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AGO 1957 No. 145 - December 23, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

HIGHWAYS ‑- HEARINGS ON LIMITED ACCESS BY STATE HIGHWAY COMMISSION.STATE ‑- HIGHWAY COMMISSION ‑- NECESSITY OF HEARINGS TO CHANGE ACCESS CONTROL

After a highway has become an established limited access facility it is not necessary for the state highway commission to hold a hearing before it can change or modify the plan of access control in a manner that will either provide more restrictive or more liberal access to said highway.

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                                                               December 23, 1957

State Highway Commission
Transportation Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 145


Attention:  Lorenz Goetz, Secretary

Gentlemen:

            Request has been made of this office for an opinion on the following question:

            "After a highway has become an established limited access facility, either with or without the holding of a hearing for abutting property owners, is it necessary for the State Highway Commission, under the terms of RCW chapter 47.52, to hold a hearing before it can change or modify the plan of access control in a manner which will provide either more restrictive or more liberal access to said highway?"

            Our answer is in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            In answering the question, it is necessary to consider the effect of RCW 47.52.072, RCW 47.52.073, and RCW 47.52.074, pertaining to the conduct of hearings on  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] limited access facilities, in relation to RCW 47.52.040, pertaining to the highway authority's control over access.  The pertinent parts of the statutes are set out below:

            "Noexisting highway, road or street, or portion of an existing highway, road or street may beestablished as a limited access facility until the owners or reputed owners of the abutting property of the section affected, as indicated in the tax rolls of the county be given notice of such proposal and an opportunity to be heard thereon. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.) RCW 47.52.072.

            ". . . The authority shall introduce by competent witness a summary of the proposal for the establishment of a limited access facility and any evidence that may be proper as to the public convenience and necessity for such facility.  At the conclusion of such evidence, any persons entering an appearance may introduce, either in person or by counsel, evidence and statements or counterproposal bearing upon the reasonableness of the proposal. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)  RCW 47.52.073.

            "At the conclusion of such hearing the authority shall consider the evidence taken at such hearing and shall make specific findings in the case of each abutting ownership as to whether such proposal to establish such existing highway, road or street, or portion thereof, as a limited access facility is required by the public convenience and necessity. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)  RCW 47.52.074.

            "The highway authorities of the state, counties and incorporated cities and towns may so design any limited access facility and so regulate, restrict, or prohibit access as to best serve the traffic for which such facility is intended; and the determination of design by such authority shall be conclusive and final. . . .  No person shall have any right of ingress or egress to, from, or across limited access facilities to or from abutting lands, except at designated points at which access may be permitted by the highway authorities upon such terms and conditions as may be specified from time to time:. . ." (Emphasis supplied.)  RCW 47.52.040.

            A careful reading of RCW 47.52.072, quoted above, leads to the conclusion that a hearing is required only for the purpose of determining the public convenience  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] and necessity of originally establishing a limited access facility over an existing highway, road or street.  Once a highway, road or street is established as a limited access facility, highway authorities may change or modify the access restrictions under RCW 47.52.040, quoted above.  This statute does not, by its terms, require the highway authorities to conduct a hearing prior to changing or modifying access on an established limited access facility.

            We conclude, therefore, that after a highway has become an established limited access facility, it is not necessary for the state highway commission to hold a hearing before it can change or modify the plan of access control in a manner that will either provide more restrictive or more liberal access to said highway.  However, we find nothing in the statutes to prevent the highway commission from holding such hearings as it deems desirable prior to modifying the access restrictions.

            We trust that this information will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


THOMAS J. GREENAN
Assistant Attorney General

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