State Highway Access Manual - INTRODUCTION

1.INTRODUCTION

The State Highway Administration (SHA) is authorized under Maryland law to control access along State highways in order to provide and maintain a safe and properly functioning highway system. Control of access is accomplished through a number of statutory and regulatory mechanisms, including the acquisition of certain real property rights and the permit process. A must be obtained from SHA prior to any construction activity on the State's right-of-way, including but not limited to the construction of driveways, entrances, and street connections for site development and subdivision access. This manual provides detailed information on the administrative process and technical requirements for obtaining the appropriate SHA permit. It is offered as a resource for private developers, engineering consultants, contractors, planners, elected officials, and other interested parties and should be helpful for anyone seeking to obtain highway access or otherwise perform work within the State right-of-way.

SHA's Access Management (AM) administers regulations pertaining to commercial and subdivision access to State highways and issues permits for the construction of approved entrances, street connections, and highway capacity improvements. The regulation and permitting of certain residential driveway access, utility work, and other construction activity is handled by SHA's seven District Offices. In any case, the design and construction of all improvements on State property must adhere to the State's standards, specifications, and accepted highway engineering practices. This is ensured through a comprehensive plan review and inspection process.

During plan review, proposed access is carefully evaluated with respect to highway safety, traffic conditions, and functional requirements. Only properly designed access points that are necessary for the approved site use and consistent with the functional requirements of the highway may be permitted. In order to ensure appropriate control of vehicular movements and provide the means to handle site-generated traffic, SHA may require the construction of frontage channelization, turning lanes, and other highway improvements as a condition of the access permit.

Proper coordination of land uses with the supporting road network is vitally important to maintaining highway capacity to address long term travel demands and support continued regional growth. To this end, AM interfaces with local government throughout the subdivision and development approval process and provides recommendations concerning proposed highway access. AM also coordinates SHA's review of traffic impact studies and recommends appropriate highway capacity improvements to minimize or mitigate the effect of site generated traffic on State highways. At the same time, it is important for applicants and the public in general to understand that the approval of zoning, subdivision, land development, and related issues in Maryland is a function of local government, not State government. SHA’s role is limited to the regulation of highway access and related State highway improvements.

While access regulation is necessary to maintain the safety of the traveling public and preserve the ability of our highways to carry increasing traffic, applicants may be assured that the State of Maryland is committed to supporting economic development. SHA's requirements are not intended to hinder development, but rather to allow development to occur without compromising highway safety or undermining the public's investment in highway infrastructure. Striking a proper balance between the need for reasonable access to development and the need to sustain mobility for through traffic helps to maintain the accessibility and vitality of businesses and communities along our highway corridors.

In carrying out its regulatory function, AM's goal is to provide timely, courteous, and effective service that is responsive to the needs of the development community. The Maryland State Highway Access Manual reflects a concerted effort by AM to clearly present the administrative process and technical requirements for obtaining an access permit. It represents a compilation of pertinent standards, design practices, policies, and procedures and provides a framework for handling all projects in a fair, equitable, and consistent manner. At the same time, it is not a substitute for project-specific requirements that may apply. Considerable engineering judgement and agency discretion often must be applied in evaluating proposed access. Due to the complex nature of highway access issues, the reader should confer with the AM representative whenever clarification or project-specific guidance is needed.

This document is a “work in progress”. We anticipate providing regular updates to reflect ongoing refinements in agency policy, procedures, and practices and to address comments and concerns. Your comments and suggestions on this publication are welcomed and appreciated. Please direct them to us at the following address and phone number:

Maryland State Highway Administration
SHA District Office for the county in which your project is located.  District Office contact information can be found at the top of our home page.

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