The management of
our highway corridors is the responsibility of the Alaska
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ Right-of-Way
The Department’s Right-of-Way staff manages
our road corridors to ensure that activities within them
are safe and meet the overwhelming mandate of Alaskan voters
to keep our highways scenic. They work to keep the highway
corridors free of nonessential signage, encroachments, abandoned
vehicles, and other items that adversely impact the safety
of the traveling public.
The following provides information
concerning the management of Alaska’s highway rights-of-way.
It provides the reader with a description of allowable
activities and the process to acquire the appropriate and
necessary permits. But more importantly, it explains why
it is important to manage Alaska’s rights-of-way
for the safety and enjoyment of the traveling public.
is a Right-of-Way (ROW)?
Simply stated, a highway right-of-way is an identified
strip of land reserved for transportation improvements. The right-of-way
includes not only the road surface, but can extend well beyond the
edge of pavement, sometimes as far as 200 feet and more.
is an Easement?
Generally speaking, an easement is the right to
use all or part of the property of another person for some specific
purpose. Easements can be permanent or temporary (i.e., limited to
a stated period of time). Easements are created for a variety of purposes,
including public access, utilities, drainage, pipelines, or pole lines.
Interstate and primary highway easements were
granted to the State of Alaska by the Federal Government
through Public Land Orders (PLO). Other easements were acquired
through Notices of Utilization filed by Department of Transportation
and Public Facilities (DOT&PF), and some were purchased
from adjoining land owners for a specific purpose.
Are They Different?
A common statement by property owners with a highway
easement is “I (the property owner) own the land to the center
of the road.” Although technically correct, when DOT&PF has
an easement on your property, it is usually for 90% interest in the
land. However, you (the property owner) do retain the right to include
the square footage in your property inventory and to plant grass (all
other landscaping, or removal of landscaping, would require a permit).
Does DOT&PF Manage Alaska’s ROWs?
2. Alaskans voted to keep their highways free of
illegal billboards and signs
3. State and federal laws
Does DOT&PF Manage Alaska’s ROWs?
1. Plat review
4. Enforcement and removal
Uses are Allowed in the Right-of-Way?
Uses of the right-of-way include, but are not limited
to, construction and maintenance of the traveled roadway, foot paths,
bike paths, frontage roads, pullouts, parking areas, placement of utilities,
and other public uses as DOT&PF deems necessary for the welfare
of the public.
Improvements are Permitted in the Right-of-Way?
Improvements within a right-of-way such as beautification,
awnings, customer parking, and driveways (see exceptions in 17 AAC
10.011[c]) require a Right-of-Way Encroachment Permit. When requested,
a permit may be issued to a landowner with property along a highway
for any lawful use. Right-of-Way Encroachment Permits are also required
for a municipality, state agency, or federal agency.
is an Encroachment?
An unpermitted encroachment is an unauthorized use
of a right-of-way or easement by improvements, objects, items, or obstructions.
This can include, but is not limited to, driveways that have not been
permitted by DOT&PF, signs, cars, fences, and buildings. Other
unauthorized encroachments in the right-of-way include personal items
and vehicles parked “for sale.” It also includes stand-alone
businesses such as hot dog stands, firewood sales, sandbag sales, souvenir
sales, and espresso wagons. Most encroachments will be cited and given
a time limit to be removed or corrected. Some encroachments, such as
signs, ropes, cables, or blockages of any kind in or across the right-of-way
may create a safety hazard and need to be removed immediately by DOT&PF
at owner expense. For example, ropes and cables placed across driveways
have maimed or killed travelers.
is Outdoor Advertising?
Outdoor advertising is advertising visible from
the road. This includes political advertising. Even when the sign is
located outside the right-of-way, on private property, if it advertises
for a business or some activity located somewhere else, it is illegal.
Illegal outdoor advertising may include, but is not limited to, business
signs, real estate signs advertising property for sale at another location,
political signs, vehicles with advertising painted or posted on the
side when parked and left, etc.
and Removal Process
In response to public demand to preserve the unique
and scenic beauty along Alaska’s highways, DOT&PF regularly
inspects for and identifies encroachments and illegal outdoor advertising
along state roads and highways. This is done for (1) the continued
safety of the traveling public; (2) as mandated by federal and state
law; and (3) to ensure uninterrupted federal funding for our highway
projects. DOT&PF continuously inspects over 6,000 miles of state
When an unpermitted encroachment in the right-of-way
or illegal outdoor advertising on private property is identified,
DOT&PF notifies the business and/or property owner by
sending a certified letter requesting removal within 30 days.
At the end of 30 days, if the item(s) identified in the letter
have not been removed, DOT&PF may choose to remove and
impound the item(s), or to initiate legal action. This is
done at owner expense. If an encroachment or outdoor advertising
in the right-of-way is determined to be a danger to the traveling
public, such items may be removed immediately without notice.
Items impounded by DOT&PF are held in storage
for a period of 30 days. Owners may claim their property
by paying all fees associated with removal. DOT&PF is
not responsible for damage during removal or storage. Items
in storage are destroyed after 30 days.
DOT&PF makes every effort to treat all
property and business owners with fairness and respect. In
recent years, DOT&PF has contacted thousands of business
and property owners to request removal of encroachments and/or
illegal outdoor advertising. In most instances, owners voluntarily
remove the items identified.
We appreciate your taking the time to learn about
the Department’s responsibility to manage and protect Alaska’s
highway rights-of-way. We encourage you to work with our right-of-way
staff to ensure that your proposed activity is appropriate and properly
permitted. Together we can ensure that Alaska’s highway rights-of-way
are managed in a manner that is fair to all and provides for the safety
and pleasure of the traveling public.