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CREATING GREAT LAKES BRIDGE COMMISSION AND AUTHORIZING BRIDGE ACROSS THE ST. CLAIR RIVER, PORT HURON MICH.
JUNE 17, 1930.-Ordered to be printed
Mr. VANDENBERG, from the Committee on Commerce, submitted the
[To accompany S. 4722)
The Committee on Commerce, to whom was referred the bill (S. 4722) creating the Great Lakes Bridge Commission and authorizing said commission and its successors to construct, maintain, and operate a bridge across the St. Clair River, at or near Port Huron, Mich., having considered the same, report favorably thereon and recommend that the bill do pass without amendment.
The bil has the approval of the Departments of War, Agriculture, and State, as will appear by the annexed communications, which are made a part of this report.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, June 3, 1930. Hon. JAMES S. PARKER, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce,
House of Representatives. Sir: The department has received your letter of May 28, 1930, in which you request a report and comment on H. R. 12643, a bill to authorize the construction of a bridge across the St. Clair River at or near Port Huron, Mich.
It appears that the purpose of H. R. 12643 is similar to the purpose of H. R. 11970, which was the subject of the department's letter to you of May 13, 1930. The two bills differ chiefly in the name of the commission which they would authorize to construct the bridge.
The proposed legislation is unobjectionable in so far as the foreign relations of the United States are concerned. Very truly yours,
WILBUR J. CARR,
Acting Secretary of State.
WAR DEPARTMENT, June 5, 1930. Respectfully returned to the chairman Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives.
So far as the interests committed to this department are concerned, I know of no objection to the favorable consideration of the accompanying bill (H. R. 12643, 71st Cong., 2d sess.), creating the Port Huron-Sarnia international bridge commission and authorizing said commission and its successors to construct a bridge across the St. Clair River at or near Port Huron, Mich.
F. TRUBEE Davison,
Acting Secretary of War.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
Washington, D. C., May 28, 1930. Hon. JAMES S. PARKER, Chairman Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce,
House of Representatives. DEAR MR. PARKER: Careful consideration has been given to the bill (H. R. 11970) transmitted with your letter of April 29 with request for a report thereon and such views relative thereto as the department might desire to communicate.
This bill would create the Great Lakes Federal Bridge Commission, a body corporate, to consist of five members to be appointed by the chief of the Bureau of Public Roads, with authority to construct, maintain, and operate a bridge and approaches thereto across the St. Clair River between a point at or near the city of Port Huron, St. Clair County, Mich., and a point at or near the city of Sarnia. Province of Ontario, Dominion of Canada. Said commission and its successors also would be authorized to purchase, maintain, and operate all or any ferries across the St. Clair River within 5 miles of the location selected for said bridge. There would be conferred upon the commission and its successors the right and power to acquire by purchase or condemnation all real estate and other property which may be needed or the location, construction, and operation of the bridge, such property to be acquired in accordance with the laws of the State of Michigan or the Province of Ontario, Dominion of Canada, and upon just compensation therefor being made.
The commission would be authorized to charge tolls for transit over the bridge and also over such ferry or ferries as may be acquired. The commission would be authorized to provide for the cost of the bridge and its approaches and of such ferry or ferries as it might acquire, together with all necessary real estate and other property, by an issue of bonds to bear interest at not more than 6 per cent per annum and maturing not more than 30 years from their date, such bonds to be payable solely from the sinking fund provided for by the bill from the proceeds of the tolls collected in excess of what may be required for the maintenance, repair, and operation costs. The commission may repurchase or may reserve the right to redeem any or all of said bonds before maturity at not to exceed $105 and accrued interest. The bonds shall be sold in such manner and at such price not less than a 6 per cent interest basis as computed from standard tables of bond values as the commission may determine, and in such amount, at the price of their sale as will yield sufficient funds to meet the estimated cost of the bridge and its approaches and the ferry or ferries, and land necessary to be acquired in connection therewith. The bill would provide that the cost of the bridge and ferries shall be deemed to include, among other things, the cost of acquiring existing franchises, rights, plans, and works relating to the bridge now owned by any person, firm, or corporation, and the cost of purchasing all or any part of the shares of the stock of any such corporate owner if such purchases should be deemed expedient. The rates of toll shall be so adjusted as to provide sufficient revenue to pay the reasonable cost of maintaining, repairing, and operating the bridge and its approaches, and create a sinking fund to pay the interest and principal of such bonds as the same shall be come due. The revenues derived from the tolls shall be applied to no other purpose. After the bonds are all retired or a sinking fund sufficient for that purpose shall have been created, the commission shall deliver deeds or other sutiable instruments of transfer of the interest of the commission in and to the bridge to the State of Michigan and to the Province of Ontario, Canada, or to such agencies thereof as may be authorized by law to accept the same. The members of the commission created for the purpose of the bill shall not be entitled to any compensation for their services. The terms of the commissioners, after those first appointed,
shall be five years. The commission shall elect a chairman and vice chairman from its members and three members to constitute a quorum. It may employ a secretary, treasurer, attorneys, and such other assistants and employees as it may deem necessary.
As to the ferries which the commission would be authorized to acquire, it is noted (sec. 6) that it shall not be required to maintain or operate any such ferry or ferries or to charge and collect tolls for the use of the same, but may in its discretion sell, abandon, or dismantle any ferry or ferries so acquired. If any such ferry is operated, tolls shall be charged and the proceeds of the tolls, as well as the proceeds of any sale or disposition of any such ferry or ferries, shall be used to pay the cost of maintaining, repairing, and operating the same, and any residue shall be paid into the sinking fund to be used for the retirement of bonds.
The department has some information with reference to the situation which this bill is designed to meet. It is proposed to set up a public commission which shall have broad authority to acquire any franchises now existing and bridge plans which have been prepared, and to build a bridge at or near the location proposed. The commission would also have authority to take over any ferry now operating.
Since it appears that very careful study has been made of all the conditions, the department indorses the general provisions of this measure as a means of securing a bridge which shall be operated on behalf of the public and, after sufficient revenues have been collected from the tolls to retire the outstanding obligations, the bridge is to become a free bridge and be turned over to the public authorities. The department questions, since a commission is to be appointed, lodging authority to make such appointments in the hands of the Chief of the Bureau of Public Roads. While not averse to the performance of any public service which might be rendered by the Chief of the Bureau of Public Roads or any other of the personnel of this department, it would appear to be better policy to name in the bill itself members of a commission to be intrusted with carrying out its provisions and to provide for their successors. In view of the efforts which have been made to secure a bridge under previous legislation at this point and the terms incorporated under which the revenues are directed toward the requirement that the bridge be operated as a free public utility the department recommends that favorable action be taken. Sincerely,
R. W. DUNLAP, Acting Secretary. Hon. Louis C. Cramton, who introduced this bill, has submitted the following information with respect to H. R. 11970, a similar bill:
WASHINGTON, D. C., May 15, 1930. Hon. JAMES S. PARKER, Chairman Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. MY DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: I have your letter of April 29, with reference to H. R. 11970, introduced by me proposing the creation of the Great Lakes Federal bridge commission for the construction of an international bridge across the St. Clair River between Port Huron, Mich., and Sarnia, Ontario. First answering your questions, I will say:
1. There is now a ferry in operation near the proposed location of the bridge upon which tolls are charged for crossing the river.
2. The people in the vicinity of the proposed bridge, including a large area in Michigan as well as a similar area in Canada, are very desirous of having a toll bridge constructed at this place, there being no possibility of securing the financing of a free bridge.
3. There is a very large and active public sentiment in favor of the construction of such a bridge.
4. The bridge is too large a proposition for the county or municipality to finance either in Canada or in Michigan. There is no authority for the State to finance the bridge at this time.
5. I do not see any possibility for the construction of a free bridge at that location for a long time to come.
Your committee has heretofore recommended and Congress has passed legislation for the erection of a private toll bridge at this point. The first act was that of April 24, 1928, authorizing the Port Huron-Sarnia-Point Edward International Bridge Co. to construct and operate such a bridge. A second act was passed March 2, 1929, authorizing Maynard D. Smith to construct and operate such a bridge, the latter act being amended June 14, 1929. Although great efforts have
been made to finance the undertaking under that legislation the promoters have not succeeded. A considerable amount of money has been expended in borings and in the preparation of plans as well as in the purchase of land for approaches and in options upon such lands, but in the depressed condition of the bond market, it has not been possible to float the necessary bond issue.
The bill now pending proposes in effect the creation of a public agency to construct this bridge in the interest of the public and as a part of the highway systems of the United States and Canada. The bill proposes the creation of the Great Lakes Federal Bridge Commission, which commission “shall have no capital stock or shares of interest or participation, and all revenues and receipts thereof shall be applied to the public purposes specified in this act. The members of the commission shall not be entitled to any compensation for their services.”
This public agency is authorized to finance, construct, and operate the bridge, applying all its earning to retirement of the bond issue. When all of these financial obligations have been retired, the commission must turn the bridge over to the public as a free bridge and the commission ceases to exist. The elimination of all profit from the construction and operation of the bridge so far as the commission is concerned permits 100 per cent of the net earnings to be applied to the retirement of the obligations. I am assured that if this bill is passed and this public agency is created, the building of the bridge can be safely financed and this greatly needed public convenience will be secured.
Let me explain further that this bridge would be a link in the northernmost transcontinental automobile tourist route in the United States. It would connect with paved highways stretching from the west across Michigan and lower Ontario either to lower Canada or to New York State and New England.
Necessary legislation is pending in the Dominion Parliament in Canada and I understand has been passed by the House of Commons in the last few days and favorable action by the upper house is anticipated.
I trust that the legislation may promptly receive favorable action by your committee. I am Yours sincerely,
Louis C. CRAMTON. O