The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Opening and Closing of Streets

Reference Number: MTAS-662
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: January 12, 2016
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This is an introduction into the law governing how municipal streets are created and closed, and a multitude of other issues that arise over the use of those streets.

  • What are municipal streets?
  • What are the ways municipal streets are created?
  • Is a municipal street that has been platted but never constructed still a street?
  • What does a municipality “own” when a street is created?
  • What is the difference between a municipality’s governmental powers and its proprietary powers over its streets, and why does it matter?
  • Are municipalities liable for their dangerous and defective streets?
  • What right do utilities have to put their pipes, wire, and other utility infrastructure in the streets, and what happens to such rights when streets are closed?
  • Are utilities required to obtain a franchise from the municipality as a condition of their use of municipal streets?
  • Under what conditions can utilities be made to remove their facilities from municipal streets and who pays for the utility relocation?
  • How is the width of municipal streets determined?
  • How do municipalities close streets?
  • How much discretion do municipalities have in closing streets?
  • Must municipalities give notice to other governmental agencies or property owners that they intend to close a street?
  • Who owns municipal streets after they are closed?
  • What right do abutting and other property owners have to use closed streets
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