Posted by:gps_for_usgs

Our GIS division is tasked with redrawing every parcel (~40k) and all roads (~1500 miles, incl interstates, state highways, county routes, and township roads) in the county, due to inaccuracies over the years of the mylar-to CAD-to GIS conversions done by our predecessors.  Parcels in themselves are a monumental task, and we're 60% done with that project, begun in Aug 2011.

Our biggest issue is in drawing road right-of-way.  It seems, on the surface, that the original road records are good - interpretation of some documents, but otherwise the basis to establish a centerline and in most cases, the width of the established road (most of which were done in the 1860's-on).  In addition, there are also some more recent roadway, culvert, and bridge projects that required additional right-of-way by instrument easements, documented and recorded with the register of deeds office; these easements are almost always based on the PLSS.

What do you do when the road was not built (or is no longer) centered upon the PLSS or otherwise-intended road centerline?  Example: the original road record says the road was opened from section corner to section corner, 1 mile (though they may state 5289 feet), 50 feet in width.  Upon drawing this simple centerline and offset, the roadway deviates say, 5-10 feet in one direction or another, but basically starts out and ends at the intended section corners/intersection of other roads.

Our public works department seems hellbent on wanting us to show both the original road record and the prescriptive easement based upon the current road centerline (using the aerial photo).  Draw two easements?  Please say it isn't so... Understanding that a prescriptive easement protects our roadways regardless of where it is located, we are beginning to think that, in events like the above, we should draw the road record down the center of the current road (as shown on the aerial), but only if there is confidence that the roadway doesn't deviate more than say, a +/- 5% of the overall width in one direction or another (this level of acceptable deviation hasn't yet been established).

Knowing that individual surveys will acknowledge road RoW as being a true offset from the section line, what about where property owners believe their property line (ownership by deed) to be, which is the center of the road, that is what they used to put in their fences?  Any deviation in the center of the road as constructed has obviously caused an offset deviation...

I'm rambling, but where would you draw the right-of-way lines?  I'm torn between these schools of thought... strict adherance to the road record, or use what is there as we speak... what are your thoughts?  Keep in mind that we haven't come across any RoW by deed, only original road records and easements for highway purposes.

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