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Title:Legal Implications to Closing or Reducing Maintenance on Low Volume Roads in North Dakota
Authors:Peter Welte, Jill Hough, and Ayman Smadi
University:North Dakota State University
Publication Date:Mar 1997
Report #:MPC-97-69
Project #:MPC-103
TRID #:00735894
Keywords:abandonment, highway departments, highway maintenance, highway safety, legal factors, low volume roads, minimization, rural highways, tort liability, traffic crashes
Type:Research Report – MPC Publications


North Dakota has more than 102,000 miles of rural roads. Approximately half of these roads are paved and the rest are gravel or dirt. Due to limitations in funding and shifts in traffic patterns, counties and townships are forced to make difficult decisions regarding the maintenance of their roads. Some roads have higher levels of traffic and thereby justify higher levels of maintenance, whereas some roads with minimum levels of traffic may justify reductions in maintenance and possibly closure. Legal questions arise when counties and townships consider changing the maintenance levels and possibly closing some of their roads. Road safety is a goal all counties and townships strive to achieve. However, reducing maintenance levels or closing a road may pose some safety concerns, especially in the form of accidents involving motorists who are unaware of road conditions. As a result, tort actions for property damage, personal injury or wrongful death may be filed against counties or townships. This project discusses some of the legal implications and outlines possible approaches to assist counties and townships in North Dakota to minimize their tort liability with respect to closing roads, abandoning roads, or designating minimum maintenance roads.

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050