Right-of-way explained

We define right-of-way (ROW) and explain how to use City-owned ROW.


Right-of-way is a legal right of passage that allows someone the right to travel across property owned by someone else.

Land within the right-of-way is reserved for public use. This may be used for public streets, sidewalks, alleys, public and private utilities, etc. Right-of-way width varies by location. A typical residential street has a right-of-way width of approximately 60 feet. A typical arterial or downtown street has a right-of-way width of approximately 80 feet.  Other widths are less common but not unusual. Alley configurations can vary from 10 feet to 20 feet, but are most commonly 14 feet.


Items that belong in the right-of-way

  • Boulevard (next to lot): The area between the property line and the back side of the sidewalk
  • Sidewalk
  • Boulevard (next to road): The area between the front of the sidewalk and the back of the curb
  • Roadway: The paved area between the street curbs


Installation of any privately-owned feature in the public right-of-way will likely require an Encroachment Permit (and may require permits from other departments). A permit is also required if the feature extending into the right-of-way is above ground (such as decorative lighting or a balcony), or if the feature is underground (such as a utility or irrigation line).
Examples of common encroachments include: private utility conduit, retaining walls, fences, and irrigation systems.

Awnings, canopies, and marquees that extend into the right-of-way are regulated by Zoning Administration. Call 311 for more information.

Flowering plants are allowed in boulevard without a permit if they do not interfere with vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The City will not restore nor require utility companies to restore flowers or any special items placed in the right-of-way.

The right-of-way office also issues Banner Permits that can be acquired by calling 612-673-2403. Banners on private property are regulated by the zoning ordinance through Zoning Administration.

Apply online

Learn more about applying for encroachment permits.

Items that will block any part of a street, public sidewalk, or alley typically require an obstruction permit from Traffic & Parking Services. Learn more here or by calling 311.

NOTE: Any excavation of public right-of-way requires a separate Right-of-Way Excavation Permit, obtained from the Utility Connections Inspections Department. Learn more about Right-of-way excavation permits.

Vacation of public right-of-way and easements

A property owner may petition the City to vacate right-of-way that is adjacent to their property. This type of request is usually initiated for new development or a land use change. Vacated right-of-way land typically reverts to the parcel that it was originally created from, although a final disposition is determined by the Hennepin County Title Examiner. A formal process exists to vacate City right-of-way and petitions are reviewed by multiple City departments. A typical request can take three months or more to process. 

Learn more about vacation of public right-of-way.

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Public Works


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350 S. 5th St., Room 203
Minneapolis, MN 55415
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Open to the Public by Appointment