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What is the meaning of the word Access?

Access as used in this report is technically defined as a means of ingress or egress between a primary highway and abutting property or an intersecting local public road or street. In lay terms, access is also defined as entrances or driveways from properties to a public road system.

What is Access Management?

A means to maintain the safe and efficient movement of traffic by controlling:
  • The design of accesses
  • The location of accesses
  • The number of access allowed

Why is Access Management needed?

The primary road systems serve two necessary but often conflicting functions:
  • Through traffic and traffic accessing adjacent properties.
  • The efficiency and safety of the highway system is impacted by the frequency and character of interruptions. The primary cause of these interruptions are vehicular movements to and from business, residencies, streets and other developments.

What are the goals of Access Management?

Create a safer environment for the entire transportation network by:
  • Limiting the number of conflicts (accesses)
  • Separating potential conflict points
  • Removing or minimizing turning vehicles and queues from through traffic movements

What benefits are received from Access Management procedures?

The most important benefit of access management is providing a safer roadway and decreasing the number of severe crashes and congestion.

The travelling public receives operational benefits when conflicts points are minimized or separated, highway capacity is increased, delays are reduced and the free flow of traffic is expedited and the public investment made in the highway system is preserved.

Environmental benefits are also gained because vehicle emissions are reduced and fuel economy is increased.

How does the department control Access?

Iowa Code Chapter 306A grants the roadway authorities (Iowa Department of Transportation, cities and counties) the rights and responsibilities to regulate, restrict or prohibit access to the primary road system. Basically controlling access is accomplished either by "Regulatory Management" which is often referred to as "Police Power" or by the acquisition of the property's access rights. Both of these methods are accomplished by the Department by regulations adopted in Iowa Administrative Rule 112.

Examples of access management by regulatory management would be:
  • Corner clearances, property line offsets, width of entrances, radii or taper length of entrances, constructing turn lanes, median openings and county and city zoning.

What is meant by the term acquiring Access rights?

By Code in Iowa, abutting property owners have certain inherent rights of access by the fact they abut a public road system. To eliminate this right, the Department exercises the authority granted in Section 306A of the Code of Iowa and acquires those rights in fee simple title.

When the rights are acquired, an imaginary wall is placed upon the right-of-way line of the primary road system which cannot be climbed over, around, through or destroyed. Access, if any, which are reserved to the adjacent properties are in effect holes left in the wall which provide the only means of obtaining access from the primary road system to the abutting properties. The deed wherein the State acquires the access rights from adjacent properties is recorded in the local courthouse and is a restriction placed upon that property for all future owners of the property. length of entrances, constructing turn lanes, median openings and county and city zoning.

CODE OF IOWA, CHAPTER 306A.4 "Design of controlled-access facility"

Highway authorities are authorized to design any controlled-access facility and to so regulate, restrict, or prohibit access as to best serve the traffic for which such facility is intended. No person shall have any right of ingress or egress to, from, or across controlled access facilities to or from abutting lands, except at such designated points at which access may be specified from time to time.

How can I obtain an application for Access to the Primary Road System?

We would suggest that you contact one of the district offices as noted below and request assistance. If you are familiar with the Department's application forms you may obtain one
from the Department.

Why am I required to obtain a permit application?

Permits are required for the safety and welfare of all involved. In addition, permit applications are required by the Code of Iowa for basically doing anything (cutting trees, cutting the backslope, installing utilities, harvesting grasses, etc.) within the primary highway rights of way. It is the Department's responsibility to follow the Code of Iowa requirements as outlined in Chapter 319.14 which states in part:

A person shall not excavate, fill, or make a physical change within the right-of-way of a public road or highway without obtaining a permit from the highway authority having jurisdiction of the public road or highway. Work performed under the permit shall be performed in conformity with the specifications prescribed by the highway authority.

IA Administrative Rules, Chapter 761-112.1 "PRIMARY ROAD ACCESS CONTROL"

Current Access Management Policy of the Department is dated 2002 and is a copy of the rule as noted above. In addition, the policy booklet contains several graphic exhibits to explain various sections of the rule.

A printed copy of the current policy booklet may be obtained from one of the Department's district offices.

Additional information available

In 1996 the Iowa Access Management Task Force, the Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa began a project to assess the benefits and impacts of access management projects in Iowa. Access management projects have proven effective in improving traffic safety and traffic operations in other states around the United States but have sometimes been controversial in terms of their impacts on local businesses and landowners along the streets being managed.

The Iowa research used a variety of in-depth case studies to explore the effectiveness and impacts of projects completed in Iowa during the 1980s and 1990s. A copy entitled "Iowa Access Management Research and Awareness Project: Executive Summary" may be obtained by contacting:

    Center for Transportation Research and Education
    Att: Mr. Dave Plazak
    ISU Research Park
    2625 N. Loop Drive, Suite 2100
    Ames, IA 50010-8615
    Tele: 515-294-8103 or
In addition to the above, the Task Force further developed an Access Management Handbook. This handbook emphasizes the importance of including access management principles in a community's comprehensive development plan. However, communities without a comprehensive plan or whose plan does not address access management can still use the guidelines suggested in this handbook to develop a successful access management program.

This book is especially helpful for city and county officials who want to include access management standards in local ordinances such as zoning, subdivision, or site plan review ordinances. Several example ordinances are contained in the booklet.

A copy of the Access Management Handbook is also available from the Center for Transportation Research and Education as noted above.