October 19, 2004
PARKING VEHICLES ALONG A STATE HIGHWAY
By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
You asked what state laws or regulations govern or restrict parking motor vehicles in the right-of-way of a state highway and what governmental entity enforces them.
State law, among other things, prohibits parking a vehicle within the limits of any public highway, including state highways, in a manner that constitutes a traffic hazard or obstructs the free movement of traffic unless the vehicle is disabled to the extent that it is impossible or impractical to remove it and the owner has not had a reasonable time to repair it or remove it. The law also authorizes the transportation commissioner to post signs on any highway where keeping a vehicle stationary is dangerous to traffic.
Another law gives the State Traffic Commission the power to prohibit, limit, or restrict parking of vehicles on any state highway or bridge and the legal traffic authority of any city, town, or borough the power to do the same for any highway or thoroughfare coming under its jurisdiction. The law also gives the local traffic authority the power to remove vehicles parked in violation of a State Traffic Commission parking regulation for any state highway, except for limited access state highways.
A State Traffic Commission regulation prohibits parking a vehicle within the highway right-of-way of any state limited access highway except in areas provided for this purpose.
Under another law, a motor vehicle inspector or police officer may take into custody and remove any vehicle that constitutes a menace to traffic or public health or safety.
As with most motor vehicle laws, violations of any of these parking related laws or regulations are enforceable by state or local police based on a complaint or a police officer's observation of the violation.
A different situation occurs when the vehicle being parked on the state-owned property along the highway is of a periodic or long-term nature instead of a temporal or one-time incident. A state highway right-of-way may only be used for travel purposes. Any use of the right-of-way for other than a travel purpose is considered an “encroachment” under Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. Permits are issued for things like driveways, utility installations, tree and shrub trimming or removal, and sidewalk installation or repair. But someone using the right-of-way for either personal or business-related parking of his vehicles is not considered a valid use for which a permit is issued. When DOT is aware of such encroachments it will usually notify the vehicle owner in writing and if the situation is not appropriately resolved, DOT would refer it to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Anyone wanting to report such an improper use of the right-of-way may do so by writing to the DOT commissioner or the DOT district maintenance office with jurisdiction over the highway.
LAWS AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING PARKING ALONG HIGHWAYS
The primary law that governs parking along any highway, including state highways, is CGS § 14-251. It prohibits the following:
1. remaining stationary within 10 feet of a fire hydrant;
2. remaining stationary “upon the traveled portion” of any highway, except on the right-hand side of the highway in the direction in which the vehicle is headed;
3. parking within 25 feet of an intersection, a marked crosswalk, or a stop sign erected by the legal traffic authority;
4. remaining stationary on the traveled portion of any highway at any curve or turn or at the top of any grade where the vehicle cannot be clearly viewed from a distance of at least 150 feet in either direction;
5. keeping a vehicle stationary at any place where the transportation commissioner has determined it would be dangerous to traffic and has posted a sign prohibiting it;
6. remaining stationary on the traveled portion of any highway within 50 feet of the point where another vehicle, that has previously stopped, remains stationary on the opposite side of the traveled portion of the same highway;
7. remaining stationary within the limits of a public highway in a manner that constitutes a traffic hazard or obstructs the free movement of traffic, unless the vehicle is disabled to the extent that it is impossible or impractical to remove it until the owner has had reasonable time to repair it or get assistance for removing it; and
8. on a highway with a curb, parking a vehicle at a distance of more than 12 inches from the curb.
Exemptions from the requirements are provided for emergency vehicles, maintenance vehicles displaying flashing lights, or vehicles being held stationary by a police officer in an emergency to avoid an accident or give the right of way to another vehicle or pedestrian.
A second law, CGS § 14-307, gives the power to prohibit, limit, or restrict parking of vehicles to (1) the State Traffic Commission for any portion of any state highway or bridge and (2) the traffic authority of any city, town, or borough for any highway or thoroughfare coming under its jurisdiction. The law gives the local traffic authority the power to remove from any state highway, except a state limited access highway, any vehicles parked in violation of a State Traffic Commission parking regulation regarding the state highway.
A State Traffic Commission regulation prohibits parking a motor vehicle in the right-of-way of any state limited access highway except in areas provided for this purpose or in obedience to signs, signals, or directions of police officers (Conn. Agency Regs. § 14-298-241).
Finally, although it does not deal expressly with parking, another law gives any Department of Motor Vehicle inspector, state police officer, or local police officer the authority to take into custody and remove any vehicle on or off a highway that is found to be a menace to traffic or public health or safety (CGS § 14-150).
As with other motor vehicle laws, enforcement of the statutory requirements or prohibitions is a matter for the appropriate law enforcement agency. Typically, this occurs as a result of either a police officer's direct observation of the violation or a complaint filed with the police authority by a third party.
A highway right-of-way is generally considered to be available only for highway-use related purposes. DOT regulations define any intrusion or use of a highway right-of-way for purposes other than traveling as an “encroachment” (Conn. Agencies Reg. § 13b-17-1). The transportation commissioner has statutory authority to allow certain non-travel related uses of the highway right-of-way through issuance of encroachment permits (CGS § 13b-17). The commissioner may issue such permits to individuals, businesses, utility companies, municipalities, or other state agencies when certain conditions are met including that (1) the use will not interfere with the needs of the right-of-way for highway purposes and (2) the use requested by the permittee will not interfere with DOT operations, create a traffic hazard, and not interfere with the safe and free flow of traffic (Conn. Agencies Reg. § 13b-17-3).
DOT issues five classes of encroachment permits ranging from Class 1 permits for major traffic generating developments to Class 5 permits for utility pole installations, tree trimming activities in conjunction with overhead utility work, and installation of public telephones. Other examples of permit-regulated activities include driveways; installation of banners, murals, and plaques; utility installations; sidewalk construction or repair; sign installation; and tree or shrub planting, trimming, or removal.
However, use of the right-of-way to serve as a personal or business-related parking area is not considered by DOT as a valid use under an encroachment permit and DOT will not issue them for this purpose. Thus such parking of vehicles is not permitted on a state highway right-of-way. Should DOT discover such an inappropriate use, it would generally notify the person or business of the improper usage of the right-of-way by means of one or more letters and, should this not resolve the problem, refer the matter to the state police for enforcement action. While there appears to be no formal complaint process, we were informed
that should someone outside the agency feel there is an inappropriate use of a state highway right-of–way going on, this could be reported through a letter to either the commissioner or the DOT district maintenance office where the highway is located and DOT would follow up on the information.