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This Road is My Road, That Road is Your Road

Have you ever had responsibilities in your job when some co-worker comes along and steps on your toes? It’s aggravating. If the co-worker did it on purpose just to irritate you, shame on them. If they did it with good intentions, maybe you show some mercy. Regardless, you will end up having to spend time cleaning up their mess. This happens all too frequently with oversize/overweight (OS/OW) permits in Illinois, and when it does, the carrier is one left holding proverbial moneybag.

The issue is road authority, which is a convoluted and complicated mess in Illinois. Surprised? Well you shouldn’t be! When it comes to determine road authority and who is responsible to issue OS/OW permits for a particular highway, the two key words to consider are “maintenance” and “jurisdiction”.

Does maintenance mean who owns the road, or who plows the snow on the road? Does jurisdiction mean which police agency handles the crash reports on the road, or whose corporate boundaries the roadway falls within?

There are two key phrases in the Illinois Vehicle Code, both found in 625 ILCS 5/15-301(a):

“The Department (IDOT) with respect to highways under its jurisdiction and local authorities with respect to highways under their jurisdiction…” and,

“upon any highway under the jurisdiction of the party granting such permit and for the maintenance of which the party is responsible.”

Even though the language of the law is muddy, the truth is not. There are five different road authorities in Illinois, and who owns the road is the one with authority to issue OS/OW permit for it: 1.   Illinois Department of Transportation 2.   Illinois Tollway Authority 3.   County Roads 4.   Township Roads 5.   Other Local Roads (City/Village/Colleges/Park Districts)

Any of these entities may have public highways under their jurisdiction, and if an OS/OW vehicle needs to travel upon it, it is their responsibility to issue the permits. That’s the end of the conversation.

Except it’s not. As always, there are exceptions to the law. For instance, if two governments enter into a Memo of Understanding (MOU) or an intergovernmental agreement to have one authority permit the road owned by the other, it is entirely lawful. This scenario is becoming more common in Illinois with townships having their county government manage their permits.

A second aberration is…wait for it, wait for it…the City of Chicago. In Section 554.313(A) of the IDOT permit manual (which is the Administrative Code, carrying the full force of law), permission is given to the City of Chicago to require permits for roads owned by IDOT which are within the corporate limits of Chicago. This means the specialized transportation industry must pull two separate permits to move down the same road, even though the Appellate Court found this practice unlawful in Catom v Chicago.

Unfortunately, too many times local government hears rumor of what is going on in Chicago and will require local permits for the State highways within their corporate limits. Or, they assume that because they plow snow on a state, county or township highway under contract, that this gives them permit authority.

Wrong. Permit authority over a road owned by another is only granted when the proper legal agreements are written out specifically for permitting. A town may plow the snow, plant the flowers, write speeding tickets and handle crash reports on someone else’s road within their corporate limits, but that does not give them OS/OW permit authority.

What compounds the problem is when a police officer without a full understanding of these laws (or has been instructed to contrary) assumes their local permits are required on a road owned by another authority. When this happens, the police officer will knock the vehicle back to legal weight and issue an overweight citation with a mighty large fine.

Even worse is when a local authority issues an OS/OW permit for roads under their proper jurisdiction, yet also list highways not under their jurisdiction without any disclaimer about who all the highways belong too. This sets the carrier up for failure.

Worse yet is when the local authority issues a permit improperly listing another jurisdiction’s highway, with no advisory language, and then writes them an overweight for not having the other jurisdiction’s permit.

The call here is for all local government to do the right thing by making the jurisdictional routing clear on an OS/OW permit. The call is to never give permit authority, whether verbally or in writing, over a route they do not own. The call is to protect the industry.

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