Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 33.2. Highways and Other Surface Transportation Systems
Chapter 9. Abandonment and Discontinuance of Highways and Roads
11/27/2022

Article 1. Abandonment and Discontinuance of Highways in Primary State Highway System.

§ 33.2-900. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Abandonment" means that the public's right to use a public highway, public landing, or public crossing has been extinguished.

"Discontinuance" means that the Board has determined that a highway, landing, or crossing no longer serves the public convenience warranting its maintenance at public expense; it divests the Department from maintenance responsibilities. Discontinuance does not render a highway, landing, or crossing unavailable for public use.

2014, c. 805.

§ 33.2-901. Discontinuance of a section of a highway or railroad crossing.

In any case in which a section of a highway is deemed by the Commissioner of Highways no longer necessary for the uses of the primary state highway system, or when, in laying out, constructing, or maintaining sections of highways in the primary state highway system, a part of a highway has been or is straightened or the location of a part of it is altered and a section of the highway is deemed by the Commissioner of Highways no longer necessary for the uses of the primary state highway system, the Commissioner of Highways, by and with the approval of the Board, may discontinue such section of the highway as a part of the primary state highway system. In addition, in any case in which an existing crossing by such highway of the lines of a railroad company or a crossing by the lines of a railroad company of such highway is deemed by the Commissioner of Highways no longer necessary as a part of the primary state highway system, the Commissioner of Highways, by and with the approval of the Board, may discontinue such crossing as a part of the primary state highway system. Discontinuance under this section does not constitute an abandonment of such highway as a public highway or such crossing as a public crossing unless the procedure conforms to § 33.2-902.

The opening of the new section of highway by the Commissioner of Highways and the entry by the Board upon its minutes of its approval of the discontinuance of the section of the highway or the railroad crossing shall be sufficient to constitute such discontinuance.

Code 1950, § 33-76.1; 1950, p. 727; 1970, c. 322, § 33.1-144; 2014, c. 805.

§ 33.2-902. Abandonment of highway or railroad crossing; procedure.

A. The Commissioner of Highways either on his own motion or upon petition of any interested landowner may cause any section of a highway in the primary state highway system, or any crossing by such highway of the lines of a railroad company or crossing by the lines of a railroad company of such highway, to be abandoned altogether as a public highway or as a public crossing by complying substantially with the procedure provided in this section.

B. The Commissioner of Highways or any interested landowner may file application with the Board setting out the section of the highway or the railroad crossing sought to be abandoned as a public highway or public railroad crossing. The Board shall give notice of the filing of the application (i) by posting a notice of such application at least three days before the first day of a regular term of the circuit court at the front door of the courthouse of the county in which the section of the highway or railroad crossing sought to be abandoned as a public highway or public railroad crossing is located, or if the section of the highway or the railroad crossing is located partly in two or more counties, at the front door of the courthouse of each county, or (ii) by publishing a notice of such application in two or more issues of a newspaper published in the county or one of the counties in which the section of the highway or the crossing is located. The Board shall also send by registered mail a notice of the application to the governing body of the county or counties. If such highway or railroad crossing is in a town with a population of 3,500 or less, the Board shall give notice to the governing body of the town in the same manner as notice is required to be given to the governing body of the county in which the town is located.

C. If one or more landowners in the county or counties affected by such proposed abandonment or the governing body of a county or town in which the highway or railroad crossing is located files a petition with the Board within 30 days after notice is posted or published and mailed as provided in this section, the Board or a representative thereof shall hold a public hearing in the county or one of the counties for consideration of the application and shall give notice of the time and place of the hearing by publishing such information in at least two issues in a newspaper having general circulation in the county or one of the counties and by mailing notice of the hearing to the governing body of the county or counties, and if applicable to the governing body of the town, in which the highway or railroad crossing is located.

D. If a petition for a public hearing is not filed as provided in this section, or if after a public hearing is held a majority of the Board is satisfied that no public necessity exists for the continuance of the section of highway as a public highway or the railroad crossing as a public railroad crossing or that the welfare of the public would be served best by abandoning the section of highway or the railroad crossing as a public highway or public railroad crossing, the Board shall (i) within four months of the 30-day period during which notice was posted where no petition for a public hearing was filed or (ii) within four months after the public hearing enter an order on its minutes abandoning the section of highway as a public highway or the railroad crossing as a public railroad crossing, and with that order the section of highway shall cease to be a public highway, unless the local governing body takes control as provided in this article, or the railroad crossing shall cease to be a public railroad crossing. If the Board is not so satisfied, it shall enter an order dismissing the application within the applicable four months provided in this subsection.

E. In considering the abandonment of any section of highway under the provisions of this section, due consideration shall be given to the historic value, if any, of such highway.

Code 1950, § 33-76.2; 1950, p. 727; 1970, c. 322, § 33.1-145; 1978, c. 187; 1980, c. 39; 2014, c. 805.

§ 33.2-903. Grade crossing closing and safety.

A. It is the public policy of the Commonwealth to enhance public safety by establishing safe highway-rail grade crossings, to consolidate and close unsafe, unnecessary, or redundant crossings, and to limit the establishment of new crossings. The Board has the authority to close public highway-rail grade crossings on all systems of state highways for which it has responsibility.

B. The Commissioner of Highways on his own motion or by request of any interested landowner, railroad corporation, or local governing body may petition the Board to close a highway-rail grade crossing as a public crossing.

C. Prior to petitioning the Board to close a highway-rail grade crossing, the Commissioner of Highways shall conduct a traffic engineering study to determine the validity of closing the crossing. The traffic engineering study shall consider all factors, including (i) the number of freight and passenger trains passing the crossing and their timetable speeds, (ii) the distance to an alternate crossing, (iii) the availability of alternate access, (iv) the crossing's accident history during the five-year period immediately prior to the study, (v) the number of vehicles per day using the crossing, (vi) the posted speed limit at the crossing, (vii) the type of warning devices present at the crossing, (viii) the alignment of the roadway and railroad and their angle of intersection, (ix) the number of trucks per day carrying hazardous materials through the crossing, (x) the number of vehicles per day carrying passengers for hire through the crossing, (xi) the number of school buses per day using the crossing, and (xii) the use of the crossing by emergency vehicles.

D. The results of the traffic engineering study shall be made public in accordance with the procedures set forth in § 33.2-902. The Commissioner of Highways shall present his findings and recommendations to the Board, and the Board shall decide what actions to take regarding the railroad crossing at issue.

1996, cc. 114, 157, § 33.1-145.1; 2014, c. 805.

§ 33.2-904. Effect of abandonment.

In the case of abandonment of a section of highway or a railroad crossing that is part of the primary state highway system under the provisions of this article, such section of highway or such railroad crossing shall not thereafter be a public highway or public railroad crossing unless conveyed to the county or town and subject to the authority of the local governing body. In the case of proceedings for abandonment of any section of highway, not including a railroad crossing situated less than one and one-half miles from another public crossing over the same railroad, as a public highway under the provisions of this article, the local governing body, insofar as such section of highway is located within the county of such governing body, shall have authority to take over such section of highway, not including the railroad crossing, and maintain it as a public highway. However, the local governing body shall adopt an ordinance or resolution to that effect and to give notice thereof to the Commissioner of Highways within 30 days from the posting or publishing and mailing of the notice of the application for the abandonment of such section of highway as a public highway as provided in this article.

Code 1950, § 33-76.3; 1950, p. 728; 1970, c. 322, § 33.1-146; 2014, c. 805.

§ 33.2-905. Appeal to circuit court.

A. Any one or more of the landowners who filed a petition, the governing body of any county or town in which the section of highway or the railroad crossing is wholly or partly located, or the Commissioner of Highways may within 30 days from the entry of the order by the Board appeal from the order to the circuit court of the county in which the section of highway or the railroad crossing, or the major portion thereof, sought to be abandoned under § 33.2-902 is located. If the Board fails to enter an order pursuant to § 33.2-902, such person or persons named in this section may appeal to the appropriate circuit court within 30 days from such failure. Such appeal shall be filed by petition in the clerk's office of such court, setting out the order appealed from or the cause appealed from where no order was entered and the grounds of such appeal. Upon the filing of such petition, the clerk of the circuit court shall docket the appeal, giving it a preferred status. If the appeal is by any of the landowners who filed a petition with the Board for a public hearing, notice of such appeal shall be served upon the attorney for the Commonwealth and the Commissioner of Highways. If the appeal is by the local governing body or the Commissioner of Highways, notice of such appeal shall be served upon the landowners who filed petition with the Board for a public hearing. No such appeal shall be tried by the court within 10 days after notice is given as provided in this section unless such notice is waived. The circuit court shall hear the matter de novo with further right of appeal as provided by law. Upon the hearing of the appeal, the court shall ascertain and by its order determine whether public necessity exists for the continuance of the section of highway or the railroad crossing as a public highway or public railroad crossing or whether the welfare of the public will be served best by abandoning the section of the highway or the railroad crossing as a public highway or public railroad crossing and shall enter its order accordingly. The clerk of the court shall certify a copy of the order of the court to the Board.

B. Upon any such appeal, if it appears to the court that by the abandonment of such section of highway or such railroad crossing as a public highway or public railroad crossing any party to such appeal would be deprived of access to a public highway, the court may cause the railroad company or the local governing body to be made parties to the proceedings, if not already parties, and may enter such orders as seem just and proper for keeping open such section of highway or such railroad crossing for the benefit of such party or parties.

C. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any discontinuance of a portion of the primary state highway system under § 33.2-901.

Code 1950, § 33-76.4; 1950, p. 729; 1970, c. 322, § 33.1-147; 1978, c. 187; 2014, c. 805.

§ 33.2-906. Alternative procedure for abandonment of old highway or railroad crossing to extent of alteration.

The Commissioner of Highways may declare any highway in the primary state highway system or any highway in the primary state highway system containing a highway-rail grade crossing abandoned when (i) it has been or is altered and a new highway that serves the same users as the old highway is constructed as a replacement and approved by the Commissioner of Highways or (ii) the Chief Engineer of the Department recommends that it is appropriate in connection with the completion of a construction or maintenance project. The old highways or the crossing may be abandoned to the extent of such alteration, but no further, by the entry by the Commissioner of Highways of such abandonment upon the records of the Department.

Code 1950, § 33-76.5; 1950, p. 730; 1952, c. 124; 1970, c. 322, § 33.1-148; 2011, cc. 36, 152; 2014, c. 805.

§ 33.2-907. Conveying sections of highways or other property no longer necessary.

A. Whenever a highway or a section of a highway has been abandoned in accordance with the provisions of § 33.2-902 or 33.2-906 and is deemed by the Commissioner of Highways no longer necessary for the uses of the primary state highway system, the Commissioner of Highways shall so certify in writing and may execute in the name of the Commonwealth a deed or deeds conveying such section or sections of highway, either for consideration or in exchange for other lands that may be necessary for the uses of the primary state highway system. Before any such deed either for the sale or exchange of land is executed conveying any section of a highway along which any person resides, the Commissioner of Highways shall give notice to the governing bodies of the county and town and to the owner of the land upon which such person resides of the intention to convey the section of highway. If after a reasonable notice of such intention any such landowner or local governing body so requests, a hearing shall be ordered by the Commissioner of Highways as provided in this article. If upon such hearing it is determined that such section of highway should be left open for the reasonable convenience of such landowner or the public, then such section of highway shall not be conveyed. No such hearing shall be held if such highway was abandoned under § 33.2-902.

B. When real estate acquired incidental to the construction, reconstruction, alteration, maintenance, and repair of the primary state highway system that does not constitute a section of the public highway is deemed by the Commissioner of Highways no longer necessary for the uses of the primary state highway system, the Commissioner of Highways shall so certify in writing and may execute in the name of the Commonwealth a deed conveying such real estate, interest therein, or any portion thereof, either for consideration or in exchange for other lands that may be necessary for the uses of the primary state highway system.

C. Upon petition of a local governing body, the Board may transfer real estate acquired incidental to the construction, reconstruction, alteration, maintenance, or repair of the primary state highway system that constitutes a section of public highway to the local governing body, and upon such transfer such section of highway shall cease being a part of the primary state highway system.

Code 1950, § 33-76.6; 1950, p. 730; 1954, c. 88; 1970, c. 322, § 33.1-149; 2002, c. 445; 2011, cc. 36, 152; 2014, c. 805.