Section 4: Access to the Interstate System

According to United States Code (USC) - Title 23 Section 111, proposed new or revised access points to the Interstate system require review and approval by the FHWA. The FHWA's decision to approve a request is dependent on the proposal satisfying and documenting the two following requirements:

According to federal regulations, the application of these requirements is as follows:

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  • These requirements are applicable to new or revised access points to existing Interstate facilities regardless of the funding of the original construction or the funding for the new access points. This applicability includes routes incorporated into the Interstate system under the provisions of 23 U.S.C. 103(c)(4)(A) or other legislation.
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  • Routes approved as a future part of the Interstate system under 23 U.S.C. 103(c)(4)(B) represent a special case because they are not yet a part of the Interstate system. Any proposed new or significant changes in access beyond those covered in the agreement, regardless of funding must be approved by FHWA.
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  • Toll roads that are incorporated into the interstate system do not require FHWA coordination and approval, except for segments where federal funds have been expended or these funds will be used for roadway improvements, or where the toll road section has been added to the Interstate system under the provisions of 23 U.S.C. 103(c)(4)(A). The term “segment” is defined as the project limits described in the Federal-aid project agreement.
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  • Each break in the control of access to the Interstate system right-of-way is considered to be an access point. Each entrance or exit point, including “locked gate” access, is considered to be an access point. For example, a diamond interchange configuration has four access points.
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  • Ramps providing access to rest areas, information centers, and weigh stations within the Interstate controlled access are not considered access points for applying these requirements. These facilities must be accessible to vehicles only to and from the Interstate system. Access to or from these facilities and local roads and adjoining property is prohibited. The only allowed exception is for access to adjacent publicly owned conservation and recreation areas, if access to these areas is available only through the rest area, as allowed under 23 CFR 752.5(d).
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  • Generally, any change in the design of an existing access point is considered a change to the interchange configuration even though the number of actual points of access may not change. For example, replacing one of the direct ramps of a diamond interchange with a loop or changing a cloverleaf interchange into a fully directional interchange would be considered revised access for the purpose of applying these requirements.
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  • All requests for new or revised access points on completed Interstate highways must closely adhere to the planning and environmental review processes as required in 23 CFR 450 and 771.
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  • All requests for new or revised access points on completed Interstate highways must be closely coordinated with the planning and environmental processes. The FHWA approval constitutes a federal action, and as such, requires that the transportation planning, conformity, congestion management process, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures be followed and their requirements satisfied. The final FHWA approval of requests for new or revised access cannot precede the completion of these processes or necessary actions.
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  • An affirmative determination by FHWA of safety, operational, and engineering acceptability for proposals for new or revised access points to the Interstate System should be reevaluated whenever a significant change in conditions occurs (e.g., land use, traffic volumes, roadway configuration or design, or environmental commitments).
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  • Proposals must be reevaluated if the project has not progressed to construction within three calendar years of receiving an affirmative determination of engineering and operational acceptability (23 CFR 625.2(a); see also 23 CFR 771.129). If the project is not constructed within this time period, FHWA may evaluate whether an updated justification report based on current and projected future conditions is needed to receive either an affirmative determination of safety, operational, and engineering acceptability, or final approval if all other requirements have been satisfied (23 U.S.C. 111, 23 CFR 625.2(a), and 23 CFR 771.129).

In concurrence with FHWA, TxDOT's policy is to add the documentation of the six points (August 2009 FHWA policy) addressing the consideration of social, economic, and environmental impacts and planning considerations (required for NEPA documentation purposes) to the documentation of the May 2017 FHWA two-point policy (focus on safety, operational and engineering issues). Refer to the TxDOT Interstate Access Justification Standard Operating Procedures (IAJR SOP) for further guidance on the development of Interstate Access Justification Reports and submittal process through the Design Division. A copy of the current TxDOT IAJR policy is available on Design Division webpage.

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