MDOT SHA Access Manual

Chapter 1 – Access Point Standards

This chapter describes the standard criteria used by MDOT SHA to evaluate proposed state highway access for compliance with highway safety standards and consistency with the functional and operational requirements of the state highway. Prime considerations in SHA’s evaluation of proposed access include but are not limited to:

  • Arrow IconFuture highway needs
  • Arrow IconSight distance standards
  • Arrow IconNumber of access points
  • Arrow IconCommercial entrance spacing standards
  • Arrow IconStreet connection spacing standards
  • Arrow IconMedian crossover spacing standards
  • Arrow IconFeasibility of improvements
  • Arrow IconOther site-specific factors

Collectively, these standards are used to determine the acceptable number and location of access points for a specific subdivision or development project and the range of turning movements that may be permitted at each approved access point. Standards applied to the design of entrances, street connections, and road improvements for site access are covered in separate chapters.

It should be noted that compliance with the standards outlined in this chapter does not ensure that the requested access will be approved, but it may shorten the length of time between the initial application and the granting of a permit.

1.1 Future Highway Needs

All proposed site access is evaluated with regard to programmed improvements, state, county, and local planning initiatives, MDOT SHA's Highway Needs Inventory (HNI), and the Maryland Department of Transportation's Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP). Evaluations are made by appropriate representatives in MDOT SHA's planning, design, and district offices.

  • 1.1.1   Coordination with Programmed MDOT SHA Improvements

    When the proposed access is located within the limits of a state highway improvement that is specifically identified in the CTP, the location and design of the access must be consistent with the objectives and design of the MDOT SHA project. Depending on the schedule and funding status of the MDOT SHA project, the developer may be required to construct a portion of the ultimate highway improvement, such as widening near the requested access or construction of a service road.

  • 1.1.2 Coordination with Non-Programmed Needs Inventory

    Future highway improvements that are identified in the HNI are considered in determining the appropriate number and location of access points, and the developer is not typically required to design their access based on these concepts, but MDOT SHA’s policy is to require requested access to be consistent with corridor access management and preservation efforts as well as local and regional master plans. Additionally, the local government may require appropriate dedication or reservation of land for future long-range highway needs.

1.2   Sight Distance Standards

All points of access shall adhere to the safety criteria for acceptable intersection and stopping sight distance in accordance with current Administration standards and engineering practices. Sight distance shall be measured and evaluated for each proposed point of state highway access in accordance with the State’s adopted version of AASHTO’s A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets. Applicants are strongly advised that sight distance should be evaluated for each desired point of access prior to seeking preliminary subdivision or site plan approval from the local approving authority. MDOT SHA cannot recommend action on a filing that involves access to a state highway until adequate sight distance is demonstrated. In no instance will prior subdivision or site plan approval by the local authority relieve the applicant from having to meet the State's sight distance requirements.

1.3 Number of Access Points

On uncontrolled highways, the number of access points for subdivision or site access shall conform to either the following guidelines or those outlined in Chapter 2, whichever are more restrictive. MDOT SHA may consider exceptions based on unusual site usage, site constraints, future development, or traffic patterns. In the discussion below, “access” refers exclusively to state highway access points and “frontage” refers exclusively to state highway frontage.

  • 1.3.1   Number of Commercial/Industrial Access Points
    • 1.3.1.A.   Maximum Number of Access Points – State regulations specify that a maximum of two entrances may be allowed in the first 200’ of frontage. For each additional 100’ of frontage thereafter, a maximum of one entrance may be permitted, subject to the final decision of SHA. Regardless of frontage, a development may be restricted to a single entrance and exit.
    • 1.3.1.B.   Commercial Sites - Short Frontage – Commercial sites with under 400’ of frontage will be limited to a single point of access unless otherwise warranted by demonstrated traffic operations or site circulation considerations.
    • 1.3.1.C.   Commercial Sites - Large Frontage – Commercial sites with more than 400’ of frontage will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and will generally be allowed no more than two access points, regardless of the frontage available.
    • 1.3.1.D.   Adjacent Intersections – Properties that are located where normal operations of one or more stop-controlled or signalized intersections on the state highway significantly affect traffic operations (e.g. queuing delays) will typically be limited to one point of access on the state highway. A second access point may be acceptable where warranted by demonstrated traffic patterns or design vehicle turning movements.
    • 1.3.1.E.   Inter-Parcel Connections – The use of existing inter-parcel connections, or the establishment of new connections, is encouraged. This helps to reduce traffic in and out of the state highway, alleviating localized congestion and providing for easy access between adjacent properties. This may be particularly advantageous for commercial and retail centers. The availability of inter-parcel connections should reduce the number of access points required along the state highway for individual properties.
    • 1.3.1.F.   Multiple Lots and Pad Sites – Individual lots and/or pad sites as part of an overall subdivision or development project will be considered as a single development for plan review purposes. Arrangements for access to lots being conveyed to independent legal entities must be established through appropriate easements, inter-parcel connections, etc. Where highway access to individual lots is proposed, it must be consistent with approved access concepts for the overall subdivision or development.
  • 1.3.2   Number of Subdivision Access Points

    • Subdivisions shall be limited to one access point to the highway, consistent with state and local authority planning documents. Additional access points can be considered based on physical features or constraints to the site and the size and scope of the subdivision in relation to identified issues and costs. The number of access points will be limited to the maximum reasonable and feasible considering the functional and operational characteristics of the highway.
    • 1.3.2.A.   Single Development of Multiple Lots – The development will be reviewed as one parcel and the developer and local authority shall work to minimize the number of individual access points, consistent with local, county, and state planning documents.
    • 1.3.2.B.   Access Available to Other Public Road(s) – When access is available to one or more other public roads, the applicant shall preferentially direct access to the lower functioning public road unless direct access to a state highway would support the master-planned transportation infrastructure, provide a regional transportation benefit, or have demonstrated safety and/or operational merit. In accordance with the Annotated Code of Maryland §8–625, the Administration may deny an abutting property owner all new access along any primary state highway if reasonable access to another public road is available to and from the property.
    • 1.3.2.C.   Access Available to Other State Highway(s) – When access is available to one or more other state highways, the subdivision access shall preferentially consider directing access to the lower functioning state highway unless there are demonstrated safety and/or operational merits to the contrary.

1.4 Commercial Entrance Spacing Standards

Access points shall comply with the commercial entrance spacing standards identified in this section. Where full movement access is proposed, the median crossover spacing standards of 1.6 Median Crossover Spacing also apply and may govern the acceptable spacing.

  • 1.4.1   Offset from Adjacent Property
    • 1.4.1.A.   Entrances shall not encroach onto adjoining properties or extend along the frontage of adjoining properties.
    • 1.4.1.B.   A minimum 10' tangent is required between the limits of property frontage and the radius return point (PC/ PT) of the entrance.
    • 1.4.1.C.   The limits of property frontage are defined as the points of intersection between property boundaries and the state's existing, proposed, or dedicated right-of-way line, as applicable. Lines drawn between these points and the edge of the roadway, perpendicular or radial to the highway, will be considered the limits of property frontage.
  • 1.4.2   Spacing Between Entrances

    • 1.4.2.A.   A minimum 20' tangent is required between adjacent entrances on the same side of the highway, under any circumstances.
    • 1.4.2.B.   Entrances shall be located so as to avoid or minimize traffic patterns and turning movements that would conflict with other existing or proposed entrances or turning bays. If this is not possible, channelization and other measures may be required to prevent the conflicts as a condition of entrance approval.
  • 1.4.3   Corner Clearance from Adjacent Intersections and Interchanges

    • Corner clearance is defined as the distance between the radius return points of the intersection and the first commercial entrance, respectively.
    • 1.4.3.A.   There shall be a minimum 20’ tangent distance between the intersection radius return points and the first permitted entrance, under any circumstances.
    • 1.4.3.B.   The preferred corner clearance specified in Table 1.4.3 shall be met where there is sufficient property frontage. Where sufficient property frontage is not available, the minimum corner clearance shall be provided.
  • Table 1.4.3 Corner Clearance Standards

    • Highway ClassificationPreferred Corner
      Clearance (ft)
      Minimum Corner
      Clearance (ft)
      Secondary – Arterial200100
      Secondary – Collector15075
      *NOTE: On primary highways, entrances may not be located within the influence area of dedicated right
      or left-turning lanes for the adjacent intersection.

1.5 Street Connection Spacing

Access points shall comply with the street connection spacing standards identified in this section. Where full movement access is proposed, the median crossover spacing standards of 1.6 Median Crossover Spacing also apply and may govern the acceptable spacing.

  • 1.5.1   Spacing Between Street Connections
    • 1.5.1.A.   Streets intersecting with a state highway shall have a minimum distance of 750’ between centerlines
    • 1.5.1.B.   Streets intersecting with a state highway that is a divided highway or is planned to be a divided highway shall be spaced in accordance with the median crossover standards of 1.6 Median Crossover Spacing if full movement access is proposed.
    • 1.5.1.C.   Street spacing along primary highways shall conform to the applicable regional transportation plans developed jointly by MDOT SHA and the local jurisdiction, in addition to MDOT SHA's requirements outlined herewith.

1.6 Median Crossover Spacing

Openings in the median of a divided state highway may only be permitted where approved by the MDOT SHA Deputy Administrator and Chief Engineer. This requirement applies to all crossovers requested in any median, existing or proposed, for any purpose. Proposed median openings in existing or proposed medians are evaluated with respect to the criteria of this section.

Existing median openings on divided highways are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. MDOT SHA may require closure of existing median crossovers to address anticipated traffic and safety conditions associated with the proposed highway access point(s). Moreover, MDOT SHA may require construction of a raised median along an undivided highway to control turning movements associated with the requested access. This requirement is most typical where access is proposed near existing signalized intersections. When a median is constructed along an undivided highway, whether by MDOT SHA or a developer, the owners of abutting properties are not entitled to financial compensation for the loss of full movement or directional access across the median.

  • 1.6.1   Spacing Standards

    Proposed median crossovers shall comply with the spacing standards given in Table 1.6.1, unless otherwise acceptable to MDOT SHA:

  • Table 1.6.1 Median Crossover Spacing Standards for State Highways

Degree of Access Control and Highway
Functional Classification
ContextCrossover Spacing
Primary Highways – Fully Controlled
(Freeways and Expressways)
Any No crossovers, except for
emergency vehicle crossovers
where acceptable to
the Deputy Administrator
Primary Highways – Partially Controlled
and Uncontrolled
750' (minimum)
3000' (minimum)
Secondary Highways – Arterial RoutesUrban
750' (minimum)
1500' (minimum)

  • 1.6.2   Design Considerations
    • 1.6.2.A.   Crossovers shall have either a left-turn lane or a jug handle design which shall meet all minimum AASHTO Standards. Crossovers for which this is not possible may not be permitted.
    • 1.6.2.B.   A full crossover shall provide for all vehicular movements; a crossover may exclude the “cross” movement and/or left out movement when recommended by the Assistant District Engineer – Traffic.
    • 1.6.2.C.   New crossovers may not be established where they would compromise the function of adjacent left turn bays by reducing their storage capacity to handle projected long-term traffic volumes.
    • 1.6.2.D.   When increased traffic is proposed to use existing crossovers, MDOT SHA may require improvements to the crossover, including appropriate left turn bays, deceleration and acceleration lanes, and other improvements. SHA may also require closure of the existing crossover in the interest of public safety and preserving highway function.

1.7 Other Factors

In addition to the above criteria, the following factors are considered in MDOT SHA’s evaluation of the proposed access points:

  • Arrow IconHigh traffic volumes
  • Arrow IconHigh posted or operating speeds
  • Arrow IconTraffic operations problems
  • Arrow IconSafety issues or crash history
  • Arrow IconLimited feasibility of further highway improvements
  • Arrow IconLack of feasible traffic mitigation measures
  • Arrow IconProximity to signalized intersection
  • Arrow IconSignal timing constraints/problems
  • Arrow IconAvailability of access on lower-type roads
  • Arrow IconEngineering judgment
  • Arrow IconPublic benefit

Each project will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Presence of the factors above may result in more restrictive access or necessitate additional improvements to support the requested access.