Getting Roads Accepted into the Secondary System of State Highways

In 1932, the General Assembly passed legislation that created the secondary system of state highways. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) was designated to manage and maintain the new highway system.

Over the years, guidelines were established to ensure that qualifying roads could become eligible for acceptance into the state-maintained secondary system. The process to add existing roads that are not maintained by the state to this highway system begins with the local board of supervisors.

Developers of subdivisions build most of Virginia's new roads. Streets built to the standards in VDOT's subdivision street requirements and The Pavement Design Guide are eligible to become state-maintained.

When work is complete and the land served is occupied, these roads quickly become state maintained through a process under which the county Board of Supervisors accepts the streets from the developer and requests VDOT to operate and maintain the streets.

However, even after VDOT had prescribed minimum standards for new streets in 1949, some counties continued to allow subdivision streets to be built that were not eligible for addition to the secondary system of state highways and VDOT maintenance.

The responsibility for maintaining such roads remains the responsibility of the developer or homeowners. In many cases, when the cost of maintaining these roads becomes unaffordable, citizens seek public assistance to improve them to standards eligible for state maintenance.

In addition, residents on older, rural roads outside of established subdivisions often maintain them. In some cases, these citizens want those roads added to the state-maintained system.

How do older, substandard roads become state-maintained?

Generally to be eligible for state maintenance, older, privately maintained, public roads must:

  • Have been in public use before July 1, 1992
  • Be available for the public to use 24 hours a day
  • Have a right of way that is available to be dedicated to public use and is:
    • Wide enough (usually 40 feet) to meet minimum safety standards
    • Sufficient to permit future maintenance
    • Be unencumbered by utility placements
  • Serve at least three occupied homes
  • Be able to safely handle the traffic volume
  • Connect to other roads already maintained by VDOT or a locality

By law, the board of supervisors must take formal action to approve the addition of these roads to the secondary system of state highways and request VDOT to maintain them. They must also identify the source of funding that is to be used to finance any improvements that are needed.

What if improvements are needed to meet state standards?

State funds are very limited. However, each year eligible counties are allowed to set aside five percent of the secondary road construction funds they are allocated in order to improve the county's secondary system of state highways and to improve qualifying roads that are not state maintained. These are called "rural addition" funds.

In addition to rural addition funds, eligible counties may also finance the cost of improving qualifying roads with funds from:

  • The county’s general fund
  • A special assessment of the land owners served
  • Revenue derived from the sale of bonds

Pursuant to §33.1-75.1, Code of Virginia, every county, whether or not it has qualifying land development ordinances, may use special revenue sharing funds from its “county primary and secondary road fund” to “bring subdivision streets used as such prior to July 1, 1990, up to standards sufficient to qualify” for state maintenance.

Other factors also affect the eligibility of a road and the amount of money that allocated for its improvement including:

  • If deeds for the land served prohibit the use of state funds
  • If a county's subdivision ordinance is approved by VDOT and requires new streets to be built to a standard that would qualify for VDOT's acceptance for maintenance
  • When the road was established
  • If developers still have a speculative interest that is served by the street
  • If a locality authorizes the work
  • If it connects to another street or road maintained by VDOT or a locality

References:

  • Code of Virginia Title 15.2 and 33.1-69, 33.1-72, §33.1-75.1, and 33.1-129.
  • The Rural Addition Policy of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (available for review at VDOT offices)

What steps do I follow?

To initiate the street acceptance process, contact your representative on your county board of supervisors to gain their support. Then, the following steps must occur in order:

  1. The board of supervisors considers requests from citizens to add roads to the secondary system of state highways. The locality coordinates the eligibility review of proposed additions.
  2. VDOT advises the locality of the requirements, improvement costs, and other issues related to the acceptance of proposed road additions.
  3. The board of supervisors must guarantee the right of way for the road and take formal action to make the road part of the secondary system.
  4. The board of supervisors formally requests VDOT to add the road to the secondary highway system for maintenance.
  5. VDOT accepts the maintenance responsibility for the road as part of the secondary system.

VDOT advocates the construction of roads that meet the minimum standards of the agency's subdivision street requirements.

This information is intended to summarize, in the broadest possible terms, the eligibility factors and considerations made regarding the addition and improvement of older roads as part of the secondary system of state highways. There may be other issues not addressed in this information that may also apply.

VDOT's resident engineers are prepared to help you determine the eligibility of your road for state maintenance and to identify any improvements that may be necessary.

For additional information, contact:

Virginia Department of Transportation
1401 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23219
1-800-FOR-ROAD (1-800-367-7623)

Page last modified: Oct. 14, 2012