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Clark's Ferry Bridge Co. v. Public Service Comm'n, 291 U.S. 227 (1934)

Clark's Ferry Bridge Co. v.

Public Service Commission of Pennsylvania

No. 274

Argued January 18, 1934

Decided February 5, 1034

291 U.S. 227


In sustaining an order limiting the charges of a toll-bridge company, against an attack based on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, held:

1. That a claim that a valuation of the property in an earlier proceeding was treated as res judicata in the proceeding in question is not substantiated by the record. P. 291 U. S. 233.

2. The reasonable cost of constructing the bridge is good evidence of its value at time of construction. P. 291 U. S. 234.

3. The fact that, in constructing it, a contractor who obtained the contract under competitive bidding and performed it expeditiously spent more than the contract price does not prove that the value of the bridge, when constructed, was greater than that price in the presence of evidence attributing the loss to unusual water conditions, with no evidence to show that it could not have been prevented by reasonable precautions. P. 291 U. S. 234.

4. It was reasonable to conclude that cost of reconstruction at a later time would not be materially greater, the trend of construction prices having been downward during the interim. P. 291 U. S. 236.

5. A corporation owning and operating a toll-bridge under franchise from a state in a location formerly occupied by a bridge constructed by the state and forming a link in a state system of highway communication previously established is entitled to have its real estate appraised for ratemaking purposes at its fair market value for all of its available uses and purposes, including particular uses to which it may be specially adapted, but not to have that value increased by virtue of the public use. Minnesota Rate Case, 230 U. S. 352, 230 U. S. 451. P. 291 U. S. 237.

6. Opinion evidence that the cost of building the bridge at other locations would be greater because of variation in the width of the river and conditions in its bed did not warrant an increase of fair market value. P. 291 U. S. 238.

7. While it is recognized that accrued depreciation, as it may be observed and estimated at a given time, and an appropriate

Page 291 U. S. 228

allowance of depreciation according to good accounting practice need not be the same, there is no rule which requires an allowance to be made or continued which, in the light of experience, is shown to be extravagant. Smith v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co., 282 U. S. 133, 282 U. S. 158. P. 291 U. S. 239.

8. The amount that shall be allowed for annual depreciation in fixing the charges of a public utility is a question of fact. In reviewing the findings of a state court, this Court is not required to prescribe an invariable method of computation, and cannot overrule the state court's determination unless the results are seen to be unconstitutional. P. 291 U. S. 240.

9. In the present case, involving a single structure which deteriorates continuously from the moment of completion, annual allowances during the life of the structure which, with reasonable interest, will provide a sum for its replacement are not shown to be inadequate. P. 291 U. S. 238.

10. A rate of return of 7% of the fair value of the property is not shown to be confiscatory. P. 291 U. S. 241.

11. Where an order fixes an adequate gross revenue for a toll-bridge and tentative rates that may be modified at any time on application to the ratemaking body to conform to the results of experience, the uncertainty whether, with the rates as initially prescribed, the future traffic will bring in the prescribed revenue is not a ground for constitutional objection. P. 291 U. S. 241.

108 Pa.Super.Ct. 49 affirmed.

Appeal from a judgment affirming (with a modification) an order of the Public Service Commission prescribing the tolls to be charged by the appellant bridge company. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had declined to review the case.

Page 291 U. S. 231

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