Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County in the case of William L. Guyette and Ruth A. Guyette, his wife v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, No. 1672 of 1981, and in the case of Paul D. Wasserott, Jr. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, No. 1671 of 1981, dated September 12, 1985.
John V. Rovinsky, Assistant Counsel, with him, Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for appellant.
Frank W. Nocito, for appellees.
Judges Craig and Barry, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry. Dissenting Opinion by Senior Judge Kalish.
[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 403]
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County affirming a Board of Viewers' decision awarding damages to appellees, William L. Guyette and Ruth A. Guyette (Guyettes) and Paul D. Wasserott, Jr. (Wasserott), under Section 612 of the Eminent Domain Code, Act of June 22, 1964, Special Sess., P.L. 84, as amended, 26 P.S. § 1-612.
[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 404]
We must determine whether the Commonwealth's construction of a medial barrier on the highway bordering appellees' properties created a permanent interference with access which would be compensable under the Eminent Domain Code.
The relevant facts, as found by the trial court and supported by the record, are as follows. Wasserott is the proprietor of a medical supply business. The Guyettes are in the business of selling communications services and equipment. They each own commercial properties abutting Route 309, a four-lane highway in Courtdale Borough, Luzerne County. In October of 1980, the Commonwealth erected a medial barrier along the center of the highway. The parties concede that the only substantial detour resulting from the barrier affects northbound vehicles who wish to enter appellees' property. Although conflicting testimony was presented regarding the exact distance involved, the trial court found that eighteen wheel trucks would have to travel an additional 7.45 miles in order to enter appellees' property.*fn1 Based on this finding, the court concluded that the medial barrier constituted a permanent, compensable interference with appellees' property.
It is well established that:
Where land is taken or purchased for highways, the abutting owner retains, as an incident to ownership of the remainder of his land, the right of access, or of ingress and egress. This right cannot be taken from him unless compensation is made therefor under the law. It is a property right, protected by the Constitution. Such right
[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 405]
of access does not entitle the abutting owner to access at all points along the highway; it does entitle him to access, by reasonable and conventional means, to his property from the highway and ...