KEY QUESTION: Can Commissioners Courts regulate traffic on county roads?
MAIN REFERENCE POINTS:
- Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 541-Chapter 545, Title 7, Subtitle C, “Rules of the Road,” also known as the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways
- Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 251, Subchapter E, part of the County Road and Bridge Act
- Title 7, Subtitle C of the Transportation Code (Uniform Act) states that a county may regulate traffic only in a manner that does not conflict with state regulations.
- State law requires the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to adopt a manual for a uniform system of traffic-control devices. TxDOT has adopted the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Under the Uniform Act, a local authority may place and maintain a traffic-control device on a highway under its jurisdiction to implement subtitle C or a local traffic ordinance. A traffic-control device must conform to TxDOT’s manual.
- Section 542.203 of the Uniform Act states that an ordinance or rule of a local authority is not effective until signs giving notice are posted on or at the entrance to the highway or part of the highway, whichever is most appropriate. This subsection applies only to an ordinance or rule that alters a speed limit as authorized by Subtitle C, which means setting a speed limit that is slower than the maximum speed for traveling on a public highway, or which designates an intersection as a yield or stop intersection, or which designates a portion of a highway as one-way, or a thru highway. Such modification of state law requires the agreement of TxDOT.
- Chapter 251, Subchapter E of the Transportation Code (part of the County Road and Bridge Act) also authorizes a Commissioners Court to regulate traffic on county roads. The Commissioners Court of a county may regulate traffic on a county road or on real property owned by the county that is under the jurisdiction of the Commissioners Court.
- The County Commissioners Court, by order entered on the minutes of the Court, may determine and set a maximum reasonable and prudent speed for a vehicle traveling on any segment of a county road, including a road or highway intersection, railroad grade crossing, curve or hill. A speed limit set by the Commissioners Court under this section is effective when appropriate signs giving notice of the speed limit are installed on the affected segment of the county road. This statute, however, only permits the lowering of a speed limit to a speed no lower than 30 miles per hour (or 20 miles per hour in a residential or urban district, as defined by statute). Any lower speed limit requires a traffic and engineering study (Section 545.355, Transportation Code).
- Section 251.155 states that a Commissioners Court of a county may adopt regulations establishing a system of traffic control devices. The traffic control devices adopted under this section must conform to the manual and specifications of TxDOT.
- Both the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways and the County Road and Bridge Act state that:
- A local authority’s traffic ordinances are not effective until appropriate signs have been posted.
- Traffic control devices must conform to TxDOT’s manual.
The adoption of a traffic regulation by the Commissioners Court requires a public hearing, and not less than 30 days’ notice in a newspaper of general circulation (Section 251.152, Transportation Code).