Working within the Right-of-Way

More than a third of the accidents on Story County roads involve vehicles that leave the roadway. If an errant vehicle hits something on the shoulder, ditch, or embankment—

  • a fence or retaining wall,
  • a footbridge,
  • certain mailbox supports,
  • crops planted in the right of way (they limit visibility and drainage), etc.—drivers and passengers are much more likely to be seriously injured.

Who’s responsible for roadside safety?

We all are!

Right of way (ROW) on all county roads—including ditches in front of private property—is controlled by the county. Consequently, landowners are not taxed for that portion of their property. If an accident occurs involving a private object or structure in the ROW, the county, the property owner/tenant, and any company that performed the work could be held liable.

How do we make county roadsides safer?

  1. Prevent more hazards from being constructed.
  2. Re-establish a safe “recovery area” for vehicles that leave the road.

Story County realizes that most landowners/tenants who built structures in the ROW were trying to improve aesthetics, convenience, or access and weren't aware of the safety implications. No one in Story County has knowingly installed a public hazard in the ROW. However, these hazards currently exist, and we need to focus on safety as our top priority.

Wondering if you can . . .

  • install a unique mailbox support?
  • improve the entry to your property?
  • work in the ROW to fill, dig, place objects, etc.?

Chapter 33 of the Story County Code of Ordinances (PDF) prohibits the unauthorized use of road ROW. Permit applications are available at the county engineer’s office and on the web (see contact information below). If your proposed project doesn't qualify for a permit, county staff may be able to help you adjust your plan or come up with an alternative.

What’s happening now . . .

Story County is

  • completing a countywide inventory of private structures in the ROW
  • developing guidelines for restoring the “recovery area”
  • contacting landowners/tenants and possibly providing assistance for removing hazards on a safety-priority basis (Owners will be contacted before any action is taken.)

Help is available

For more information, please contact:

Story County Engineer’s Office
837 N Ave.
Nevada, Iowa 50201

Phone: 515-382-7355