Exclusive authority to abandon or vacate portions of a state highway in Ohio, lies with the Department of Transportation; a court local court of common pleas does not have jurisdiction in deciding whether a state highway easement has been abandoned the Ohio Supreme Court held lastTuesday. [ Case ]
Plaintiffs in the case had argued that under Ohio common law an otherwise unused portion of a highway easement acquired in perpetuity by the state in 1959, was abandoned & vacated because of its non-use and operation of law, title to the tract therefore reverting back to the feeholder.
The Court, however, said, citing decisions made in Haynes v. Jones (1915) and W. Park Shopping Cntr. v. Masheter (1966), that, "not only will adverse possession not lie against the state, (but) nor will an action to quiet title."
Instead, it held its decision in Bigler v. York Township, which explored the means by which a township could abandon township roads, was dispositive, even though the current instance dealt with state highways. In Bigler the Court had said, "if this court were to hold that an action could be brought in a court of common pleas to quiet title to a township road on the grounds of abandonment, we would directly undermine the discretion which the General Assembly expressly granted the boards of county commissioners in ORC 553.042" on the abandonment of township roads.
"Pursuant to ORC §5501.31," the Court here said, "the director of public transportation has 'general supervision of all roads comprising the state highway system.' As part of that general supervision, §5511.01 and §5511.07 establish a specific process for the director to abandon or vacate highway property interests."
"…. ORC §5553.042 applies to abandonment of a township road; §5529.01 applies to abandonment of a public highway outside of a municipal corporation, and we find that §5511.01 and 5511.07 express the General Assembly's intent to prohibit common-law claims for abandonment of an easement within a municipal corporation on which a public highway was built."