Steuben County, IN freeform logo

Right of Way, Trees, and Roadside Structures

What is the highway department right of way?
The width of the road right of way can vary a great deal. In general, the highway department right of way is typically 40 feet wide, approximately 20 feet on both sides of the section/survey line (which typically corresponds to the roadway centerline). There are instances where the roadway centerline does not match the section/survey line, and in these cases, the limits of the right of way are not quite as straightforward. If a property owner needs to identify where the limits of the road right of way are or need true locations of their property lines, a professional surveying/engineering company should be hired.

When do I need to get a permit from the highway department?
Anytime a person or business does any construction work in the road right-of-way (normally 40 feet wide - 20 feet on either side of the center of the road) they need to obtain a permit. This applies to driveway installation or any other construction type activity. Please see our permits page for more information.

Do I need a permit for a new driveway even if I do the work myself?
Yes, a permit from the highway department is required any time work is performed in county road right of way. When you apply for a permit, you are helping the highway department maintain safety for both yourself and the traveling public. Most traffic accidents occur at intersections or where vehicles are entering or leaving the roadway. The highway department inspects each proposed drive location to assure that adequate sight distance is available, to determine what drainage improvements might be necessary, and to review the site for other potential safety problems before a permit is issued. Please see our permits page for more information.

There is a dead deer on the side of the road...
The highway department does not pick up dead animals but can contact the appropriate personnel.  The department will move an animal carcass from the traveling portion of the county right-of-way if it creates a safety hazard to the traveling public and will contact the appropriate personnel for proper disposal.

I want to plant some trees/flowers along the road. Is that ok?
If landscaping is placed too close to the edge of the road it can be a hazard to the traveling public, maintenance vehicles, and pose a potential liability for property owners. Also, any shrubs and trees planted in that area are exposed to damage from traffic, snow plowing, and sweeping operations. Please do not plant any trees or shrubs that may become a visual obstruction or that may grow into a large fixed object that presents a danger to motorists anywhere inside the road right-of-way. Trees, landscaping, and underground sprinkler systems can ONLY be placed outside of the road right-of-way. Before planting trees or flowers along the roadway, please contact the highway department to verify the width of the right-of-way.

Can I fill in the ditch in front of my property?
If there is a ditch along the road in front of your property you should not fill it in even if it does not appear to drain water along the road. The purpose of most roadside ditches is to prevent water from pooling on the roadway during or after a storm, to provide an area for snow storage from snow plowing operations, and to lower the water table beneath the roadbed. Filling in even a fairly shallow roadside ditch can cause serious damage to the road and pavement from frost heave.

Why are you cutting down the trees on my road?
Sometimes roadsides have become overgrown with brush and trees over the years to the point that fairly extensive trimming and cutting is necessary to restore safe sight distances for motorists along the road and to help prevent vehicle collisions. In some areas, trees and brush have to be cut in order to obtain the width needed for gravel surfacing. We may also remove dead trees wherever possible to prevent them from falling into the road. It is encouraged that residents maintain their roadsides for safety as well since the highway department has many miles of country roadsides to maintain and any individual help is greatly appreciated.

Code Red