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  Access & Roads

>> Access and Roads
>> Property with Inadequate Access
>> Road Design and Construction
>> Dedication of Road over Crown Land
>> Traffic
>> Offsite Road Improvements
>> Alternatives to Public Roads
>> Access to a Body of Water
>> Criteria for Access to a Body of Water
>> Highway Encroachments
>> Access to Lands Beyond
>> Access to Subdivisions off Section 42 Transportation Act Roads
>> Public Roads and Highways
>> Right of Way Widths
>> Frontage Roads
>> Intersections
>> Turnarounds
>> Subdivisions Adjacent to Controlled Access Highways
>> Lanes
>> Walkways
>> Storm Drainage (Runoff)
>> Drainage Easements
>> Plans Cancellation

Highway access through a rural subdivision is an essential component to the development. If you are subdividing, you will need to service your subdivision with roads.


Property With Inadequate Access

Property without adequate access may not be subdivided, although a subdivision that creates a timber block only may be approved by prior arrangement with the Registrar of the Land Title & Survey Authority. The subdivider may acquire and construct a public road to give access.

If the road approaching a subdivision is not a two-lane road with a maintainable and/or all-weather surface, the subdivision application should not be approved. The applicant may choose to upgrade the road to a maintainable all-weather standard (specified by the approving office) at their expense. The subdivision may then be approved, if everything else is in order.


Road Design and Construction

The Engineering Branch of the Highways Department develops all road construction guidelines. Guidelines for subdivision roads can be found in Chapter 1400 of the Ministries BC Supplement to TAC Geometric Design Guide. Requirements for geotechnical design can be found in the ministries Geotechnical Design Specifications for Subdivisions publication.


Dedication of Road over Crown Land

If a parcel of private land being subdivided requires a road across Crown land for access, the Minister of Transportation may authorize the Surveyor General to establish a public road allowance through Crown land under Section 80 of the Land Act to obtain rights to the Crown land proposed for access road development. The subdivider must apply to the FrontCounterBC office nearest you.



By their existence, nature, layout, or design, subdivisions should not contribute to undue traffic congestion, which would jeopardize the integrity of the highway and street system and reduce the level of service to the public. Evaluating a subdivision's impact on traffic involves three things:

  • Estimating projected traffic volumes
  • Relating projected traffic volumes to the characteristics and features of the street system
  • Ensuring that the characteristics of the subdivision layout do not promote congestion but promote safe operation and the accommodation of bicycles, pedestrians, and transit or commercial vehicle needs as required

The District Development Technician can advise if a traffic impact study may be required. For more information on traffic impact studies, consult the Planning and Designing Access to Developments Manual provided in .PDF form on this website.


Offsite Road Improvements

Sometimes a developer will want to subdivide land accessed by a road with inadequate drainage, poor horizontal or vertical alignment, running surface or top width.  It could also be a road with inadequate bridges or structures. These problems could be overcome by the developer upgrading the road at his or her own expense, under Ministry direction.  The extent and nature of any road inadequacy should be detailed and reviewed with the Approving Officer.  The developer should then be advised to contact the District Development Technician for a detailed discussion of requirements.


Alternatives to Public Roads

The Land Title Act requires all new parcels to be provided with necessary and reasonable highway access.  The Minister of Transportation may consider various factors specified in the Act, and may in exceptional circumstances grant relief from the provision of highway access to the new parcels as well. The Provincial Approving Officer administers this authority. 

Ask your District Development Technician for details.


Access to a Body of Water

When a property that is proposed for subdivision is contiguous with a body of water, highway access to the water is required under Section 75(1)(c) and (d) of the Land Title Act.  This is to allow upland property owners and/or the general public access to bodies of water at regular intervals. 


Criteria for Access to a Body of Water

Access layout for a body of water can be complicated. Ask your practitioner or the District Development Technician for assistance in placing access points.

Relief Requirements

The Provincial Approving Officer may consider granting absolute relief from the requirements regarding access to a body of water under any of the following conditions:

  • A parcel is being conveyed to the Crown Provincial or an agency thereof
  • The subdivision's purpose is solely to adjust a boundary, and it will not create additional lots
  • The subdivision is within the Agricultural Land Reserve

Highway Encroachments

On occasion structures will be found to be encroaching on highway rights of way from adjacent properties.  Most often these structures are corners of houses, garages, barns, fences, and signs.  However, other structures are such as old underground gasoline storage tanks, tourist information booths, telecommunication kiosks, fire department storage buildings, and motel buildings have been found on highway rights of way.  These encroachments are usually discovered when a new property owner commissions a survey of the lot for a mortgage, a property is subdivided, or upon inspection by a Ministry employee.


Access to Lands Beyond

Subdivisions should provide highway access to land lying beyond or around the subdivided land where it does not already exist.  This secures access to other properties, which otherwise would not have access.  It provides for expansion of the highway network, especially in rural areas, and for access to Crown land. The requirement is only for the legal dedication of the right-of-way.  This highway access would be constructed at the discretion of the Provincial Approving Officer


Access to Subdivisions off Section 42 Transportation Act Roads

A highway designated under Section 42 of the Transportation Act is defined as a travelled road on which public money has been spent.

If the development will be accessed from an unmaintained Section 42 road, the road must be upgraded and dedicated on the subdivision plan. All roads shown on a subdivision plan must be established by a legal survey. If the status of the road is in question, consult the local District Transportation Office.


Public Roads and Highways

The Highway Functional Classification Study adopted in June 1992 provides a system for categorizing the provincial roadways according to the function that the road provides. Different types of roads and highways provide for access to subdivisions. Others may be affected by traffic from subdivisions nearby.

Local roads provide access to properties fronting directly on the road as well as to lands beyond, in accordance with Section 75(1)(a)(ii) of the Land Title Act. Roads located within the common property of a strata development are not public roads and service only lots in the development.

Major and minor roads carry vehicles between major traffic-generating areas or between such areas and the primary and secondary highways. They are defined in the Ministry's Major Road or Street Network Plan. Local access to individual properties from major and minor roads should be minimized.

Primary and secondary highways allow high-speed movement of inter-and intra-provincial traffic. These are often designated Controlled Access highways. They are expected to provide high overall travel speeds with minimum interference to through movements. Access to individual properties is minimized.


Right-of-Way Widths

In general, the minimum right-of-way width required for a public road is 20 metres or cross section plus 3 metres on each side, whichever is greater. Cross-section is defined as road prism (travelled road surface, shoulders, containment slopes) plus any slope areas necessary to contain the road prism.

The following diagram shows a typical roadway cross section (not to scale). It shows how the right of way should be established relative to the cross section of the road. Cut and fill slopes will vary depending on specific soil conditions and standards. Applicants should contact the District Development Technician for details.

The minimum right-of-way width for roads accessing lands beyond should be 20 metres unless adjacent to an existing 10-metre dedication. There should be no subdividing off of a right of way less than 20 metres across. Special consideration is given to the development of ski village development. See theTAC guide chapter 1500.


Frontage Roads

The Ministry prefers to use a service road system to access local businesses located on or fronting primary and secondary highways. If local road systems cannot be obtained, a frontage or backage road may be approved as an alternative. The frontage road is not an ideal solution, however, because of intersection problems and the high services-to-lot ratio.

A local road system is a firm requirement along primary highways in rural areas.

The normal right-of-way width for a frontage road is 15 metres.



Corner cut-offs (truncations) of six metres along each boundary are required at all road intersections. This is to maintain safe sight distance. The authority for corner cut-offs is found in Section 11 of the Provincial Public Undertakings Regulation BC Reg. 513/2004.



In progressive subdivisions, it may be preferable to establish the additional right-of-way necessary for the creation of a cul-de-sac turnaround by means of a Statutory Right-of-Way in favour of the Province, pursuant to Section 218 of the Land Title Act.  This would allow those portions of the cul-de-sac rendered surplus by the further extension of the public road to be quit-claimed, avoiding a lengthy road closure process.  The turnaround would still have to be constructed for maintenance purposes.

Cul-de-sac turnarounds should be at least 15 metres in radius plus required right-of-way to include ditches.  In areas where snowfall is heavy, increase right-of-way accordingly.


Subdivisions Adjacent to Controlled Access Highways

The Minister of Transportation can designate controlled access highways pursuant to Section 48 of the Transportation Act.  These highways may be located in municipalities or rural areas of the Province.  The Ministry has zoning, access and subdivision regulatory role over the land in proximity to these highways. 


Very few subdivision applications contain lanes nowadays, although they are allowed and may even be beneficial in some cases. Lanes can provide secondary access to parcels. They are useful if direct access is not desirable, such as in business districts or major streets where entrance conflicts would reduce the level of service to through traffic or pedestrians. In narrower lots, they can be used to access carports or garages.

The minimum width for a lane is six metres.  When the lane provides alternative access to lots on a controlled access highway, the lane should have a minimum width of 8 metres.

It must be made clear that lanes do not receive the same level of maintenance as roads.



Local government sometimes promotes walkways, particularly in blocks longer than 200 metres. Pedestrian desire lines to schools, beaches, parks, commercial areas etc. are checked against the street layout, and walkways are required where necessary. Walkways are shown as “road” on the subdivision plan.  Where walkways are dedicated as "road" on a plan of subdivision, then the Ministry is responsible for maintenance.  However, as it is usually local government who commits to walkways, it’s not unreasonable to ask them to take care of the maintenance, or to create the walkways as parks.

Refer to the TAC guide for construction criteria.


Storm Drainage (Runoff)

Drainage is a critical requirement for every subdivision. Inadequate drainage can lead to flooding , resulting in erosion, loss of stability or in property damage.  In addition, subdivisions that are not properly drained can result in damage to highways both in and downstream from the subdivision, resulting in a public safety hazard.

Storm water must be considered both in the subdivision and outside of it. The applicant may be required to have a drainage study or design prepared by a Professional Engineer or hydrologist. Drainage should be carried to a natural outfall or approved storm drain capable of carrying the additional flow.


Drainage Easements

Easements for road drainage are required if the District Development Technician determines that there may be a drainage concern. They are necessary to ensure that runoff of groundwater does not collect in the development but is carried to an approved natural outfall.


Plans Cancellation

If you are cancelling a plan and there is a right of way within it, please consult the District Development Technician.