Senate Bill No. 221
Introduced By _______________________________________________________________________________
A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act generally revising county road laws; allowing county commissioners to create a rural improvement district for building, maintaining, or repairing county roads; clarifying the duties of county commissioners concerning abandonment of county roads; revising certain definitions; defining "city street", "county road", "private road", "public highway", and "public road"; eliminating the use of road improvement districts; amending sections 7-12-2102, 7-14-2101, 7-14-2103, 7-14-2112, 60-1-103, 60-1-201, 60-2-107, 61-1-201, 61-1-202, and 61-1-205, MCA; and repealing sections 7-14-2901, 7-14-2902, 7-14-2903, 7-14-2907, and 7-14-2908, MCA."
WHEREAS, this bill seeks to clarify the duties of County Commissioners and is not intended to make substantive changes with regard to the current status of county roads; and
WHEREAS, assumptions as to ownership or liabilities will remain unchanged, and no action will be required by County Commissioners with regard to county roads in existence prior to the adoption of this bill; and
WHEREAS, the enactment of this bill will require counties to adopt a resolution when accepting newly petitioned roads under Title 7, chapter 14, part 26, MCA; and
WHEREAS, current public roads that have never been legally adopted by a county may be accepted following public notice, a public hearing, and adoption of a resolution; and
WHEREAS, decisions to discontinue or abandon county roads for safety reasons will require public notice and a public hearing prior to the adoption of a resolution by a Board of County Commissioners to discontinue or abandon county roads; and
WHEREAS, the courts are often the only recourse to resolve questions as to the status, ownership, and liabilities associated with a road; and
WHEREAS, this bill may relieve the courts of this responsibility by clarifying and eliminating the questions.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:
Section 1. Section 7-12-2102, MCA, is amended to read:
"7-12-2102. Authorization to create rural improvement districts. (1) Whenever the public interest or convenience may
require, the board of county commissioners is
hereby authorized and empowered to:
(a) order and create special improvement districts outside of the limits of incorporated towns and cities for the purpose of:
(i) building, constructing, or acquiring by purchase one or more of the improvements of the kind described in 7-12-4102, in or for the benefit of the special improvement district; or
(ii) providing for the construction, reconstruction, upgrade, repair, or maintenance of a proposed public road or a public road that does not meet the standards of 7-14-2111 or 7-14-2112; and
(b) assess the owners of parcels of land directly benefited by an improvement, a proposed public road, or a public road.
(2) For the purposes of this section, "land directly benefited" means land within the district that receives a direct benefit from the road for which a rural improvement district was created. A parcel of land is not directly benefited if the parcel is within the district solely because the road passes over the property to provide access to land directly benefited. A parcel of land within the district that is used solely for agricultural purposes is not considered land directly benefited.
(2)(3) The board of county commissioners may order and create rural special improvement districts covering projects
abutting the city limits and include properties inside the city where when the rural special improvement district abuts and
benefits that property. Property owners within the proposed district boundaries inside the city may not be included in the
rural special improvement district if 40% of those property owners protest the creation of the rural special improvement
district. The property inside the city must be treated in a similar manner as to improvements, notices, and assessments as
the property outside the city limits. A joint resolution of the city and county must be passed agreeing to the terms of the
rural special improvement district prior to passing the resolution of intention or resolution creating the rural special
improvement district. A copy of the resolution of intention and the resolution creating the rural special improvement district
must be provided to the city clerk upon the passage of the respective resolutions."
Section 2. Section 7-14-2101, MCA, is amended to read:
"7-14-2101. General powers of county relating to roads and bridges. (1) The board of county commissioners, under
such the limitations and restrictions as that are prescribed by law, may:
(a) (i) lay out, maintain, control, and manage county roads and bridges within the county;
(ii) levy taxes
therefor for county roads and bridges as provided by law;
(b) (i) in the exercise of sound discretion, jointly with other counties, lay out, maintain, control, manage, and improve
county roads and bridges in adjacent counties, wholly or in
such part as may be agreed upon between the boards of the
(ii) levy taxes
therefor for county roads and bridges shared jointly with other counties as provided by law;
(c) (i) enter into agreements for adjusted annual contributions over not more than 6 years toward the cost of joint highway or bridge construction projects entered into in cooperation with other counties, the state, or the United States;
such a joint project in the budget and levy taxes therefor for the joint project as provided by law.
Unless the context requires otherwise, county road means any public highway opened, established, constructed,
maintained, abandoned, or discontinued by a county in accordance with this chapter. (b) Unless the context requires otherwise, bridge the term "bridge" includes rights-of-way or other interest in land,
abutments, superstructures, piers, and approaches except dirt fills.
(b) The term "county road" has the same meaning as provided in 60-1-103."
Section 3. Section 7-14-2103, MCA, is amended to read:
"7-14-2103. Duties of county commissioners concerning county roads. (1) Each board of county commissioners has general supervision over the county roads within the county.
(2) Each board may survey, view, lay out, record, open, work, and maintain county roads
that are petitioned for by
freeholders. Guideposts must be erected.
(3) Each board may discontinue or abandon county roads when freeholders properly petition for discontinuance or abandonment or when safety requires discontinuance or abandonment.
(4) An order to discontinue or abandon a county road is not valid unless preceded by public notice and a public hearing. Notice of the intent to discontinue or abandon must also be posted adjacent to the affected right-of-way."
Section 4. Section 7-14-2112, MCA, is amended to read:
"7-14-2112. Width of roads. (1) The width of all county roads, except bridges, alleys, or lanes, must be 60 feet unless a
greater or smaller width is ordered by the board of county commissioners
on petition of an interested person.
(2) The width of all private highways and byroads, except bridges, must be at least 20 feet.
Nothing in this This section shall be construed as increasing or decreasing does not increase or decrease the width of
either kind of highway or road established or used as such prior to December 31, 1966."
Section 5. Section 60-1-103, MCA, is amended to read:
"60-1-103. General definitions. Subject to additional definitions contained in this title that are applicable to specific chapters or sections and unless the context otherwise requires, terms are defined as follows:
(1) "Abandonment" means cessation of use of a right-of-way or an easement or cessation of activity on the right-of-way or easement with no intention to reclaim it or use it again. Abandonment is sometimes called vacation.
(2) "Bridge" means
any a bridge constructed by the department, together with all appurtenances, additions, alterations,
improvements, and replacements and the approaches to the bridge, lands used in connection with the bridge, and
improvements incidental or integral to the bridge.
(3) "City street" means a public road under the jurisdiction of a city or municipality.
(3)(4) "Commission" means the transportation commission provided for in 2-15-2502. (4)(5) "Condemnation" means taking by exercise of the right of eminent domain. (5)(6) "Construction" means supervising, inspecting, actual building, and all expenses incidental to the construction or
reconstruction of a highway, including locating, surveying, mapping, and costs of right-of-way or other interests in land
and elimination of hazards at railway grade crossings. (6)(7) "Control of access" means the condition in which the right of owners or occupants of abutting land or other persons
to access, light, air, or view in connection with a highway is fully or partially controlled by public authority. (7)(8) "County road" means any public highway opened, established, constructed, maintained, abandoned, or discontinued
by a county in accordance with Title 7, chapter 14 a public road:
(a) that was classified as a county road on [the effective date of this act]; or
(b) the jurisdiction of which, after [the effective date of this act], has been accepted by resolution of the board of county commissioners and that is not classified as a federal-aid highway, a state highway, or a city street.
(8)(9) "Department" means the department of transportation provided for in Title 2, chapter 15, part 25. (9)(10) "Director" means the director of transportation , a position provided for in 2-15-2501. (10)(11) "Easement" means a right acquired by public authority to use or control property for a designated purpose. (11)(12) "Eminent domain" means the right of the state to take private property for public use. (12)(13) "Federal-aid highway" means a public highway that is a portion of any of the federal-aid highway systems. (13)(14) "Federal-aid highway systems" means all of the systems named in subsections (15) through (17) as part of the
systems and their urban extensions. (14)(15) "Federal-aid interstate system" means that system of public highways selected by the commission in cooperation
with adjoining states, subject to the approval of the secretary of commerce, as provided in Title 23, U.S.C. (15)(16) "Federal-aid primary system" means that system of connected public highways designated by the commission,
subject to the approval of the secretary of commerce, as provided in Title 23, U.S.C. (16)(17) "Federal-aid secondary system" means that system of public highways not in the federal-aid primary or interstate
systems selected by the commission in cooperation with the boards of county commissioners, subject to the approval of the
secretary of commerce, as provided in Title 23, U.S.C. (17)(18) "Fee simple" means an absolute estate or ownership in property, including unlimited power of alienation. (18)(19) "Highway" includes rights-of-way or other interests in land, embankments, retaining walls, culverts, sluices,
drainage structures, bridges, railroad-highway crossings, tunnels, signs, guardrails, and protective structures. (19)(20) "Highway", "road", and "street", whether the terms appear together or separately or are preceded by the adjective
"public", are general terms denoting a public way for purposes of vehicular travel and include:
(a) the entire area within the right-of-way; and
(b) the entire width between the boundary lines of a publicly maintained way when a part of the publicly maintained way is open to public use for the purpose of vehicular travel.
(20)(21) "Highway authority" means the entity at any level of government authorized by law to construct and maintain
highways. (21)(22) "Maintenance" means the preservation of the entire highway, including surface, shoulders, roadsides, structures,
and traffic-control devices that are necessary for the safe and efficient use of the highway.
(23) "Private road" means a way or place in private ownership that is:
(a) used for vehicular travel by the owner and by those who have expressed or implied permission from the owner; and
(b) not used by other persons.
(22)(24) "Public highways" highway" means all streets, roads, highways, bridges, and related structures a public road,
including a highway as defined in subsections (19) and (20), that has been:
(a) built and maintained with appropriated funds of the United States,
or the state, or any a political subdivision of the
(b) dedicated to public use;
(c) acquired by eminent domain; or
(d) acquired by adverse use by the public, with jurisdiction having been assumed by the state or
any a political subdivision
of the state.
(25) "Public road" means a road, highway, bridge, avenue, city street, alley, easement, right-of-way, place, or way that is:
(a) adapted and fitted for public vehicular travel and that is not a private road;
(b) built and maintained with appropriated funds of the United States, the state, or a political subdivision of the state;
(c) dedicated to public use;
(d) acquired by eminent domain; or
(e) acquired by adverse use by the public, with jurisdiction having been assumed by the state or a political subdivision of the state.
(23)(26) "Right-of-way" is a general term denoting land, property, or any interest in land or property, usually in a strip,
acquired for or devoted to highway purposes. (24)(27) "State highway" means any public highway planned, laid out, altered, constructed, reconstructed, improved,
repaired, or maintained , or by the department or with appropriated funds of the state. The term includes a public highway
abandoned by the department."
Section 6. Section 60-1-201, MCA, is amended to read:
"60-1-201. Classification -- highways and roads. (1) Public
highways roads of this state are classified as follows:
(a) federal-aid highways;
(b) state highways;
(c) county roads;
(d) city streets.
(2) All highways
which that are not designated, selected, or established by the commission or constructed or maintained by
the department or with appropriated funds of the state are county roads or city streets.
County roads are those opened, established, constructed, maintained, changed, abandoned, or discontinued by a county
in accordance with Title 7, chapter 14 All public roads not under the jurisdiction of the United States, the state, or a
municipality are under the jurisdiction of the county if:
(a) on [the effective date of this act], the road was a county road; or
(b) after [the effective date of this act], jurisdiction has been accepted by resolution of the board of county commissioners.
(4) City streets are those public highways under the jurisdiction of municipal officials."
Section 7. Section 60-2-107, MCA, is amended to read:
"60-2-107. Abandonment of highways. (1) The commission may abandon highways on the federal-aid systems and state highways.
(2) Prior to abandoning highways on the federal-aid systems and state highways, the commission shall publish notices three times in all local newspapers that serve the communities potentially affected by the abandonment. The notices must include:
(a) the exact location of the abandonment;
(b) when the abandonment will take effect; and
(c) an invitation for public comment.
(3) After the notices have been published, the commission shall hold a public hearing to address and respond to the public comment."
Section 8. Section 61-1-201, MCA, is amended to read:
"61-1-201. Highway. "Highway"
means the entire width between the boundary lines of every publicly maintained way
when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel, except that for the purpose of chapter
8 the term also includes ways which have been or shall be dedicated to public use has the same meaning as provided in
Section 9. Section 61-1-202, MCA, is amended to read:
"61-1-202. Public highway. "Public highway"
means "highway" as defined in 61-1-201 has the same meaning as
provided in 60-1-103."
Section 10. Section 61-1-205, MCA, is amended to read:
"61-1-205. Private road or driveway. "Private road" or "driveway" means
every way or place in private ownership and
used for vehicular travel by the owner and those having express or implied permission from the owner, but not by other
persons a private road as defined in 60-1-103."
NEW SECTION. Section 11. Repealer. Sections 7-14-2901, 7-14-2902, 7-14-2903, 7-14-2907, and 7-14-2908, MCA, are repealed.