I'm taking a class in real property law. We have many exercises where we read a survey map and write a legal description in metes and bounds. Many of the maps use the "centerline" of a road but some say things like "the southeasterly right-of-way line of StreetName." What exactly does that mean, "right-of-way line"?

I checked Black's Dictionary and Black's Dictionary. It talked about: Right to pass, easement, strip of land (the land itself). If it's a strip of land, typically how wide is the strip?

Are these rights of way recorded somewhere systematically? If so, do surveyors have access to the full list?

1 Answer 1


One widely-used book on the topic is Brown's Boundary Control and Legal Principles. I have the 4th edition published in 1995, and the relevant chapter is 8, "Locating Easements and Reversions".

The law varies from state to state. In New England, it is likely for interstate, US, and state highways, the state will own the roadbed in fee. Smaller roads are likely owned by the adjoining private owners, with the public holding a right-of-way that allows the government to build and maintain a road; the adjoinders are restricted from using the right-of-way in any manner that would interfere with the transportation use.

The meaning of "right-of-way line" depends on context, but is likely to be the line between the pubic's right of way and the portion of the adjoining private property that is exclusively under the control of the private property owner.

If the public records do not reveal the width of the road, there is likely to be a statute that states a default width of the road. This is discussed, for Vermont, in The History and Law of Vermont Town Roads by Paul Gillies

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .