back to a county under the provisions of chapter 57, Laws of 1953.  That chapter does not apply to public highways situated within the limits of incorporated cities and towns.  Therefore, if the bridge is within either, or both, of the cities, it may not be abandoned by the state under the provisions of this chapter.

            The bridge is located across the Columbia River between Kennewick and Pasco.  We have studied the location of the various boundaries as they appear in the records of the Secretary of State.  We find that the boundary line between the counties of Benton and Franklin is the mid-channel line of the Columbia River.

            This is also the boundary between the cities of Kennewick and Pasco, except for the territory over which the bridge is built.  In 1921, when the bridge was being planned, each city reduced its corporate limits so as to exclude from both cities that territory upon and over which the bridge is now located.  Consequently, the bridge falls outside the limits of both the incorporated cities and is subject to the provisions of chapter 57, Laws of 1953.  The bridge lies approximately one‑half in each county.  The counties could, if they wish, provide for its care and maintenance in the same ratio as the portion of the bridge which lies within the limits of each, bears to the whole of the bridge.  Or they might, if they choose, mark the precise line to which each will be exclusively responsible for care and maintenance.

            The counties make the point that no county road connects with the bridge.  We are unable to find in the statute any limitation or requirement that the public highway which is being abandoned be in any way connected to an existing county road.  The rule is that the bridge itself is a public highway.  Sinceany public highway can be abandoned under this chapter, it is entirely immaterial that it be very short in length or isolated between the limits of two cities.

            In our opinion, so long as the bridge which is abandoned lies outside the limits of a city or town, it is immaterial that the county which is being required to assume its maintenance has no existing county road connected therewith.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General

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