Background on state highway connection permits

​Required​​ | Classifications​ | Access restrictions​ | Existing connections​ | Maintenance​ | Co​sts​ | Need​ | Policy​ | Access​​ management​ | Wisconsin law​​​​

​​Below​ you will find background on the different types of permits for state highway connections. You may also want to visit our frequently asked questions pa​ge​.

What is a state highway connection?

A state highway connection is a driveway, public/private road or street, or recreational trail that is between property that abuts state highway right-​of-way and the highway itself.

When is a connection permit required?

​On highways under WisDOT jurisdiction, a connection permit is required when property owners and local agencies want to:

  • Construct a new connection
  • Remove an existing connection
  • Relocate an existing connection
  • Validate an existing unpermitted connection (when legal)
  • Alter an existing connection, which includes a change of use

​"Alter" means any change done to a connection beyond routine maintenance such as widening, paving, replacing a culvert, and improvements to the highway.

​"Change of use" means any modification to a property that results in a change in the number and/or types of vehicles using a property’s connection. Property modifications may include, but are not limited to:​

  • Changing from a residential to a commercial or industrial use
  • Changing from single to multiple residential use
  • Subdividing to accommodate additional residences or businesses
  • Changing the type of business

​How is a connection permit classified?

A connection is classified by its use or how it serves a property. Types of use include:​

  • Commercial/industrial: A driveway or private road that serves a business or non-profit organization
  • Residential: A driveway or private road that serves single and multiple family homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, etc.
  • Agricultural: A field entrance and entrances t​o recreational or hunting lands. This use may also serve to provide an entrance to farm buildings but not residential buildings. It does not include commercial-type activities
  • Public road: A road, street, highway, etc. connecting to a state highway that is maintained by a local unit of government. A road not maintained by a unit of government is categorized under commercial/industrial or residential
  • ​Trail or trail crossing: Any pedestrian, bicycle, snowmobile, ATV/UTV or equestrian trail that runs longitudinally along and/or crosses a state highway

Access restrictions: Why connection permits cannot be issued or can only be issued with certain limitations

There are occasions when WisDOT cannot legally issue a connection permit because a property or group of properties are subject to access restrictions. There are also situations where WisDOT regulates access under Wisconsin law. The following are examples and explanations of some access restrictions (not an all inclusive list):

  1. A parcel is not allowed direct access to a state highway or only one connection is allowed​
    • ​Restricted by a previous WisDOT action such as ​purchased access rights under Wis. Stat. s. 84.09 or regulatory control under Wis. Stat. s. 84.25​

  2. ​​A connection has a specific use​
    • ​Agricultural – not residential or commercial – to minimize ​​traffic conflict​s

  3. A connection has right-in, right-out turns only
    • No median opening is allowed to prevent left-turn crashes​

  4. A connection must be built at a specific location
    • To meet proper sight distance or spacing requirements​

  5. ​A connection must be built to a certain width
    • ​Trans 231 contains the allowable widths for a connection based on the specific use. This distance is measured at the right-of-way line – not at the edge of pavement. Under Trans 231, connections are allowed radii (flares) to accommodate turning movements. Radii can be as much as 10 feet for a residential connection and up to 40 feet for a commercial connection.​

If a property is subject to an access restriction, WisDOT may only be able to issue a connection permit that meets the restriction. WisDOT may also issue a permit with certain restrictions to ensure the safety and operability of a state highway. Examples: limiting the connection to a certain type of use, maximum number of vehicles per day, or moving the connection to a joint property line.

Existing connections without permits

If an existing connection on your property does not have a valid WisDOT connection permit, you may be able to obtain a permit if it meets current law, standards and policy or if the connection can be legally altered or relocated to do so. Contact the transportation region office​ responsible for the county where the connection is located, and WisDOT staff will evaluate your situation.


Property owners and local agencies are expected to perform routine maintenance on the portion of their connections within state highway right-of-way whether or not the connections have a valid WisDOT permit or are nonconforming. Routine maintenance includes removing snow, sealing asphalt, reshaping or grading gravel, culvert lining and cleanout, and minor repairs. Most of this work can usually be done without a permit. But a permit is required for work that affects traffic in some manner, disturbs the ground, or interferes with a WisDOT highway improvement or maintenance project. Replacing or regrading the connection or replacing a culvert, for example, or any activity that involves digging in the right-of-way, requires a permit.​

​​Is there a cost for a permit?

No. However, there may be costs associated with building the connection. These costs may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • ​Improvements to the state highway system including turn lanes, bypass lanes, raised medians, paved shoulders and aprons, lighting, traffic signals, guardrail, pavement markings, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, etc.
  • Driveway materials (base course, pavement, culverts, end sections) and design, installation and maintenance labor
  • Traffic impact analysis studies for larger developments
  • Pavement, shoulder, and right-of-way restoration​​
  • ​Impacts to utilities including utility relocations
  • ​Permits from other regulatory agencies
  • ​Erosion control and traffic control​​​​

Why do I need a permit?

WisDOT ​has legal authority to issue connection permits under Wis. Stat. s. 86.07​(2)(a) and Administrative Code Ch. Trans 231.


WisDOT's state highway connection permit policy is part of Highway Maintenance Manual Chapter 9.

Access management

The issuance of connection permits is part of the broader subject of access management. For access management related information, including its importance/benefits, land divisions, guidance on the basic principles, and Wisconsin statutes and administrative rules, select the link above.​​​​

​​​Associated Wisconsin law

Visit the links below for Wisconsin law associated with utilities and permitting on state right-of-way.​