The primary question presented on appeal in this declaratory judgment and injunction action is whether the District of Columbia officials responsible for the planning and construction of highway projects in the District have been authorized by Congress to disregard the requirements of Title 7 of the D.C.Code, particularly §§ 7-108 to 7-115, in the planning and construction of four links of the proposed District of Columbia freeway system. We find that they have not and reverse the District Court judgment denying injunctive relief. In view of this disposition it is unnecessary to reach other issues raised on this appeal.
The plans for these freeway projects were initially developed by the District of Columbia Department of Highways and Traffic. The plans were then submitted to the National Capital Planning Commission, which eventually approved each of the challenged projects.
Title 7 of the District of Columbia Code is entitled "Highways, Streets, Bridges" and the relevant portions of it provide as follows: Section 7-201 authorizes the Commissioners of the District of Columbia "to open, extend, or widen any street, avenue, road, or highway to conform with the plan of the permanent system of highways * * * adopted under sections 7-108 to 7-115."
The basic planning procedure highlighted above was enacted as part of the Act of March 2, 1893,
The District appellees concede that they have not complied with the procedural requirements of Title 7 but contend that these requirements are not applicable to the challenged freeway projects. To support this contention the appellees rely principally on the argument that Congress has authorized the construction of these freeway projects in disregard of the provisions of Title 7 by regularly appropriating funds to the District for highway construction with full realization that some of these funds would be used for the development of freeways. This argument is without merit.
None of the recent appropriation acts have mentioned by name the challenged projects nor have they contained any provisions relating generally to the District Commissioners' power to plan and build highways.
Furthermore, it cannot be said that the appropriation acts ratified the administrative action contrary to Title 7. Obviously, Congress cannot intend to ratify illegal action of which it is unaware. Therefore, where the ratification by appropriation argument has been accepted, courts have been careful to demonstrate factors attesting to Congress' specific knowledge of the disputed administrative action. See Brooks v. Dewar, 313 U.S. 354, 360-361, 61 S.Ct. 979, 85 L.Ed. 1399 (1941); Isbrandtsen-Moller Co. v. United States, 300 U.S. 139, 147-148, 57 S.Ct. 407, 81 L.Ed. 562 (1937); Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Summerfield, 97 U.S.App. D.C. 203, 208, 229 F.2d 777, 782 (1956).
In this case there is no evidence to suggest that the appropriations committee or Congress as a whole were aware of the intention of District officials to plan and construct the freeway projects in disregard of basic Title 7 procedures.
Similarly, Congress may support a District of Columbia freeway program without intending to ratify actions in violation of parts of Title 7 of the District of Columbia Code. Obviously Congress, in appropriating funds, has a right to assume they will be expended according to law.
We also note that because appropriation acts generally apply to a limited period of time courts have been reluctant to hold that appropriation acts affect any substantive legislation whatsoever. See United States v. Vulte, 233 U.S. 509, 514-515, 34 S.Ct. 664, 58 L.Ed. 1071 (1914); Cella v. United States, 208 F.2d 783, 790 (7th Cir. 1953); NLRB v. Thompson Products, 141 F.2d 794, 798-799 (9th Cir. 1944). This is especially true when the language of the appropriation act is general and contrary to specific statutes dealing with the precise area in dispute. See Maiatico v. United States, 112 U.S. App.D.C. 295, 300-301, 302 F.2d 880, 885-886 (1962). In sum, ratification by appropriation is not favored and will not be accepted where prior knowledge of the specific disputed action cannot be demonstrated clearly.
The District appellees also contend that the Federal-Aid Highway acts provided authority for proceeding with the challenged freeway projects without regard for Title 7 because the acts permit the District to participate for federal aid. This contention also is without merit. The primary purpose of the Federal-Aid Highway acts is to stimulate and accelerate the construction of the federal-aid highway systems by offering federal aid to state and local bodies who construct these approved highways. See 23 U.S.C. § 101(b) (Supp. II 1965-66).
State and federal courts considering the applicability of state laws to federal-aid highways have agreed that state laws regulating the planning and building of highways were not set aside by the Federal-Aid Highway acts. See Eden Memorial Park Association v. United States, 300 F.2d 432, 438-439 (9th Cir. 1962); Futch v. Greer, 353 S.W.2d 896, 899-900 (Tex.Civ.App.1962), cert. denied, 372 U.S. 913, 83 S.Ct. 728, 9 L.Ed.2d 721 (1963); cf. Hinrichs v. Iowa State Highway Commission, 152 N.W.2d 248, 253-255 (Iowa 1967). And contrary to the allegations of District appellees, the Federal-Aid Highway legislation is not inconsistent with § 7-108 of the D.C.Code limiting highway width to 160 feet or § 7-201 directing the District Government to assess land owners abutting newly constructed highways for additional benefits.
Finally, District appellees argue that the Act of 1893 was not intended to regulate "wide Interstate Expressways." To the contrary, we believe that the procedures set out therein are even more important for regulating the "wide Interstate Expressways," for these projects generally affect more people and larger areas of the District than any other type of street and, therefore, are potentially more destructive of aesthetic values and fundamental property rights.
From the very beginning the aesthetic and functional advantages of planning have been afforded the Nation's Capital. The original federal city was conceived as a planned city and developed according to the L'Enfant Plan.
It should also be recognized that the procedures outlined in Title 7 are designed to protect property rights by insuring that the highway plans are evolved democratically rather than arbitrarily.
In sum, we believe that the only power the District government has to build roads is that granted by the provisions of Title 7, and we believe that this power extends to all types of highways built within the District. Nothing we have said is in derogation of this vast power, and nothing we have said pertains to the merits of the challenged projects. Rather, we are reversing the District Court decision because, without authorization from Congress, the District appellees have disregarded the relevant statutes in planning and constructing the four freeway projects in suit here.
Reversed and remanded.
The court's attention has been called to the motion of the District of Columbia appellees for clarification and/or modification. Nothing we have said in the opinion this day entered is intended to prevent the District of Columbia from completing settlement on those contracts of purchase, already made, where the owners, after being advised of this court's action in this case, indicate a willingness to do so, provided that so doing will not violate Title 7 of the D.C. Code.
We are also advised by Corporation Counsel that the Taylor Street Bridge "serves local traffic needs and must be rebuilt regardless of whether the North Central Freeway is constructed." Nothing we have said in our opinion dated today is intended to prevent the construction of the Taylor Street Bridge unless that construction will violate Title 7 of the D.C.Code.
Nothing we have said in our opinion this day entered shall be construed as either prohibiting or authorizing the District of Columbia appellees to complete settlement on those contracts of purchase, already made, where the homeowners, after being advised of this Court's action, indicate a willingness to do so.
In this same report the minority stated that it objected to providing the District with additional revenue for freeway construction because District highway planners were abusing their authority to the ruination of "the Nation's Capital * * * as a place to inhabit and enjoy." Hearings, supra, at 111. The minority further stated that "[t]he only discretionary authority given the Commissioners to lay out new highways in the District of Columbia is that contained in the act of 1893 * * * authorizing a plan for the permanent system of highways in the District of Columbia." Hearings, supra, at 112.
It should be noted that this case only raises the question of whether hearings must be held as required by § 7-115 of the D.C.Code and does not present the more difficult question of whether particular hearings fulfilled statutory and due process standards. Cf. Nashville I-40 Steering Committee v. Ellington, 387 F.2d 179 (6th Cir. 1967), cert. denied, 390 U.S. 921, 88 S.Ct. 857, 19 L.Ed.2d 982 (1968); Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. F.P.C., 354 F.2d 608 (2d Cir. 1965), cert. denied, 384 U.S. 941, 86 S.Ct. 1462, 16 L.Ed.2d 540 (1966); Road Review League v. Boyd, 270 F.Supp. 650 (S.D.N.Y.1967).