HOUSE BILL NO. 544
AS AMENDED BY SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 1
AN ACT CONCERNING 3 DELAWARE LAWS, CHAPTER 78 AND THE CHESAPEAKE AND DELAWARE CANAL, AUTHORIZING THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO TRANSFER THE OLD ST. GEORGES BRIDGE TO AN APPROPRIATE PRIVATE ENTITY FOR ITS REHABILITATION AND OPERATION, UNDER TERMS AND CONDITIONS ACCEPTABLE TO THE STATE.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:
Section 1. Legislative Findings and Determination.
(a) The General Assembly finds that:
(1) The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal cuts the State of Delaware and the Delmarva Peninsula into two parts, eliminating overland access to the major metropolitan areas of the East Coast.
(0) In recognition of the effect of the canal on the State's economy, the Act of Incorporation of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company, enacted into law at 3 Delaware Laws, Chapter 78, provided in Section 16 of said Act that "Whenever said canal shall cross any public road, it shall be the duty of said company, at the proper expense of the same, to make, and keep good and sufficient bridges across the said canal, so as to prevent any inconvenience, in the usage of said road or roads by reason of said canal crossing the same, and that it shall be lawful for the Legislature of this State, at all times hereafter, to enact laws for the erection and maintenance of bridges across the said canal, at the expense of the said company, and to subject the said company to forfeitures, pains and penalties for not complying with such laws."
(1) By an Act dated March 26, 1909, appearing at 25 Delaware Laws, Chapter 165, the General Assembly approved in advance the acquisition of the property, rights of property, franchises, and appurtenances of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company by the United State of America. This approval did not in any way eliminate the obligation contained within Section 16 of the corporate franchise to build and maintain sufficient bridges over the Canal.
(0) The River and Harbors Act of 2 March 1919, Public Law No. 323, authorized the acquisition by condemnation by the United States of the Company's Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and "all the property, rights of property, franchises, and appurtenances used or acquired in connection therewith...". By such acquisition the United States assumed the Company's obligations, including the obligation to make and keep good, sufficient bridges over the canal. In connection with the acquisition, Congress expressly provided that "all land traffic, both highway and rail, to and from the Delmarva (sic) Peninsula" crossing the canal "could not be broken". The condemnation was carried out in 1919, and the United State of America has since owned, operated, maintained, and improved the Canal and the highway bridges crossing it.
(1) In keeping with the obligations it assumed, the Federal Government built new bridges over the canal at Reedy Point, Summit, and St. Georges, including the addition of new lanes for highway traffic at Summit and St. Georges. The accepted understanding by the United State of its obligations is illustrated by a written statement of July 6, 1939, by then-Secretary of War, Harry H. Woodring: "The United States is obligated to maintain reasonably adequate highway crossings over the canal." Accordingly, when new lanes of highway crossings are needed, the United State is obligated to provide them.
(6) United States Route 13 crosses the canal at St. Georges. As of 1989, the existing bridge for Route 13 at St. Georges was the most important bridge over the canal in Delaware, carrying 60% or more of the north-south traffic from the Delmarva Peninsula to major eastern cities.
(7) As reflected, in Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill No. 321, passed by the General Assembly as 67 Laws of Delaware, Chapter 172, the State determined that a relief route was necessary to carry the increased traffic that overburdened U.S. Route 13. This relief route, as planned by the State and approved by the Federal Highway Administration, included a new crossing (SRI) over the canal in the vicinity of the existing crossing at St. Georges, Delaware, which was opened in 1995. The Federal Government permitted the State to build the new crossing on the Federal Government's behalf, and at this point has reimbursed the State for nearly all its costs of constructing the SR 1 bridge at St. Georges. The new bridge is now the responsibility of the Corps of Engineers, in keeping with the requirements of 3 Delaware Laws Chapter 78 and the funding legislation relating to its construction.
(8) With the opening of the new SRI Bridge at St. Georges, there is sufficient capacity at Summit, Reedy Point, and St. Georges for the federal government to meet its obligation and to provide good and sufficient crossings over the canal, without the use of the old St. Georges Bridge. However, the Delaware Department of Transportation estimates that rising annual average daily traffic (AADT) figures within fifteen years from now will lead to failing levels of service on the new crossing over the Canal and in the South St. Georges area, unless the old bridge remains open.
(9) The old St. Georges Bridge is currently scheduled for closure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nonetheless, given the relative imminence of need for additional crossing capacity over the Canal in the St. Georges area, especially in light of the time and other constraints which make new bridge construction difficult to deliver in a timely manner, it is more appropriate and cost-effective for the federal government to take steps to support the rehabilitation of the old St. Georges Bridge for operation by the federal government or a responsible private entity. This rehabilitation may involve the use of large-scale composite technology may involve the use of large-scale composite technology, thus taking advantage of the unique skills and resources of this State for this purpose.
(0) (a) It is appropriate for the State to assist the Federal government if necessary by acting as an intermediary to permit the transfer of the old St. Georges Bridge to such entity, under terms and conditions which permit the subsequent re- transfer of the old St. Georges Bridge to the Federal government at such time as the bridge is needed for the Federal government to meet its obligations to provide good and sufficient crossings over the Canal.
(b) The General Assembly hereby determines that pursuant to the obligations the United States assumed by its acquisition of the property of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company that the United States paid for the replacement SRI crossing. The General Assembly further determines that the United States should have the option to transfer the old St. Georges Bridge to a private entity for its rehabilitation and operation, with the State acting solely as an intermediary to facilitate such transfer, subject to the State's determination of the technical and financial feasibility of large-scale composite technology for this bridge, and that State may also act as a similar intermediary if necessary to facilitate the subsequent retransfer of this bridge to the United States, when the rehabilitated bridge is necessary for the United States to meet its obligations to make and keep good and sufficient crossings over the Canal.
Section 2. Terms and Conditions.
Pursuant to its legally binding obligation contained in 3 Delaware Laws, Chapter 78, Section 16, the government of the United States is hereby permitted to transfer the old St. Georges Bridge to an appropriate private entity, either directly or through the use of the State as an intermediary for this purpose, under the following terms and conditions.
(a) Such transfer shall only occur upon the State's determination of the financial and technical feasibility of large-scale composite technology for the rehabilitation of this bridge.
(b) If the State is needed to act as an intermediary to facilitate the transfer of this bridge to such private entity, it may do so under terms and conditions acceptable to the State, but in any event, the State shall not assume responsibility for this bridge for any period of time longer than needed to accomplish such transfer. In no event shall the State assume any ownership responsibility for or be considered as an owner of this Bridge.
The State shall not enter into any agreement with the Federal Government which precludes the Federal government from reassuming ownership of this Bridge, if and when the State determines that this Bridge is necessary for the Federal Government to meet its obligation to make and keep good and sufficient bridges over the Canal. Until such time as the State makes this determination, the Federal responsibility to maintain this Bridge, pursuant to 3 Delaware Laws Chapter 78 is hereby suspended."
Section 3. Effective Date.
This Act shall become effective upon approval by the General Assembly and execution by the Governor; however, Section 2 of the Act shall not remain in effect if the Government of the United States and the State of Delaware enter into an agreement relating to the old St. Georges Bridge under terms and conditions acceptable to both governments, which terms and conditions may differ from those provided under Section 2, except that in no instance shall the State accept responsibility for any crossing over the Canal except as provided in Section 2 for transfer facilitation purposes.
Approved July 17, 1998