H. B. 4115

(By Delegates Manuel and Doyle)
[Introduced January 21, 2000; referred to the
Committee on Roads and Transportation then Finance.]

A BILL to amend and reenact section two, article two-c, chapter seventeen of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, relating to the acquisition and maintenance of orphan roads; preserving existing rights related to property acquired including contract rights, providing for assignment to the commissioner of highways of right to bring civil action, and providing for division of highways to use proceeds of civil action for maintenance of orphan roads and bridges.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section two, article two-c, chapter seventeen of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:

§17-2C-2. Development of program; acquisition of rights-of-way.
(a) The West Virginia division of highways shall develop an orphan roads and bridges identification, acquisition and maintenance program which shall include all counties. At the discretion of the commissioner of the division of highways, existing and temporary employees of the division shall be assigned to locate and designate each orphan road and bridge in each county. These employees shall give to the commissioner of highways, in a form proscribed by him or her the commissioner, a detailed report on acquisition, status of rights-of-way, and needed maintenance for orphan roads and bridges in each county or highway district. Specific contents of each report shall be designated by the commissioner.
(b) In order for a road or bridge to qualify for inclusion into the state system, all necessary rights-of-way shall be either dedicated or donated to the division of highways.
(c) In the event that all property owners do not agree to dedicate or donate the necessary rights-of-way, then any individual, group, business or governmental entity can donate to the state road fund a sum sufficient to cover the expense of acquiring the right-of-way that has not been dedicated or donated. The commissioner may also use any moneys donated to the state road fund specifically for the purposes of acquiring a right-of-way which has not been dedicated or donated.
(d) No action to designate, acquire or donate rights-of-way shall be deemed to nullify existing contracts, agreements or vested property rights relating to such rights-of-way. Rights of civil actions, including those for breach or to recover damages against previous, private owners of roads acquired under this article, may be assigned by actual or potential claimants to the commissioner of highways. The commissioner, or at the commissioner's request, the attorney general may bring civil actions against previous owners to enforce obligations including payment of damages in accordance with the contracts, agreements or vested property rights. Any moneys so realized shall be used by the division of highways, and applied to the costs of maintenance of roads and bridges acquired under this article.

NOTE: This bill preserves certain rights of owners of property acquired by the state through the Orphan Roads and Bridges Program and provides for rights of landowners to bring civil actions against previous private owners of roadways acquired to be transferred to the Commissioner of Highways.

Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.