I am one of three residents that share a driveway that is also an easement for the gas, electric and telephone utilities. We use the driveway daily, as it's the only access to a road. The driveway is an abandoned township road, with the actual owners being a mix of a coal company, we three daily users, and a neighbor whose home fronts the main road. It's a half-mile long, beginning with asphalt at the road and turning to gravel further up. The asphalt has buckled, with a huge sink hole near the junction with the road that makes it dangerous pulling into and out of the driveway; the driveway is on a hill, and rains continually rut and wash out the gravel. We do our best to grade it with the garden tractor and blade we have, but it needs professional work. The utility companies drive pickups, ATVs, and large tree-trimming equipment on the driveway for routine maintenance. Do the utility companies have any responsibility to help maintain the surface of the driveway?
When you say abandoned township road, you immediately raise a question. Has the township passed an ordinance abandoning the road? If not, it is still a township road and they have to maintain. As soon as you press them on this, they will pass the ordinance to abandon. When a public road is abandoned, property lines of adjoining owners move to the center of the road. Ownership, however, has nothing to do with maintenance duties. By the way, the type of ownership of the road used to be referred to as moiety title. At common law (and that is what applies) ALL parties with the right to use the old road have a duty to share in the costs of maintaining the road.
Obviously, the best way is for everyone to reach a written agreement. If that cannot happen, I like to find a small item of maintenance on which a large number of the users can agree (like filling a few potholes, or a snowplowing after a storm. This will be something under $12,000. Then you can go to District Court in the names of the cooperating owners and sue the coal company, utility company, or whoever uses the road. Hopefully, you will get a District Judge who understands the issue, or one who will figure it out.
DISCLAIMER The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Responses are based solely on Pennsylvania law unless stated otherwise. When answering questions on AVVO, attorneys are prohibited from directly soliciting business. Don't take this as an indication of lack of interest. James S. Tupitza
I agree with Mr. Tupitza's practical answer, and would add that someone should look at whatever documents give these entities the right to use the driveway to see if there are maintenance obligations built in. I wish you well.
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