New York State Local Technical Assistance Program

What are the dimensions that must be maintained for a clear path regarding vegetation and obstacles along a highway?

For example, in the case of oversized farm equipment where a farmer wants to be able to drive down the road without crossing the centerline and wants to have rail, signs, branches, and mailboxes out of the way.

The municipality needs to keep clear a prism that includes the width of the roadway for all legally sized vehicles. This only includes the space between the shoulders and the height of 13 ½ feet. An agency may want to clear over the shoulders for safety reasons, but this would be considered the maximum width required to be cleared unless a permit is obtained.

Let’s look at the legal issues.

Size of Vehicles

The dimensions and weights of vehicles are covered in Vehicle and Traffic Law (V&T) Section 385. The actual law and supporting case law need to be reviewed, but here is a summary.

Vehicles exceeding these limits will need to be permitted. Each level of government issues its own permits. A municipality or county may endorse another permit without changes, but this is not done automatically.

Width of the Highway

Under Highway Law Section 140 (7), the Highway Superintendent is supposed to “Cause briers, brush and noxious weeds growing within the bounds of town highways to be cut and removed between July fifteenth and August fifteenth, and as many other times as he may deem necessary, in each year.”

In addition, there is a duty to “trim growth within the highway’s right-of-way to assure visibility of stop signs and other traffic” (Nurek v. Town of Vestal, 115 A.D. 2d 116, 117 (3rd Dept. 1985).

Finally, the V&T § 140 defines a Roadway. That portion of a highway improved, designed, marked, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the shoulder and slope.

In summary, the farmer is trying to be safe and not cross the centerline, but the V&T outlines the process whereby vehicles wider than the right side of the highway may move down the road.

Please consult your municipal attorney for more details as this is just a quick review and every case has its own issues


New York State Laws

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