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Section 4: Utility Access, Corridors, and Strips

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Access Rights

Access rights are rights of ingress or egress (entrance or exit) to the highway facility from a particular legally defined parcel of land. TxDOT acquires real property rights to parcels of land used for transportation related purposes. In some circumstances, it is in the public’s interest to control the right of ingress or egress to portions of public right of way.

In 1959, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) adopted a guide for the parallel use of freeway right of way. This guide was created to:

  • develop and maintain access control;
  • maximize highway safety and function; and
  • ensure uniformity of utility treatment among the states.

In 1988, FHWA allowed each State the right to decide whether utilities would be permitted the parallel use of freeway right of way.

On major freeways and interstate highways, TxDOT often purchases the right of access to public right of way from the adjacent property. These rights are purchased with the intent to control access to vehicular travel in a legally defined area of the right of way, and to through traffic lanes in the immediate vicinity. The main concern is for areas in which traffic entering the roadway would confuse or endanger the traveling public. These areas are located:

  • adjacent to ramps;
  • along curves;
  • where sight distances are critical; and
  • along main lane facilities without frontage roads (not allowed by the UAR); and
  • areas in outer separation and medians (not allowed by the UAR).

State regulations concerning control of access may be found in 43TAC §21.37.

In special cases of crossing access control lines, new utility installations may be permitted under controlled conditions. However, in each case the utility owner must show that:

  • the accommodation will not adversely affect the safety, design, construction, operation, maintenance or stability of the transportation facility;
  • the accommodation will not be constructed and/or serviced by direct access from the through traffic roadways or connecting ramps;
  • the accommodation will not interfere with or impair the present or future expansion of the transportation facility; and,
  • any alternative location would be contrary to the public interest. This determination would include an evaluation of the direct and indirect environmental and economic effects resulting from the disapproval of the use of this right of way.
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Utility Corridors

State laws governing land acquisition for highway uses do not include authority to purchase right of way for utility purposes. However, utilities may joint-use available areas within highway right of way acquired for the maintenance of backslopes, clear zones, and other highway features. To maximize the use of these limited areas, utilities are encouraged to use the utility corridor concept by joint trenching, common duct occupancy, and common infrastructure.

In urban and highly congested areas, the Department may determine that the most effective method of maximizing right of way use is to construct a utility corridor, such as a box culvert, for utility joint use.

Communication and cooperation are essential to achieve the desired results for the utility corridor concept. It is recommended that a Memorandum of Understanding be executed by all parties before constructing the corridor. ROW Division should be consulted for additional information and implementation of utility corridors.

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Utility Strips

Utility accommodation on controlled access highways must take into consideration areas where access to the right of way has been denied. Without a special exception, utilities may not be placed or allowed to remain in these areas. When an exception is granted in conformance with the Utility Accomodation Rules ( 43TAC §21.35), in a controlled access area, a utility strip, specific to the utility for which the exception is granted, can be created during the design and right of way map creation phase by designating a “strip” which cannot be accessed directly from the main lanes. This action will not affect the denial of access to the adjacent landowner. The utility strip may be established in an area where no frontage roads exist. It does not convey an easement or property interest and cannot be occupied by other utilities without a specifically approved exception for each utility involved.

The public utility seeking the installation shall submit to the district engineer a written request that includes for each facility proposed for installation the following detailed information:

  • survey data as directed by the department to identify and designate the location of a utility strip, the utility strip's relationship to existing highway facilities and the right of way line, and the specific area of use, occupancy, and access for installation and maintenance of the utility facility;
  • a plan for the utility's access to, from, and within the utility strip with clearly described procedures that preserve the safety and free flow of traffic on the controlled access highway or freeway during installation, maintenance, and emergency service or repair of the utility facility; and
  • any additional information, including an engineering study requested by the department, that is reasonably necessary for a determination of the impact of the proposed utility facility on the safety, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and stability of the controlled access highway.

If the requested utility facility installation meets the conditions of §21.35 of this subchapter and the other applicable requirements of this subchapter, the department shall establish a utility strip along the outer edge of the right of way by:

  • locating a utility-access denial line between the proposed utility facility installation and the mainlanes and connecting ramps; and
  • designating the specific area of use, occupancy, and access for installation and maintenance of the requested utility facility.

The department may adjust the utility-access denial line of an established utility strip to accommodate additional authorized utility facilities within the utility strip. The utility requesting installation of the utility facility is responsible for all costs associated with providing the information required for designation of a new or expanded utility strip and shall delineate the utility-access denial line on the ground by setting readily identifiable, durable, and weatherproof permanent markers to represent or reference the corners, angle points, and points of curvature or tangency of the utility-access denial line. All existing and proposed fences shall be located at the freeway right of way line and denial of access regarding property adjoining the right of way line will not be altered.

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