The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McCUSKEY
THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
The County of Stark (Stark County) appeals from a judgment in favor of the County of Henry (Henry County). The trial court entered judgment after a jury found that Henry County was not required to pay for a portion of the costs of rebuilding a bridge located in Stark County. On appeal, Stark County argues that Henry County should have been required to pay pursuant to section 5--503 of the Illinois Highway Code (605 ILCS 5/5--503 (West 1994)) because the bridge was located on a county line highway.
We hold that Stark County was required to prove that the road in question was located within 80 rods of the county line in both Stark County and Henry County in order to prove that the bridge was located on a county line highway pursuant to section 5--503. Following our careful review of the record, we conclude that Stark County failed to prove that the road located in Henry County was within 80 rods of the county line. Accordingly, we affirm.
The bridge at issue is known as the Harold Dustin Bridge. It is located in Stark County on a road which begins at Route 78 in Stark County, crosses the county line into Henry County, traverses the southeast corner of Henry County until it re-enters Stark County before it ends at Route 91. Based upon the record and the way this case has been presented for review, we conclude that it is not necessary to discuss that portion of the road which leaves Henry County and then returns back into Stark County before it ultimately ends at Route 91.
In 1990, the Harold Dustin Bridge was placed on a priority list of bridges in need of repair in Stark County. On July 9, 1990, George Meister, highway engineer for both Stark County and Marshall County, entered into an agreement with Hanson Engineering to prepare plans for rebuilding the Harold Dustin Bridge. Hanson completed the engineering plans in 1992 or 1993. Money for the bridge was included in Stark County's appropriation budget for 1994. The County was planning on using township bridge program money from the State to pay for the construction expense. At that time, Meister did not believe that the Harold Dustin Bridge was located on a county line highway. As a result, Meister did not expect Henry County to contribute to the cost of rebuilding the bridge.
In April 1994, Meister was contacted by Woodford County regarding a different bridge project. Meister was informed by Woodford County that Marshall County was required to contribute a portion of the cost for a bridge project in Woodford County. Marshall County agreed to contribute to the Woodford County project. Meister believed that the situation in the case at hand was similar to the Woodford County bridge project. Consequently, Meister concluded that Henry County should contribute to the rebuilding of the Harold Dustin Bridge.
On June 30, 1994, Meister called Steven Brandau, Henry County's highway engineer. Meister said that he thought the Harold Dustin Bridge was located on a county line highway and that Henry County should contribute to the cost of rebuilding the bridge. Brandau responded by telling Meister that he did not think the bridge was located on a county line highway and therefore no reimbursement would be forthcoming from Henry County. However, Meister and Brandau did agree to seek an on the matter from the office of the Illinois Attorney General. Thereafter, the State's Attorneys of both counties requested an from the Attorney General.
On July 28, 1994, Stark County opened the bids for the rebuilding of the Harold Dustin Bridge. The contractor was selected, and a contract was subsequently signed. Construction on the bridge began near the end of August 1994.
On April 11, 1995, Meister sent a formal written notice to Brandau and the chairman of the Henry County Board requesting that Henry County contribute to the cost of rebuilding the Harold Dustin Bridge. The Henry County Board denied the request. The bridge was completed in June 1995 at a total cost of $191,857.52.
On January 31, 1996, the Illinois Attorney General issued a formal opinion regarding the bridge project. 1996 Ill. Att'y Gen. Op. ___, No. 96-007. The Attorney General stated that he had been asked regarding the applicability of section 5--503 of the Illinois Highway Code (605 ILCS 5/5--503 (West 1994)) to the construction of the Harold Dustin Bridge. Section 5--503 states the circumstances under which adjoining counties must share the cost of constructing and repairing bridges.
The Attorney General stated that, in his opinion, section 5--503 "applies only to bridges or related structures on roads that are on county lines or on highways which can properly be denominated 'county line highways' and which deviate not more than 80 [rods] from the established county line." In the Attorney General's opinion, a road was considered a "county line highway" pursuant to section 5--503 when the road was lying on or closely paralleling a county line. The Attorney General stated that the statute referred "to bridges on highways which deviate not more than 80 rods from a county line, not to bridges on highways some parts of which lie within 80 rods of a county line." The Attorney General concluded that, based on the facts submitted by Henry County, the road in question would probably not be considered a county line highway under section 5--503.
On September 12, 1996, Stark County filed its complaint against Henry County seeking 81.8% of the cost of the bridge which totaled $191,857.52. A jury trial was held on June 11, 1997. Meister testified at trial that there was no portion of the road in question which was more than 80 rods from the Stark County line. A survey was admitted into evidence which showed that the entire portion of the road in Stark County extending from Route 78 to the Henry County line was located within 80 rods of the county line. Moreover, the survey showed that the Harold Dustin Bridge was located on this portion of the Stark County road.
During cross-examination, Meister clarified that he was only testifying about the portion of the road located in Stark County. Meister noted that, based upon Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) record-keeping, the road ended and was given a different name when it crossed into Henry County. No survey was introduced into evidence for that portion of the road located in Henry County. When cross-examined about a large Henry County exhibit described as a "layout map," Meister ...