The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Legal Issues Involving Streets

Reference Number: MTAS-665
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: May 25, 2016
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Municipalities Usually Do Not Own Streets
Municipalities usually do not own their streets in the sense of owning the underlying fee. There is a presumption that the abutting property owners own the underlying fee to the center line of the street, and the municipality has only a transportation easement or right-of-way across the property for the use of public travel. [See Hamilton County v. Rape, 47 S.W. 416 (1898); Patton v. Chattanooga, 65 S.W. 414 (1901).] However, property acquired by the state or any of its political subdivisions for interstates and controlled access highways must be acquired in fee simple. T.C.A. § 54-16-104.

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