Keeping Alaska's Highways Safe and Preserving Our Scenic Beauty

DOT&PF Right-of-Way Section’s Responsibility

Alaska’s highways are important resources that serve many purposes. They meet the basic transportation needs of many citizens and are critical to their health and safety. They serve as commercial corridors bringing goods and services to our communities. They play a vital role in supporting our economy by serving the oil, gas, timber, commercial fishing, tourism, and other industries. Our highways provide access to some of the most beautiful scenery and fantastic recreational opportunities in the world. Alaska’s highways need to be developed, maintained, managed, and preserved to ensure that they continue to meet these multiple purposes in a safe and efficient manner for the benefit of Alaskans and our visitors.
DOT&PF Right-of-Way Section's Responsibility
What is ROW?
What is An Easement?
How Are They Different?
Why Does DOT&PF Manage Alaska's ROWs?
What Uses Are Allowed in the ROW?
What Improvements Are Allowed in the ROW?
What is an Encroachment?
What is Outdoor Advertising?
Inspection and Removal Process
Some Final Thoughts


The management of our highway corridors is the responsibility of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ Right-of-Way Section.

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.

What 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.

What 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.

How 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).

Why Does DOT&PF Manage Alaska’s ROWs?
1. Safety
2. Alaskans voted to keep their highways free of
    illegal billboards and signs
3. State and federal laws
4. Funding

How Does DOT&PF Manage Alaska’s ROWs?
1. Plat review
2. Permits
3. Inspections
4. Enforcement and removal

What 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.

What 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.

What 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.

What 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.

Inspection 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 roads.

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.

Some Final Thoughts
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.