State Highway Access Manual - Access Point Standards

10. Access Point Standards

This Chapter describes the standard criteria used by SHA to evaluate proposed State highway access for compliance with highway safety standards and consistency with the functional and operational requirements of the State highway. Prime considerations in SHA’s evaluation of proposed access include but are not limited to:

  • Highway Access Control
  • Highway Function
  • Future Highway Needs
  • Sight Distance Standards
  • Number of Access Points
  • Commercial Entrance Spacing Standards
  • Street Connection Spacing Standards
  • Median Crossover Spacing Standards
  • Feasibility of Improvements
  • Other Site-Specific Factors

Collectively, these standards are used to determine the acceptable number and location of access points for a specific subdivision or development project and the range of turning movements that may be permitted at each approved access point. Standards applied to the design of entrances, street connections, and road improvements for site access are covered in separate Chapters.

It should be noted that compliance with the standards outlined in this Chapter does not assure the applicant that the requested access will be approved; however, it may considerably improve the likelihood of a favorable decision by SHA and expedite the review process.

10.1 Highway Access Controls

As explained in Chapter 3, access controls are property rights owned by the State that legally deny access to and from abutting properties. Highways are considered fully controlled, partially controlled, or uncontrolled facilities. The degree of access control reflects the highway's function within the overall transportation network and the service characteristics that it must provide. This section describes the SHA policy with respect to granting access along highways with different levels of access control.

10.1.1 Fully Controlled Facilities.

Access to fully controlled facilities, including freeways and expressways, is limited to grade-separated interchanges.

  • New access points are not permitted along fully controlled highways, except for appropriate regional transportation system connections as determined by the SHA. The connections must be consistent with State and local transportation plans.
  • Modification of ramp terminals on fully controlled facilities, where appropriate as determined by SHA to implement regional transportation improvements or maintain acceptable operating conditions, may be permitted.
  • New or modified access to Interstate highways is subject to Federal Highway Administration approval.

10.1.2 Partially Controlled Facilities.

Access to partially controlled facilities is limited to grade-separated interchanges or at-grade intersections with public roads. These facilities do not provide direct access to private property.

  • New access to partially controlled facilities is reserved for master-planned arterial and collector road connections that are integrated with the regional transportation network.
  • Modification of access controls to relocate or eliminate access points may be appropriate if it supports State and/or local transportation planning objectives.

10.1.3 Uncontrolled Facilities.

Uncontrolled highways do not have continuous access controls between approved interchanges or street connections. Access controls have been established, or are being established, along many primary highways; however, on any highway, there may be localized, detached, or nonexistent access controls. Access along uncontrolled facilities is regulated by the SHA permit process and local government's subdivision and development process. Access that may be acceptable along these highways varies with the function of the highway, as discussed in Section 8.2 below.

10.2 Highway Function

As explained in Chapter 2, the many highways comprising the State highway system have different functional requirements that must be preserved in order for the system to function properly. Appropriate control of access helps to maintain traffic operating conditions that are consistent with the functional requirements of various types of highways. A general description of each type of highway and the appropriate access characteristics may be found in the AASHTO publications. The following policy guidelines are applied:

10.2.1 Access On Uncontrolled Primary Highways.

Access on uncontrolled primary highways shall be consistent with the following guidelines:

  1. Access Management. Access on uncontrolled primary highways shall be consistent with a specific locally-adopted Access Management Plan, where applicable. Where no such plan exists, access management techniques shall be applied to the satisfaction of SHA and the local government.
  2. Access via Local Roads. Access to an uncontrolled primary State highway may be denied for properties where reasonable access is available to another public street, in accordance with Maryland law.
  3. Access via State Highway. Where access to an uncontrolled primary highway is acceptable to the SHA, access shall be limited to the minimum required to provide reasonable access to the development, as determined by SHA. The access will generally be limited to a maximum of one access point. It should be noted that access may be limited to a single point for any development on any State highway, in accordance with the access regulations. Additional access points and redundant turning movements may only be considered where supported by compelling safety or operational benefits, as determined by SHA. Unsafe access points and/or turning movements are not acceptable and will not be permitted.
  4. Temporary Access. Where long range plans include the development of future service roads, direct access to the existing highway may be permitted on a temporary basis, with the requirement that access will later be via the service road(s). Access to service roads may also be denied or permitted on a temporary basis. Specific policies apply.

10.2.2 Access On Secondary Arterial Highways.

Access on Secondary Highways with an Arterial functional classification shall conform to the following guidelines, which are less restrictive than those applied to Primary Highways.

  1. Access Management. Access management techniques shall be applied to minimize the effect of the development on safety and traffic operations. Compliance with local access management initiatives, as applicable, is expected.
  2. Access via Local Roads. Where local road access is available by property rights, SHA may recommend that the local approving authority require all access, the principal access, or certain turning movements to be via the local road instead of the State highway. This would be to minimize traffic and safety impacts of the access.
  3. Access via State Highway. The number of access points and permitted movements onto and across the State highway will be limited to the minimum required to provide reasonable access to the development, as determined by SHA. Access may be limited to a single point for any development on any State highway, in accordance with the State highway access regulations. On principal arterial routes, access will generally be limited to a maximum of one access point and additional access points and redundant turning movements may only be considered where supported by compelling safety or operational benefits, as determined by SHA. On other arterial routes, the number of access points and permitted movements onto and across the State highway will be limited to those which are appropriate for the development and can safely be accommodated. Unsafe access points or turning movements are unacceptable and will not be permitted.

10.2.3 Access on Secondary Collector Highways.

By virtue of their functional and operational characteristics, collector routes are better-suited than arterial routes for serving multiple local street connections and commercial access points. Access on Secondary Highways with a Collector functional classification shall conform to the following guidelines, which are less restrictive than those for Secondary Arterial Highways.

  1. Access Management. Access management principles should be applied to minimize the effect of site-generated traffic on the highway traffic operations. Compliance with local access management initiatives, as applicable, is expected.
  2. Access via State Highway. The number of access points and permitted movements onto and across the State highway will be limited to those which are appropriate for the development and can safely be accommodated. Access may be limited to a single point for any development on any State highway, in accordance with the State highway access regulations. Redundant turning movements may be acceptable unless they would present compelling safety or operational issues; however, unsafe access points and/or turning movements are unacceptable.

10.3 Future Highway Needs

All proposed site access is evaluated with regard to programmed improvements, future highway needs, SHA planning initiatives, corridor access and preservation initiatives. SHA's Highway Needs Inventory (HNI) and the Maryland Department of Transportation's Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) are be utilized for this, along with the appropriate representatives in SHA's planning, design, and District offices. Access must be located and designed for compatibility with programmed highway improvements and long-term regional transportation needs.

10.3.1 Coordination with Programmed SHA Improvements.

When the proposed access is located within the limits of a State highway improvement that is specifically identified in the CTP, the location and design of the access must be consistent with the objectives and design of the SHA project. Depending on the schedule and funding status of the SHA project, the developer may be required to construct a portion of the ultimate highway improvement, such as widening near the requested access or construction of a service road.

10.3.2 Coordination with Non-Programmed Needs Inventory.

Future highway improve-ments that are only generally identified in the HNI are considered in determining the appropriate number and location of access points, but the developer is not typically required to design their access based on these concepts. However, EAPD's policy is to require requested access to be consistent with corridor access management and preservation efforts, as well as local and regional master plans. Additionally, the local government may require appropriate dedication or reservation of land for future long range highway needs.

10.4 Sight Distance Standards

All points of access shall adhere to the safety criteria for acceptable intersection or stopping sight distance, or both, in accordance with current Administration standards and engineering practices. Applicants are strongly advised that sight distance should be evaluated for each desired point of access prior to seeking preliminary subdivision or site plan approval from the local approving authority. SHA cannot recommend action on a filing that involves access to a State highway until adequate sight distance is demonstrated. In no instance will prior subdivision or site plan approval by the local authority relieve the applicant from having to meet the State's sight distance requirements.

10.4.1 Criteria for Evaluation.

Sight distance shall be measured and evaluated for each proposed point of State highway access in accordance with the current version of AASHTO's A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets. The required stopping sight distance shall be available along the highway in both directions from the proposed access point. The required intersection sight distance and clear sight triangles shall be demonstrated for the range of proposed turning movements at the access point, in accordance with the AASHTO models. Appropriate adjustments to the required sight distance shall be made for road grades, skew, and predominant bus on truck traffic. The design speed for the highway shall be determined by adding 10 mph to the posted speed limit. Sight distance standards for full movement access on undivided highways are tabulated in Appendix B.

10.4.2 Sight Distance Profile.

Applicants may be required to submit a sight distance profile and certification sealed by a licensed professional. A sight distance profile is required for all proposed public street access points and may be required for any commercial access point, at the discretion of the EAPD representative.

10.4.3 Substandard Conditions.

Access points which do not or would not meet both the intersection sight distance and stopping sight distance criteria as outlined above are considered "substandard". When an existing or proposed access point is determined to have substandard sight distance, the applicant shall be required to consider a different location for the access, including available public road access. If a different location is either not available or would not have significantly better sight distance, then the following options shall be evaluated:

  • Construction of mitigation measures, including additional road improvements, to attain sight distance acceptable to SHA for the proposed turning movements and anticipated traffic conditions.<\li>
  • Positive restriction of movements at the point of access to those movements for which sight distance acceptable to SHA is available; or
  • Denial of the access when the applicant is not willing to construct the necessary mitigation measures and/or accept restricted movements.

Prospective developers should be advised that the scope of improvements required to overcome sight distance deficiencies may considerably exceed what would normally be required for the same development for access with adequate sight distance. Many older highways have alignments that are substandard with respect to current geometric design practices. Proposing access along such alignments does not relieve the developer of the requirement for adequate sight distance, nor does it obligate the SHA in any way to construct, or otherwise participate in, sight distance mitigation.

10.5 Number of Access Points

On uncontrolled highways, the number of access points for subdivision or site access shall conform to the following guidelines or those outlined in 10.2, whichever are more restrictive. SHA may consider exceptions based on unusual site usage, site constraints, future development, or traffic patterns. In the discussion below, “access” refers exclusively to State highway access points and “frontage” refers exclusively to state highway frontage.

10.5.1 Number of Commercial/Industrial Access Points.

A. Maximum Number of Access Points. The State regulations specify that a maximum of two entrances may be allowed in the first 200 feet of frontage. For each additional l00 feet of frontage thereafter, a maximum of one entrance may be permitted, subject to the final decision of SHA. Regardless of frontage, a development may be restricted to a single entrance and exit.

B. Commercial Sites – Short Frontage. Commercial sites with under 400' of frontage will be limited to a single point of access unless otherwise warranted by demonstrated traffic operations or site circulation considerations. For small sites, use of a single access point will generally maximize available parking and may reduce the scope of road improvements required for access.

C. Commercial Sites – Large Frontage. Commercial sites with more than 400' of frontage will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and will generally be allowed no more than two access points, regardless of the frontage available.

D. Small Sites with Special Traffic Circulation. Service stations, fast food operations, banks, small drug stores, and similar uses located on individual sites may have a requirement for highly defined on-site traffic circulation patterns. Drive-thru service is characteristic of these land uses. Such patterns may justify more than one access point; however, each may be restricted to one-way movement.

E. Industrial Sites. Individual industrial facilities will generally be limited to no more than two points of access unless otherwise warranted by demonstrated logistical or operational considerations. Two points of access may be allowed to facilitate separate entrances for facility operations, such as shipping/receiving, and passenger vehicle use.

F. Adjacent Intersections. Properties that are located where normal operations of one or more stop-controlled or signalized intersections on the State highway significantly affect traffic operations (e.g. queuing delays) will typically be limited to one point of access on the State highway. A second access point may be acceptable where warranted by demonstrated traffic patterns or design vehicle turning movements.

G. Inter-Parcel Connections. The use of existing inter-parcel connections, or establish- ment of new connections, is encouraged. This helps to reduce traffic in and out of the State highway, alleviating localized congestion, and provides for easy access between adjacent properties. This may be particularly advantageous for commercial and retail centers. The availability of inter-parcel connections should reduce the number of access points required along the State highway for individual properties.

H. Multiple Lots and Pad Sites. Individual lots and/or pad sites as part of an overall subdivision or development project will be considered as a single development for plan review purposes. Arrangements for access to lots being conveyed to independent legal entities must be established through appropriate easements, inter-parcel connections, etc. Where highway access to individual lots is proposed, it must be consistent with approved access concepts for the overall subdivision or development.

10.5.2 Number of Subdivision Access Points.

  1. Conformance to Master Plan. Where applicable, subdivision access points shall conform to street connection locations established on local or regional master plans, provided that those plans have been developed with SHA input and concurrence.
  2. Independent of Master Plan. Where not addressed on a local or regional master plan, proposed subdivision access points shall be limited to the maximum reasonable and feasible, considering the functional and operating characteristics of the highway, SHA's access point standards, the physical features and constraints of the site, the size and scope of the subdivision and development in relation to the identified issues and costs, and the availability of alternative access points.
  3. Access Available to Other Public Road(s). When access is available to one or more other public roads, the applicant shall preferentially direct access to the lower functioning public road, unless direct access to a State highway would support the master-planned transportation infrastructure, provide a regional transportation benefit, or have demonstrated safety and/or operational merit.
  4. Access Available to Other State Highway(s). When access is available to one or more other State highways, the subdivision access shall preferentially consider directing access to the lower functioning State highway, unless there are demonstrated safety and/or operational merits to the contrary.
  5. Minimization of Individual Lot Access Points. In developing the subdivision plats, lots and site roads shall be laid out so as to minimize the number of individual lots that would require separate residential entrances along the State highway. Residential driveway access to the State highway for individual lots within a residential subdivision will be discouraged in favor of access to existing or proposed public streets.
  6. Corner Lots. Individual corner lots at the intersection of a State highway and a proposed public street, which are part of a proposed subdivision that is served by the public street, will be denied separate access to the State highway.
  7. Single Development of Multiple Lots. With consolidation of previously subdivided lots for commercial, industrial, or residential development, the number of entrances along the State highway frontage shall be as appropriate for development of an individual lot.

10.6 Commercial Entrance Spacing Standards

Access points shall comply with the commercial entrance spacing standards identified in this Section. Where full movement access is proposed, the median crossover spacing standards of 10.8 also apply and may govern the acceptable spacing.

10.6.1 Offset from Adjacent Property.

  1. Entrances shall not encroach onto adjoining properties or extend along the frontage of adjoining properties.
  2. A minimum 10' tangent is required between the limits of property frontage and the radius return point (PC/ PT) of the entrance.
  3. The limits of property frontage are defined as the points of intersection between property boundaries and the State's existing, proposed, or dedicated right-of-way line, as applicable. Lines drawn between these points and the edge of the roadway, perpendicular or radial to the highway, will be considered the limits of property frontage.

10.6.2 Spacing Between Entrances.

  1. A minimum 20' tangent is required between adjacent entrances on the same side of the highway, under any circumstances.
  2. On undivided highways, a proposed entrance should be aligned directly across from an existing entrance or street on the opposite side of the highway.
  3. Traffic and safety considerations, site circulation, available property frontage, and compliance with the Site Access Improvement Standards in Chapter 13 will normally dictate the required spacing between entrances.
  4. Entrances shall be located so as to avoid or minimize traffic patterns and turning movements that would conflict with other existing or proposed entrances or turning bays. If this is not possible, channelization and other measures may be required to prevent the conflicts as a condition of entrance approval.

10.6.3 Corner Clearance from Adjacent Intersections and Interchanges.

Corner clearance is defined as the distance between the radius return points of the intersection and the first commercial entrance, respectively.

  1. There shall be a minimum 20 foot tangent distance between the intersection radius return points and the first permitted entrance, under any circumstances.
  2. The preferred corner clearance specified in Table 10.6.3 shall be met where there is sufficient property frontage. Where sufficient property frontage is not available, the minimum corner clearance shall be provided.
Table 10.6.3 Corner Clearance Standards
Highway Classification Preferred Corner
Clearance (ft)
Minimum Corner Clearance (ft)
Primary 400* 200*
Secondary – Arterial 200 100
Secondary – Collector 150 75

*NOTE: On primary highways, entrances may not be located within the influence area of dedicated right or left turning lanes for the adjacent intersection.

10.7 Street Connection Spacing

Access points shall comply with the street connection spacing standards identified in this Section. Where full movement access is proposed, the median crossover spacing standards of 10.8 also apply and may govern the acceptable spacing.

10.7.1 Spacing Between Street Connections.

  1. Streets intersecting with a State highway shall have a minimum distance of 750 feet between centerlines.
  2. Streets intersecting with a State highway that is a divided highway or is planned to be a divided highway shall be spaced in accordance with the median crossover standards of 10.8 if full movement access is proposed.
  3. Street spacing along primary highways shall conform to the applicable regional transportation plans developed jointly by SHA and the local jurisdiction, in addition to SHA's requirements outlined herewith.

10.7.2 Offset from Adjacent Properties.

  1. Street connections shall not encroach onto adjoining properties or extend along the frontage of adjoining properties.
  2. A minimum 10' tangent is required between the limits of property frontage and the radius return point (PC/PT) of the intersection.
  3. The limits of property frontage are defined as the points of intersection between property boundaries and the State's existing, proposed, or dedicated right-of-way line, as applicable. Lines drawn between these points and the edge of the roadway, perpendicular or radial to the highway will be considered the limits of property frontage.

10.8 Median Crossover Spacing

Openings in the median of a divided State highway may only be permitted where approved by the SHA Deputy Administrator. This requirement applies to all crossovers requested in any median, existing or proposed, for any purpose. Proposed median openings in existing or proposed medians are evaluated with respect to the criteria of this Section.

Existing median openings on divided highways are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. SHA may require closure of existing median crossovers to address anticipated traffic and safety conditions associated with the proposed highway access point(s). Moreover, SHA may require construction of a raised median along an undivided highway, to control turning movements associated with the requested access. This requirement is most typical where access is proposed near existing signalized intersections. When a median is constructed along an undivided highway, whether by SHA or a developer, the owners of abutting properties are not entitled to financial compensation for the loss of full movement or directional access across the median.

10.8.1 Spacing Standards.

Proposed median crossovers shall comply with the spacing standards given in Table 10.8.1, unless otherwise acceptable to SHA:

Table 10.8.1 Median Crossover Spacing Standards for State Highways
Degree of Access Control and Highway
Functional Classification
Context Crossover Spacing
Primary Highways – Fully Controlled
(Freeways and Expressways)
Any No crossovers, except for emergency vehicle crossovers where acceptable to the Deputy Administrator
Primary Highways – Partially Controlled
and Uncontrolled
Urban 750' (minimum) 3000' (minimum)
Suburban 1500' (minimum)
Rural 3000' (minimum)
Secondary Highways – Arterial Routes Urban 750' (minimum)
Suburban 1500' (minimum)
Rural 1500' (minimum)
Secondary Highways – Collector Routes Urban 500' (minimum)
Suburban 500' (minimum)
Rural 1000' (minimum)

Notes for Secondary Arterial Highways:

  1. Crossovers may be placed at public streets which will not violate the above crossover spacing guidelines. These streets may need to be relocated to meet the spacing guidelines.
  2. Crossovers may be placed at major commercial entrances where the above spacing guidelines will not be violated.
  3. A 750' crossover spacing may be acceptable in densely developed urban areas where posted speeds are 40 mph or less and route function will not be compromised.

Notes for Collector Highways:

  1. An effort is to be made to place crossovers at every intersecting collector.
  2. Crossovers may be placed at local streets and commercial entrances which will not violate the guidelines.

10.8.2 Design Considerations.

  1. Crossovers shall have either a left-turn lane or a jug handle design, either of which shall meet all minimum AASHTO Standards. Crossovers for which this is not possible may not be permitted.
  2. A full crossover shall provide for all vehicular movements; a crossover may exclude the “cross” movement and/or left out movement when recommended by the Assistant District Engineer - Traffic.
  3. New crossovers may not be established where they would compromise the function of adjacent left turn bays by reducing their storage capacity to handle projected long-term traffic volumes.
  4. When increased traffic is proposed to use existing crossovers, SHA may require improvements to the crossover, including appropriate left turn bays, deceleration and acceleration lanes, and other improvements. SHA may also require closure of the existing crossover, in the interest of public safety and preserving highway function.

10.9 Feasibility of Standard Access and Improvements

Feasibility of the proposed access in conformance with the Entrance Standards of Chapter 11, Street Connection Standards of Chapter 12, and Site Access Improvement Standards of Chapter 13, shall be demonstrated. Where these standards cannot be met, the applicant may be required to use a different access location, including available public road access. If a different access location is either not available or would not significantly improve the feasibility of constructing the standard improvements, the following options shall be explored:

  • Access locations and turning movements may be limited to those which can be safely accommodated with the feasible improvements.
  • Other site access improvements for traffic and safety mitigation may be accepted, in lieu of the normal improvements.
  • Access on the State highway may be denied.

In some cases, acceptable improvements may only be attainable through the acquisition of right-of-way, relocation of existing utilities, impacts to environmental areas, etc. The applicant is required to submit documentation of these arrangements to demonstrate the feasibility of the improvements.

10.10 Other Factors

In addition to the above criteria, the following factors are considered in EAPD's evaluation of the proposed access points:

  • High traffic volumes
  • High posted or operating speeds
  • Traffic operations problems
  • Safety issues or crash history
  • Limited feasibility of further highway improvements
  • Lack of feasible traffic mitigation measures
  • Proximity to signalized intersection
  • Signal timing constraints/problems
  • Availability of access on lower-type roads

Each project will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Presence of the above factors may result in more restrictive access or necessitate additional improvements to support the requested access.


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