State right of way (ROW) permits

A permit is required to work in the right of way of an Interstate, U.S. or state highway. All of these numbered highways make up the state trunk highway (STH) system.

The permitted work may consist of, but is not limited to:

  • Excavating
  • Placing fill materials
  • Grading
  • Paving
  • Surveying
  • Boring under a highway
  • Installing an overhead line
  • Blocking and detouring traffic

A permit must be obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) prior to the start of any work, and a copy of the permit (either paper or electronic) must be at the work-site at all times.

Under Wis. Stat. s. 86.07(2)(a), the maintaining authority of a highway is also the permitting authority. WisDOT issues permits on most numbered highways. However, many cities and villages maintain segments of state and U.S. highways located within their municipal boundaries. These segments are called connecting highways. Check with WisDOT or the municipality to verify which agency has the permitting authority. Permits for utility work on WisDOT railroad property and STH detours are not controlled by this statute.


Click on the link below for information related to the specific permit topic.

Work zone requirements (NEW)

Starting in January 2020, WisDOT will implement the following work zone requirements for utility and other ROW permits on all STHs as a means of increasing worker safety and striving for consistent applications:

  • Standards for cones, drums and other temporary traffic control devices.
  • Temporary portable rumble strips for use on all flagging operations. See standard detail drawing 15c12.
  • Certification for all flaggers. FAQs on flagger certification.
    NOTE: Flagger certification enforcement has been temporarily suspended until June 1, 2020 due to companies not being able to arrange for staffing and implement the required training over the winter or now with Wisconsin's "Safer at Home" requirements in response to COVID-19.
  • View the 2020 Flagging handbook and Addendum
  • Online order form for Flagger handbooks 

A new work zone safety booklet is being developed that should be available in early 2020.

Questions may be directed to Erin Schoon, Statewide Work Zone Operations Engineer. 

Work zone training courses (NEW)

WisDOT has a number of online training courses available through its Learn Center for use by anyone interested in learning about work zone operations.

Questions may be directed to Emily Silverson, Traffic Operations Engineer.

Associated Wisconsin law

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