This Chapter discusses the State's legal authority to control, deny, and otherwise regulate access to State highways. It is important for applicants to distinguish access controls, which are real property rights owned by the State, from the regulatory control of access, exercised through the permit process.

3.1 Access Controls

Under Maryland law, a property owner is entitled to access to a State highway that abuts his or her property unless certain conditions identified in 8-625 apply or the State owns controls of access along the highway right-of-way. Access controls are real property rights owned by the State that legally deny access to abutting property. They are intended to preserve safety and traffic operating characteristics required of freeways, other important highway segments, and key intersection approaches.

When contemplating State highway access for a subdivision or development project, it is incumbent upon the applicant to research all pertinent land records and SHA right-of-way plats to determine whether these "through highway" controls, or any other easements or restrictions, may exist. An access permit can not be issued under any circumstances at locations where "Through Highway" access controls exist. In rare instances, SHA may be willing to relinquish or modify access controls, thereby facilitating an access permit along a controlled access highway. This is generally reserved for master-planned public street connections that provide a regional transportation benefit and would not compromise the safety or functional characteristics of the highway.

3.2 Regulatory Controls

The Annotated Code of Maryland grants SHA certain regulatory authority, including the right to limit the width and location of existing access points, the requirement that an entrance from any commercial or industrial property may not be made into any highway except in accordance with a permit issued by the SHA, and the requirement that permits must be acquired from the Administration before working within and across a State highway. The purpose of the law is not to discourage or suppress development in the State, but rather to ensure that where access to a State highway is granted, it is the safest point to enter or exit the highway. Under the regulations, the State may limit access to a single location along any highway. Moreover, where other public road access is available, the State may deny access to a primary highway in accordance with 8-625.

The law requires owners, or their duly authorized representatives (i.e. developers, constructors, tenants, lessees, etc.), of land newly being developed commercially, industrially, or as a subdivision, and/or part of an existing subdivision desiring access to a State highway, to apply for a SHA permit. In addition, residential entrances and any construction activities within State highway rights-of-way require a permit. An application for a permit to construct a commercial entrance or street intersection shall be filed with plans, engineering fee check, performance surety and any other items which may be required by the responsible parties or their authorized representative. All permitted work must be designed and constructed in conformance with SHA requirements and accepted engineering practices.

The State's Authority pertaining to commercial, industrial, and subdivision access is based on the Transportation Article, Sec. 2-103(b)(2); 8-202(b)(2)(i); 8-203(a); 8-204(b), (c), (i); 8-625; and 8-646; Annotated Code of Maryland. Regulations are found in Title 11, Subtitle 04, Chapter 05 of the Code of Maryland Regulations.

The State's Authority pertaining to residential access is based on the Transportation Article, Sec. 2-103(b); 8-202(b)(2)(i); 8-203(a); and 8-204(b), (c), (i); Annotated Code of Maryland. Regulations are found in Title 11, Subtitle 04, Chapter 06 of the Code of Maryland Regulations.

3.3 Agency Guidelines and Policy

This manual presents a collection of SHA policies, procedures, and administrative and technical guidelines applicable to the review and approval of applications for an Access Permit. These are drawn from the State’s statutory authority and are intended to supplement and complement, but not contradict, the State’s published regulations by providing a framework for the uniform evaluation and processing of permit applications using consistent standards and engineering criteria. The guidelines contained herewith are not a substitute for site-specific requirements that SHA may impose and engineering judgement that may need to be exercised in the evaluation of proposed access.

3.4 Applicability – Who Must Apply for a Permit

As stated in the published regulations, the following is a descriptive listing of some of the parties required to apply for a permit. It is to be used only as a guide and may not be construed as all-inclusive. The words "commercial", "industrial", and "subdivision", used singularly or collectively in the following text, shall include all entrances other than those for an individual residence.

(l) Owners, or their duly authorized representatives (developers, contractors, tenants, lessees, etc.), of land newly being developed commercially, industrially, or as a subdivision, all desiring access to a State highway;

(2) Parties desiring to establish a new public street intersection or modify an existing public street intersection;

(3) Parties desiring to change existing entrances or create new entrances into existing commercial or industrial facilities, and subdivisions;

(4) Parties desiring to modify, expand, or in any other manner make improvement to an existing facility, which will increase or change the type of vehicular generation or traffic pattern;

(5) Parties desiring to change use of occupancy of an existing facility;

(6) Parties owning, occupying, leasing, or using a commercial or industrial facility (which was in existence before 1957) that is not fully channelized in accordance to permits issued by the Administration and which is now deemed hazardous from the viewpoint of access.

(7) Parties desiring to do any work within or across the State highway right of way.

It is important to note that local governments often require off-site road improvements as a condition of development approval and/or per Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances. An Access Permit is required for the construction of these improvements, even if no entrances or street connections are proposed. Any work on State highway property requires a permit. Types of permits and the application process are discussed in Chapter 4.