Right of Way Permits and Standards
Right of Way Permits and Standards
What is the Right of Way?
Right of Way (RoW) is land controlled by public agencies that includes streets, alleys, public sidewalks,curbs, and the berm/green area, which is the area between the curb and sidewalk. Work within the city's Right of Way is managed by the City Engineering Division of the Department of Public Works (DPW).
When is a Right of Way Permit required?
In accordance with Detroit Code Section 50, Article 3, it is necessary to obtain a permit from the City Engineering Division, DPW prior to any construction activities within a street, alley, sidewalk or berm/green area. This includes
- Construction - Altering the Right of Way (e.g. Installing utilities like water mains, gas lines, telecommunications lines, etc.,installing water or sewer taps, replacing sidewalks, driveway approach, etc.)
- Occupying - Temporary sidewalks/lane/street closure (e.g., crane/construction equipment on street/sidewalk, filming, special events, dumpsters, etc.)
- Oversized and/or Overweight Loads
Types of Right of Way Permits:
- Façade Repair
- Fiber Optic Cable
- Outdoor Café
- Oversized Loads
- Sidewalk Replacement (Contractor or Professional)
- Utility Installation - Conduit/Coaxial Cable
- Utility Installation - Main Installation or Repair
- Valet Staging - Temporary
- Valet Staging - Annual
- Water and/or Sewer Tap
- Occupying the Right-of-Way
- Curb Cut
- Drive Approach, Remove and Replace
- Helicopter Lift
- Monitoring Wells
- Sidewalk Replacement (Homeowner's)
- Snow Removal
- Soil Borings
- Vehicle Display
How do I obtain a Right of Way Permit?
A permit application must be completed by any person or company who plans construction activities to alter the right-of-way, this includes installing or removing a driveway approach. This consists of completing the permit application and submitting plans or drawings of the work within the right-of-way.
Note: All contractors must be bonded with a $2,500 Surety Bond with the city of Detroit. This bond must be completed before any work is done in the right of way.
In addition, in an effort to protect the City's investments in its infrastructure, a directive was issued updating the requirements for pavement restoration due to utility cuts in roads. Select this link to download the Utility Restoration Standard Detail.
What is the Plan Review Process?
Prior to issuing a permit, plans or drawings of the work are to be reviewed by the City Engineering Division to ensure compliance with City of Detroit Standards, Ordinances, Policies and Codes. The documents submitted for review shall include a scope of work letter describing the proposed work activities with estimated start and finish dates and drawings depicting (at a minimum) the following information:
- Location and dimensions of the proposed work
- Dimensions and depth of open-cut trenches and utilities to be placed
- The type of pavement or surface to be disturbed
- Proposed grades, elevations and slopes; and
- Methods to restore the work area.
- For a comprehensive list of site plan requirements, select the following link:
Note: All right-of-way drawings shall be signed and sealed by a licensed architect or engineer.
What about work in the Central Business District and Midtown Detroit?
All Contractors working in the Central Business District or Midtown Detroit, plans must also be reviewed by the Technical Review Committee (TRC). The committee will review the Right-of-Way Permit Application and Plans to consider the impact to traffic congestion, emergency vehicle access, conflicts with other construction activities, downtown events, parking, etc.
The TRC meets weekly on Tuesday mornings. Contractors should allow time in the permit process for permit applications/plans to be approved by the TRC.
Valet Location Staging Permit Process
A permit must be completed by any person or company who desires to place a valet staging service in the Right of Way or on private property which requires the use of the Right of Way for maneuvering vehicles.
In addition, the Valet Service must be licensed to perform valet services. The Building Safety Engineering and Environment Departments Business License Center is responsible for licensing such operations. They can be contacted at:
REQUESTS FOR STATUS CHANGES TO THE RIGHT-OF-WAY
Status changes in the public right-of-way (streets and alleys) require the resolution/approval of City Council and may require additional permits. The types of status changes include:
- Berm Use
- Conversion to Easement
- Outright Vacation
- Temporary Closing
If you are interested in changing the status of the right-of-way, you must petition the City Council for the change. The petition should be a letter addressed to the City Council and should answer the following questions:
- Who is submitting the petition?
- What type of changes are you requesting?
- Where is it located (street, cross streets, addresses, etc.)?
- When do you propose for it to take place and for how long?
- Why are you requesting the change?
The letter should be sent to:
The Honorable City Council
Attn: Office of the City Clerk
2 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226
Letters can also be forwarded to the Office of the City Clerk in person or faxed to 313-224-2075.
Also, if you are petitioning to convert a street or alley to an easement, you will need written consent from 100% of the abutting property owners. Request to convert a residential alley to an easement should be submitted to the Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD).
If you have further questions regarding right-of-way changes, contact the DPW-City Engineering Division, Maps & Records Office, at (313) 224-3970.
City Engineering Division publishes a couple documents that establish the standards for work in the public right of way.. Right-of-way construction work must comply with these documents. The Standard Specifications for Paving and Related Construction are available for viewing and downloading on the City website at: