Federal Stimulation of Land Transportation.

The settle- ment of the interior of the country led Congress to seek to facilitate access by first encouraging the construction of highways. In successive acts, it authorized construction of the Cumberland and the National Road from the Potomac across the Alleghenies to the Ohio, reserving certain public lands and revenues from land sales for construction of public roads to new states granted statehood.744 Acquisition and settlement of California stimulated interest in railway lines to the west, but it was not until the Civil War that Congress voted aid in the construction of a line from the Missouri River to the Pacific; four years later, it chartered the Union Pacific Company.745

The litigation growing out of these and subsequent activities settled several propositions. First, Congress may provide highways and railways for interstate transportation;746 second, it may charter private corporations for that purpose; third, it may vest such corporations with the power of eminent domain in the states; and fourth, it may exempt their franchises from state taxation.747

Footnotes

744
Cf. Indiana v. United States, 148 U.S. 148 (1893). [Back to text]
745
12 Stat. 489 (1862); 13 Stat. 356 (1864); 14 Stat. 79 (1866). [Back to text]
746
The result then as well as now might have followed from Congress’s power of spending, independently of the Commerce Clause, as well as from its war and postal powers, which were also invoked by the Court in this connection. [Back to text]
747
Thomson v. Pacific R.R., 76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 579 (1870); California v. Pacific R.R. Co. (Pacific Ry. Cases), 127 U.S. 1 (1888); Cherokee Nation v. Southern Kansas Ry., 135 U.S. 641 (1890); Luxton v. North River Bridge Co., 153 U.S. 525 (1894). [Back to text]