Frequently asked questions – State highway connection permits


The state highway connection permit process can be overwhelming at times. So WisDOT has developed this webpage to high​light and answer some of the questions frequently asked by our customers. There also is a background page​ to learn more about requirements, classifications and restrictions. To help you better navigate this webpage, the FAQs are grouped​ with links by the following categories:​

A) Terminology​

  1. Why does WisDOT call it a “connection” permit instead of a driveway permit?

    There are different types of access that physically make a ”connection” between a state highway and private property (such as a home or business​), public property (such as a park), or a local road. Entrances to private driveways are only one of these types. To simplify processing and our forms, WisDOT terms all access types as a ”connection.” A driveway permit is the same as a connection permit.

  2. What is a state highway?A blue and red I-94 sign. Black and white signs for US 51, WIS 35, and County A.

    A state highway is typically a numbered route, which is comprised of Interstate, United States, and Wisconsin routes as shown by the signs on the right. County highways are designated with letters instead of a numbers. WisDOT ​does not issue permits on county highways or on town, city, or village (municipal) roads/streets, but all of these roads may be subject to county or municipal permitting.

​​​B) Permit processing​​

  1. How long does it take to get my permit?

    Typically 2-4 weeks from the time your permit application is completely filled-out, accurate, and all supporting documentation has been provided. Simple permits may be issued sooner. Complex ones (such as for a commercial property, development, or unique situation) take longer as they require additional internal review. Please plan well in advance when applying for a permit.

  2. If WisDOT denies my application for a permit, can I appeal?

    Yes. Under Wisconsin Statute s. 86.073, a property owner may appeal WisDOT’s denial of a permit within 30 days of the decision​ notification. The decision will contain instructions on how to appeal.​

  3. What if WisDOT "summarily dismisses" my permit, can I appeal this decision?

    No. If WisDOT summarily dismisses a permit, this means the property owner did not have a legal right to apply for a permit due to existing access controls or property restrictions.​​

C) Alternative access

  1. Why can’t I have direct state highway access if I have an existing access from an abutting side road?

    Wisconsin Administrative Rule Trans 231.03(2) states: The number of driveways permitted serving a single property frontage along a state trunk highway shall be the minimum deemed necessary by the department for reasonable service to the property without undue impairment of safety, convenience and utility of the highway. WisDOT has evaluated numerous situations like this over the years and has found that if a property has existing access from a side road, it is generally much safer than having direct state highway access. Many nationwide studies also support the fact that having fewer access points onto a highway makes it safer for the traveling public.

  2. Why can’t I have direct state highway access just because my property abuts another public connection (driveway or road/street)?

    See C1.

  3. Can I have a connection to the state highway to avoid weight restriction limits on the abutting side road where I already have a connection?

    No. See C1. Since your property already has access, you need to contact the maintaining authority of the side road to determine if it can get improved to mitigate the weight restrictions. A property owner may have to pay for those improvements if they only benefit his/her property/business. The bottom line is that the property has reasonable access to the side road, and reasonable access is not a guarantee that access is achievable by any type/weight/size vehicle operating on the highway.

​D)​ Access restrictions

  1. ​Why is there an access restriction on my property?

    In most cases, access restrictions are used to increase safety and mobility (efficient traffic flow) by reducing the number of accesses, and therefore conflict points, on a state highway. ​There are different reasons that may have led to the restrictions:

    • ​WisDOT may have purchased all access rights or all access rights except for one connection
    • WisDOT and a previous owner may have planned for access control during a land division
    • The property may be in a corridor that became restricted during a statutory processDiagram showing that some access functions increase the proportion of through traffic more than others.
    • Access restrictions give WisDOT the strongest tools/authority to regulate operational and safety conflicts involving vehicles entering and exiting property directly adjacent to a state highway. WisDOT strives to balance mobility and access with various highway tiers. For example, higher functioning highways like interstates or freeways have very limited access but provide greater mobility. Two-lane, low volume highways, by contrast, provide greater access but reduced mobility.

  2. ​I just purchased property that has an access restriction or covenant that I wasn’t aware of. How was I supposed to know it was there?

    ​The property owner, broker, title company, or attorney involved with the real estate transaction should have disclosed this information to you prior to the sale. WisDOT may not be able to help in this situation as it is a private matter.

  3. Can I get an access restriction removed from my property?

    WisDOT will evaluate the circumstances behind the access restrictions upon request. In most situations however, these restrictions are not removed due to safety and mobility issues. They were established for a purpose and that purpose still exists.

  4. Where can I find documentation on access restrictions on my property?

    There are three possibilities:

    1. Check your property deed. It may be listed there. You may check with your local Register of Deeds office if you don’t have a copy of your deed.
    2. The chain of title for the property should list the restrictions. Sometimes the deed for the property may not specify the restrictions, but documents creating the restrictions would likely appear in the chain of title (title policy).
    3. Contact WisDOT for a copy of the right-of-way plat.​
  5. I own a lot in a subdivision that restricts access to the state highway on it. The municipality agrees that I should have a connection. WisDOT is creating a hardship for me. Why can’t I have a connection?​

    WisDOT did not create the hardship. The lot has legal access via the subdivision plat to an existing (or proposed) street/road within the subdivision. When the subdivision was created, it was subject to Wisconsin Administrative Rule Trans 233.2(2) Subdivisions shall be so laid out that the individual lots or parcels do not require direct vehicular access to the highway.

    Restrictions on subdivisions, enforced by WisDOT, are statutorily required and for public benefit. The restrictions are required during the platting process and in place prior to the sale of any subdivision lot. More information can be found in Wis Stat. s. 236.293.

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E) Existing connections​

  1. ​​​​How can I find out if the existing connection to a property is legal or has a valid permit​?​

    ​​Contact the transportation region office that covers the county in which the connection is located.

  2. How ​​am I supposed to know I need a permit on an existing connection?​

    It’s always a good idea to get a connection permit in your name as the current property owner. Permits are not transferrable. Contact the transportation region office​ that covers the county in which the connection is located to get the process started.

  3. Can I improve an existing connection that doesn’t have a permit?

    A property owner may improve his or her connection to increase its durability, lower maintenance costs, widen within legal limits, etc. Any work in state highway right-of-way requires a permit from WisDOT. Therefore, a new permit application must be submitted.

  4. I have been accessing my field from that location for many years. Why can’t I put in a proper connection?

    Just because you have been accessing the field through the ditch or driving across WisDOT right-of-way doesn’t mean you had the legal right to do so, or that it is a safe location for access. We ask that a property owner submit a connection permit application so we can evaluate the situation. If WisDOT grants a permit, you would be able to build a proper connection. If not, then you would have to find another way to access your field without using the state highway.

  5. Why can’t I keep the connection that has been here for 100 years?

    If no permit is on file and there are no restrictions known to WisDOT, the property owner may apply to verify if the connection will meet today’s standards and specifications.

  6. Why can’t I just use a field entrance that’s been here forever?

    A field entrance is permitted for limited use related to maintaining and harvesting crops. Any change of that use is adding additional traffic to that connection, and so requires a reevaluation by WisDOT to determine the safety of that connection. This requires a new permit application.

  7. Both of my connections have permits; why can’t I keep them?

    Highway conditions may change over time, for example, an increase in traffic volume. There may also be an increase in crashes or near misses due to the traffic increase and number of access points in a highway corridor. Since permits are approved and denied by evaluating the conditions at the time of application, existing connections may be removed and their permits revoked if the safety and mobility of the highway is a greater benefit for the travelling public than property owners having two connections to their properties.​

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F) New connections (no current connection exists)

  1. I am thinking of purchasing this property; will I be able to get the connection I want?

    ​WisDOT asks a person if s/he has a vested interest in the property such as an Offer to Purchase. If not, the person has no right to apply for a connection permit on somebody else’s property. If yes, WisDOT can verify if there are any restrictions relating to access for the property. Until an application is filed with the region office and a complete review is done, WisDOT is unable to provide a decision on whether access may be allowed. You could also ask the current owner to apply for a permit. If granted, then you may apply for a permit in your name after the sale (permits are not transferrable).

  2. I purchased a subdivided property without access. WisDOT denied a permit for a new connection to the state highway. How I am supposed to go to the previous owner for access?

    See D2. You will need to contact the neighboring property owners to obtain a cross-access easement from one of them. You may have a legal issue with the previous owner if the access restriction on the property was not disclosed. This is an instance where a buyer must be aware of any existing restriction(s) on property that s/he is purchasing.

  3. Can WisDOT install a warning sign like “Hidden Driveway” so I can get a connection because the proposed location does not meet the required sight distance?

    No. WisDOT’s policy is to approve permits for connections that meet the required sight distance to maintain highway safety.​

  4. Can WisDOT remove a portion of the guardrail so I can access my property?

    No. ​The guardrail was placed there for highway safety purposes. By removing the guardrail, the level of safety would be decreased.

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G) Add ​another connection to my property

  1. Why can’t I have another connection to my property if I have an existing connection?

    ​You may already have reasonable access with your first connection. Wisconsin Administrative Rule Trans 231.03(2) states: The number of driveways permitted serving a single property frontage along a state trunk highway shall be the minimum deemed necessary by the department for reasonable service to the property without undue impairment of safety, convenience, and utility of the highway.

  2. I was given a permit for this connection many years ago. Why can’t I keep this connection and add a new one as well?

    WisDOT understands that conditions change over time and may reevaluate a situation at the time of the application to determine if another connection is warranted. In most situations however, we respond the same as in G1.

  3. My neighbor has two connections. Why can’t I have two connections; it’s the same situation?

    See G1. In addition, WisDOT may be removing your neighbor’s second connection (along with other properties within the corridor that also have two or more connections) with our next highway improvement project. The more access points on a highway, the more potential crashes there will likely be, which decreases safety and mobility.​

  4. When did the statute for connection spacing start?

    There is no specific Wisconsin statute on connection spacing. WisDOT relies on engineering research and studies along with guidance from the National Access Management Manual and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) design book to establish reasonable and safe requirements for connection spacing.

  5. I can’t get to my other property from my connection because of the grade/creek/bluff. What can I do?

    A property owner has the right to apply for a state highway connection permit unless there is a known restriction on the property prohibiting them from applying.

  6. My neighbor needs to get his/her own connection because I don’t want farm vehicles on our shared residential connection. Is this a possibility?

    Maybe. WisDOT may review the situation to determine if the shared connection is creating a safety issue and may be able to grant the neighbor a separate agricultural access. However, if there are access restrictions for adding a second connection to your neighbor’s property, or if there are spacing, sight distance, or other safety issues that may be created by adding another connection to the neighbor’s property, WisDOT will not grant the request and you will have to work out the issue with your neighbor.

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H) Construction

  1. What approvals do I need to construct a connection to a state highway?​

    Under Wisconsin Statute s. 86.07(2)(a), “ person shall make any excavation or fill or install any culvert or make any alteration in any highway or in any manner disturb any highway without a permit from the highway authority maintaining the highway.” ​So, a permit is required from WisDOT before you construct a new connection to your property. The application and instructions are available here, or you can request it from the transportation region office​. During our review, WisDOT staff may find that a highway segment has been designated as a controlled access highway under Wis. Stat. s. 84.25. ​In these less common instances, a different permit application form is used. WisDOT will provide you with that form if applicable.

  2. Why do I have to pay for all of the state highway improvements required or pay for things like utility facility moves?

    Because you are the one causing the action and responsible for the permit. If a connection wasn’t needed, additional improvement costs wouldn’t be needed either.

  3. Why can’t I place concrete up to the paved asphalt shoulder or gravel shoulder?

    Different material surfaces abutting one another rise and fall with time and seasons. If WisDOT is plowing snow, especially while winging, striking a raised concrete surface can do serious damage to the plow blade and will likely cause damage to your connection for which WisDOT is not responsible for its repair.

  4. Why can my connection only be 24 feet wide (residential) or 35 feet wide (commercial)?​​​A diagram that shows driveways are wider when you measure the turn radius for both sides.

    Wisconsin Administrative Rule Trans 231.04 specifies the maximum widths for connections on state highways. These distances are measured at the right-of-way line. The width as measured near the edge of pavement (paved shoulder or lane) is much larger when turning radii are included. For example, a commercial connection can be as wide as 115 feet at the edge of pavement when you add a 40-foot radius on each side.

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I) Culverts ​–​ Drainage

  1. Who pays for a culvert? Why do I have to pay for my culvert when it is in state highway right-of-way?

    The property owner or maintaining authority of the connecting road/street pays for the culvert. If the connection or road/street was not there, a culvert would not be needed as there would just be a ditch. Since the property owner wants a connection or a municipality/county wants a road/street, the cost burden is on them – not on all taxpayers. However, if a WisDOT highway improvement project requires the removal and replacement of culverts along the project corridor, WisDOT bears this cost since it is initiating the action as a safety measure (proper drainage) for all highway users.

  2. Who pays for a culvert on a shared connection?

    That depends on what arrangements have been made with the other property owner(s). In most situations, the costs should be shared equally. WisDOT recommends developing a shared maintenance agreement with the property owner(s) that can be recorded on everyone’s property deed as a matter of record.

  3. Why does my culvert have to be so long?

    The sides of a connection must have sufficient slopes for an errant vehicle to ride over the top of the connection without going airborne or ramming directly into the bank. Consequently, a culvert must be long enough to match the side-slopes along with the apron end wall. See I4.

  4. Why do I need apron end walls for my culvert?

    It is a safety measure. If the apron end walls were not there, an errant vehicle may ram directly into the culvert edge instead of riding over the top of it.

  5. WisDOT needs to install more culverts under my connection because my property is not draining properly.

    WisDOT sizes culverts under its roads and adjacent connections to intercept the preexisting natural flow of surface waters under Wis. Stat. s. 88.87 to prevent highway dam​age. WisDOT is not responsible for drainage issues on private property that existed before a highway was built. WisDOT will evaluate a drainage issue caused by a culvert that is clogged, in a state of disrepair, or missing (i.e., should have been installed with a connection permit but wasn’t). WisDOT will also review culverts upstream and downstream of a connection for potential problems. All culverts, except those under the state highway itself, are the responsibility of the property owner or the maintaining authority of the connecting road/street to maintain.

  6. Why can’t we send our water to the ditch/storm sewer?

    WisDOT’s ditches and storm sewers are designed to handle highway water and water from adjacent properties (if WisDOT was required to intercept overland water flow when it built the highway). For new developments or redevelopments, the flow rate pre-development must equal the flow rate post-development before WisDOT will consider water being directed to WisDOT right-of-way using new, private drainage methods or devices. WisDOT will not allow additional water that would overburden the existing highway drainage system. With your permit application, you must submit calculations from a civil engineer that supports a “no flow rate increase,” which may require constructing detention/retention facilities on your property.

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J) Change of connection use

  1. Why can’t I use the field entrance that has been there forever to build a home/homes or to put in a commercial business?​

    In general, any connection may have been operated and served a previous use without an issue, but WisDOT needs to be confident that a proposed change in use (vehicle types, traffic volume increases, traffic pattern changes, etc.) will not adversely affect the safety of the travelling public or driveway users. For this situation, a field entrance is permitted for limited use related to maintaining and harvesting crops. Any change of that use will likely add traffic to that entrance, and thus requires WisDOT to reevaluate via submission of a new permit application.​​​

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K) ​Developments ​–​ Business expansions

For the questions below, the responses are dependent on the circumstances surrounding the property development, land division, business expansion, etc. WisDOT must evaluate all requests based on these circumstances. Situations that appear to be similar are likely to have different access decisions due to: trips per day in and out of the property, sight distance, available alternative access on an abutting side road, existing connection spacing, types of vehicles expected, etc.

  1. If this property doesn’t have direct state highway access, there is no way a business will come here, which could ruin plans for this property development. Why can’t we get direct state highway access?

    WisDOT can only review an access request when the proposed use is provided. Different types of commercial businesses generate different numbers of trips in/out, so specula​tory​ review for a commercial connection cannot be completed without providing sufficient information. If alternative access to a local road system is available, then refer to C1​. Also see F1​.

  2. ​I run a commercial business from my home, and I don’t want customers to use my residential connection. Can I get another connection?

    If separation is desired, the site should be designed to separate residential and commercial use within private property – not by adding another connection in highway right-of-way.

  3. How am I supposed to handle my own business traffic? The lot is too small, or buildings are in the way. Why can’t I have another connection?

    It may be that the proposed use or design will simply not work on your lot. Hiring a civil engineer (consultant) to evaluate internal site design layout, circuity and associated costs may be in your best interest.

  4. We need an additional connection or we can’t expand the business. Other businesses have two connections, and this is a congested highway corridor already. Some connections do not have proper spacing either so what is the issue? If we can’t get another connection, is there an option to move/alter a connection instead?

    WisDOT reviews current requests for additional connections and that review is based on current policy and standards for spacing and safety. Existing connections to other properties may have been constructed prior to current standard/policy in place at the time of their construction. Moving or altering an existing connection may be a solution. This would require WisDOT review for current site distance, spacing and other safety standards prior to permit issuance and connection relocation. Also see K3.

  5. Why can’t we use the existing connections for a redevelopment or expansion?

    Redevelopment or expansion may change the number of trips in and out causing a previously permitted or unpermitted connection to create safety or mobility problems for highway users. ​A Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) may be required to determine the traffic affects generated by the proposed redevelopment or expansion. Refer to the connection permits webpage under Background: "Change in Use."

  6. Why can’t WisDOT lower the speed on the state highway to achieve better sight distance or spacing requirements for a business to get a connection?

    WisDOT cannot arbitrarily lower a state highway speed limit. Speed limits on any highway are set after careful consideration to enhance safety and facilitate traffic flow for the traveling public and are typically not based on providing property access. The main purpose of a state highway is to carry high-speed traffic and commerce. People interested in how speed limits are established are encouraged to view WisDOT’s pamphlet on the topic.

  7. We can’t connect to the local road because it’s in another municipality. What are our options?

    You must work with that other municipality.

  8. Why can’t we have multiple connections to the state highway; it is in our municipality’s master plan?​​

    Just​ because it’s in a municipality’s master plan doesn’t mean that the municipality coordinated with WisDOT or received WisDOT’s concurrence on the plan. WisDOT evaluates access requests based on the conditions at the time and the potential for future growth including increased traffic volume. If a business requests multiple connections and they will adversely affect safety and mobility of the state highway, WisDOT will deny the request. WisDOT will still work with the business and municipality to provide legal and reasonable access if available from the state highway​​ and coordination with the municipality's street system.

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L) Recreational routes and trails

  1. Why can’t WisDOT lower the posted speed limit on this highway segment to 35 mph (or less) so we can enact an ordinance to allow ATVs/UTVs on the state highway within our municipal boundary?​

    WisDOT cannot arbitrarily lower a state highway speed limit. Speed limits on any highway are set after careful consideration to enhance safety and facilitate traffic flow for the traveling public and are typically not based on a specific type of vehicle. People interested in how speed limits are established are encouraged to view WisDOT’s pamphlet on the topic.

Associated Wisconsin Law

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