Request to Cancel Pedestrian Bridge Crossing Over Tracks

In County of Bucks v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 684 A.2d 678 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996), Amtrak filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) requesting the abolition of a pedestrian bridge crossing over Amtrak's tracks within the county. The bridge had been constructed pursuant to a 1917 order of the Pennsylvania Public Service Commission (PSC), in which the PSC ordered that an at-grade highway crossing at the site be abolished but required that, before abolishing the highway crossing, Pennsylvania Railroad, Amtrak's predecessor, construct and maintain an above-ground pedestrian bridge at the same location. The PUC asserted jurisdiction over the pedestrian bridge and, because Amtrak was exempt under federal law from paying the costs of closing that crossing, the PUC directed the county to bear seventy-five percent of the cost of closing the pedestrian bridge, periodically inspecting it and maintaining it; the remaining twenty-five percent of those costs were allocated to the township. The county sought judicial review of this PUC order in County of Bucks, contending that the PUC did not have jurisdiction under section 2702 of the Code to close, or allocate the costs of closing, a pedestrian-only bridge. Based on the plain language of that Code section, this court agreed. In doing so, the Court rejected the PUC's contention that it should have jurisdiction because its predecessor, the PSC, ordered the bridge to be built. The Court concluded that once the at-grade highway crossing was abolished, as ordered by the PSC, the PUC had no power to order the closing or maintenance of the pedestrian bridge that was built in its place; that is, the PUC could not re-assert jurisdiction over a pedestrian crossing based on any purported jurisdiction of the PSC over that crossing.