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California State Highway Encroachment Permit (3-CA-c)

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) requires an encroachment permit for all activities related to the placement of encroachments within, under or over California highway rights of way. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 670(a)(2).


Under California Streets and Highways Code 660(b) an encroachment is any tower, pole, pole line, pipe, pipeline, fence, billboard, stand or building, or any structure, object of any kind or character not particularly mentioned in this definition, or special event, which is in, under, or over any portion of the California highway right of way. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 660(b). Caltrans is responsible for issuing permits for the placement of structures or fixtures necessary to electric power lines in the state’s right of way. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 117. Caltrans issues encroachment permits to:

  • Protect, maintain, and enhance the quality of the State highway system during and after permitted work;
  • Ensure the safety of both the highway users and the permittees;
  • Ensure that the proposed encroachment is compatible with the primary uses of the State highway system;
  • Protect the State's and public’s investment in the highway facility; and
  • Ensure that temporary uses of State highway rights of way are conducted safely and with minimum inconvenience to the public.

Any individual, contractor, corporation, utility, Native American Tribe, or any other entity needs an encroachment permit to conduct the above activities within the State highway right of way. Cities and counties may issue routine State highway encroachment permits on specified state highway facilities located within their boundaries if authorized by Caltrans. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 676. Additionally, a developer should consult with the local county(ies) where the project is located for consideration of right of way encroachment permits on county roads.

For more information regarding encroachment permits in California, see the Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide.


State Highway Encroachment Permit Process

3-CA-c.1 to 3-CA-c.2 - Will the Project Encroach on any California Streets or Highways?

If developing a project encroaches on any California streets or highways, the developer must obtain an Encroachment Permit from Caltrans. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 670(a).

3-CA-c.3 – Encroachment Permit Application with Plan Set (Application Package)

The developer must submit the application package to the nearest Caltrans District Permit Office. The type and scope of the proposed project will dictate the additional information (plan set) required to be submitted with the application. The developer may be required to include the following with its application:

  • A location and/or index map;
  • A site plan;
  • A grading plan;
  • A street improvement plan;
  • A structural plan and calculations;
  • A drainage plan;
  • A utility plan;
  • A hydrology map and calculations;
  • Cross sections;
  • Planting and irrigation plans;
  • Electrical plans;
  • Traffic impact plans;
  • Contingency plans – dealing with encounters of hazardous waste;
  • Storm Water Pollution Control plans; and
  • Environmental documentation. A complete application requires compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

See Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide and Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 671.5(a).

State Environmental Process:
9-CA-a

3-CA-c.4 to 3-CA-c.5 – Review Application Package for Acceptability

The District Permit Office will conduct a preliminary review of the application for completeness. The preliminary review establishes whether the application package is acceptable for review. The District Permit Office will return an incomplete application to the developer. Although Caltrans must process applications within 60 days of receipt, the return of an incomplete application results in a new 60 day review period. See Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide and Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 671.5(a).

3-CA-c .6 to 3-CA-c.9 – Review Plan Set for Completeness

The District Permit Office forwards an acceptable application package to its Permit Office Engineer to review the plan set for completeness. The Permit Office Engineer will notify the developer if it determines additional information is required. The developer must submit the required information to continue the process. See Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide.

3-CA-c.10 to 3-CA-c.11 – Is the Plan Set Complete?

If the Permit Office Engineer determines that the plan set is complete it will forward the application package to the Caltrans Functional Unit to conduct a final review of the application package. See Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide.

3-CA-c.12 to 3-CA-c.15 – Review Application Package

The Functional Unit reviews the entire application package and notifies the developer of any required revisions. If revisions are required, the developer must submit the revisions to continue the permitting process. See Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide.

3-CA-c.16 to 3-CA-c.18 – Is the Application Package Complete?

If the Functional Unit determines that revisions are not required, the District Permit Office will render a final decision on the application package. If the District Permit Office approves the application, it will issue the encroachment permit to the developer. If the District Permit Office denies the application the project cannot continue unless the developer appeals the decision. See Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide.

3-CA-c. 19 to 3-CA-c.20 – Does the Developer Seek an Appeal?

If the Caltrans District Permit Office denies the developers application package, the developer may appeal the decision to the Caltrans District Director. The developer must submit written substantiation to the District Director of why it believes the encroachment permit should be approved. The developer must submit its written substantiation within 60 days of receiving notice of denial from the District Permit Office. See Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide.

3-CA-c.21 to 3-CA.c.22 – Does the Caltrans District Director Rule in Favor of the Developer?

If the District Director rules in favor of the developer, the District Permit Office must issue the encroachment permit. If the District Director rules against the developer, the project cannot continue unless the developer successfully appeals the decision. Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide.

3-CA-c.23 to 3-CA-c.25 – Does the Developer Seek Further Appeal?

If the District Director rules against the developer, the developer may appeal that decision to the Director of Caltrans. The developer must submit its written substantiation to the Caltrans Director within 60 days of receiving notice of the District Director’s denial of the application package. The developer must pay a fee of not more than 50 percent of the estimated administrative cost. Caltrans Encroachment Permit Application Guide and Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 671.5(a).

3-CA-c.26 to 3-CA-c.27 – Does the Caltrans Director Rule in Favor of the Developer?

The Caltrans issues a written ruling within 60 days after receipt of the developer’s appeal. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 671.5(a). If the Caltrans Director rules in favor of the developer, the District Permit Office must issue the encroachment permit. If the Caltrans Director rules against the developer, the project cannot continue.




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