Right of Way Information

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Image of a pedestrian crossing a street, a public right-of-way, at night

Right-of-way generally refers to streets and other public property that's reserved for public use, including walkways, sidewalks, bikeways and horse trails (see below for a more detailed definition). The right-of-way often extends well into what appears to be private property. The City requires a permit for any disturbance and non-disturbance activities or private use of the public right of way. This webpage includes information about how to obtain a permit for the different types of work and activities that take place in the right-of-way. 


Online services during COVID-19 crisis

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we ask that you please use online services to communicate with Transportation right of way use staff, right of way inspection staff and other city staff as much as possible. It may be that the information or service you need from the city can be provided through our online, email or phone services rather in person. Review staff will reply to your phone or email messages as soon as possible, within 24 hours. Development-related employee contacts

Timely reviews and permit issuances 

With the COVID-19 crisis requiring many residents to stay at home, the need to maintain and repair the data and telecommunications infrastructure is more important that ever.

We understand this need and we're working hard to review right of way applications and issue permits in a timely manner. At the same time, we must ensure the safety of both the general public and contractors, as well as maintain access in the public right of way.

Our timeline to review and issue a permit typically is less than 22 calendar days. In addition to data and telecommunication companies, we also issue permits for work on electrical, natural gas and other systems. Thanks for your patience as we work to keep Bellevue residents safe and connected.

About the right of way

“Right-of-way” means all public streets and public property granted or reserved for, or dedicated to, public use for street purposes, walkways, sidewalks, bikeways and horse trails, whether improved or unimproved, including the air rights, sub-surface rights and easements related to them. 

The right of way often extends well into what appears to be private property. If needed, we offer general information about Right of Way boundaries. This is not based on site specific surveys. For additional requirements, standard details and standard drawings please see our Transportation Design Manual.

When is a permit necessary?

Permit required:  The City requires a permit for any disturbance and non-disturbance activities or private use of the public right of way. 

  • Disturbance activities include, but are not limited to: Trenching, boring, potholing, landscaping, replacement or modification of driveways.

  • Non-disturbance activities include, but are not limited to: Temporary placement of industrial trash bins, parking moving vans or other vehicles in restricted parking areas and block parties. 

  • Private uses of the public right of way include, but are not limited to: Sidewalk cafés, block parties and shuttle services.

All utility and construction companies are required to obtain permits for all disturbance and non-disturbance work within the right of way.

Assistance available: The Right of Way Use Division of the Transportation Department, in coordination with the city's Development Services Department, can assist in the early stages of planning to help determine if a right of way use permit is necessary. It can also advise about problems that may be encountered or revisions needed to meet city codes or other regulations. 

Call before you dig:  When digging more than a foot deep in the public right of way, even to plant a shrub, you may encounter data telecommunication lines,  power lines or other utilities. In addition to the obvious life-safety concerns, there may be liability for damage to any utility encountered. CALL 1-800-424-5555 BEFORE YOU DIG. It's the law.

image of crew painting crosswalk at downtown intersection









Commercial Development: Use of the right of way for disturbance and non-disturbance activities associated with commercial or multifamily development, as well as plat infrastructure. Uses include construction, renovation, maintenance and subsurface monitoring or exploration. Even if work is not in the right of way, activities such as hauling, staging or parking may require a permit. 

Franchise Utility:  Use of the right of way for franchise utility work such as power, gas, telecommunications, small wireless facilities and others operating under an existing Right of Way Use Franchise Agreement. 

Government: Use of the right of way for city projects (including contractors working under a city project contract) or projects of another government agency. 

Residential: Use of the right of way associated with existing single-family home construction or remodels, including driveway (re)construction or relocation, landscaping and city water/sewer/storm service connections. 

Street Use Permit: Use of the right of way for activities other than construction and not associated with a larger construction project having its own Right of Way permit. This includes permits for trucking over-sized loads, temporary parking and loading zones, shuttle services, shared micro-mobility devices, sidewalk cafes, filming, vending of food or goods, block parties and other street activities that may affect the movement of vehicles or pedestrians. This permit is not applicable for franchise utility or government work.

Holiday right-of-way work restrictions

During the holiday season, the city restricts the hours that city crews, contractors and franchise utility companies can work on busy roadways. A seasonal work restrictions map shows the affected corridors. Restrictions are in place starting the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until early January.

The reasons for the restrictions are to limit impacts on the transportation system, increase safety and promote economic vitality during the busy holiday shopping season. Impacts from the work can affect pick-up and delivery services, the transit system and emergency responses during adverse weather conditions. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Rightofwayuse@bellevuewa.gov