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Ownership and Responsibility

Roads typically have a designated "owner" and the owner is responsible for looking after the roads (other terms, such as proclaimed, adopted, declared, etc., may also be used to assign ownership responsibility). When a road is designated, a notice is published that cites the Act under which the road is being designated, the road's location, the responsible road agency, and the functions to be delegated to that agency. Once a road has been designated, the responsible road agency is expected to physically mark out the road reserve (to define the road agency's land-holding) and to take responsibility for the various functions delegated to it. Roads that are undesignated simply belong to the adjoining landowners who are solely responsible for maintaining them. Responsibilities are normally assigned on the basis of a road's functional classification (PDF 37 KB). Countries with relatively low volumes of traffic often group their roads into three functional hierarchies: arterial roads, collector roads, and access roads, while countries with high volumes of traffic usually group them into four main functional hierarchies with several subdivisions: expressways, strategic routes, distributor roads (including main and secondary distributors), and local roads (including local roads and local access roads). The road network is thus typically divided into four administrative classes for purposes of managing the different parts of the network:

  1. major trunk roads, including expressways and toll roads, that are normally managed by a national road agency;
  2. regional and rural roads that are normally managed by state governments and (rural) district councils;
  3. urban roads, which may also include some toll roads, that are normally managed by urban district councils; and
  4. community roads, tracks, and trails which are typically undesignated, or managed by local roads associations.

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