There is no statutory or legal authority, which grants a property owner or resident along a public highway any right to place a mailbox in a highway right of way. The owner may have an informal license, but this does not endow the owner of the mailbox with any legal rights in the highway when needed for highway purposes.
The Highway Superintendent and the State have a duty to keep the highway available for public use. Snow removal and snow storage are an incident of that use.
The highways of the state are made for and devoted to public travel, and the whole public have the right to their use in their entirety and when obstructions to public travel are found within their bounds, the commissioners of highways are clothes with power to remove them, WITHOUT WAITING FOR THE SLOW PROCESS OF LAW, even though travel be not absolutely and entirely prevented.
The owner has no right to interfere with the speedy and efficient removal of snow by placing the mailbox in such a position as to cause this result, and no liability results on the part of the public official charged with the duty of snow removal if such a box is so placed that it may be injured by proper highway maintenance.
Mailboxes are in the right of way as a courtesy to the U.S. Postal Service and residents.
Highway Law states that you cannot purchase mailboxes with tax dollars, that means using tax dollars for private use.
The Town of Alabama Highway Department’s policy is: if we hit your mailbox we will repair or replace it with a U.S. Postal Service approved standard rural steel mailbox only. There will be no reimbursement of funds toward the difference of the cost of a standard rural mailbox and a larger or fancier mailbox.
The Highway Superintendent must be notified by the owner of a damaged mailbox so that he can determine whether the mailbox was actually hit by a snowplow or if the weight of the snow coming off the plow did the damage. If the mailbox was damaged, by the snow coming off of the plow, any and all repair costs are the responsibility of the owner of the mailbox.
The Highway Department will not replace plastic mailboxes. Our experience has been, especially at low temperatures, that plastic mailboxes will break or shatter just from the weight of the snow coming off of a snow plow. For that reason it is impossible to determine if the mailbox was hit, by a snow plow or damaged by the snow coming off of a snow plow. The Highway Department DOES NOT RECOMMEND plastic mailboxes.
Also, if the owner fails to keep their mailbox and post in good condition, that is, if they are badly rusted, rotted or they fail to keep the snow cleared away from the mailbox, any and all repair costs are the responsibility of the owner, if the mailbox is damaged by snow plowing operations
Mailbox Placement Recommendations from the Town of Alabama Highway Department
The Highway Dept. recommends mailboxes be of sheet metal construction, (DO NOT USE PLASTIC MAILBOXES) mounted on a pressure treated 4″x4″ post. Set post in ground 24″ to 30″, pack dirt back in around post (DO NOT USE CONCRETE TO ANCHOR POST). If metal pipe is used it is to be no more than 2″ in diameter.
Set post in ground so that the front of the mailbox is a minimum of 4 ft. from edge of pavement, with 6 ft. being desired. DO NOT use any under hanging supports or notched posts that can weaken the post or give the wing plow something to hit.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact the Highway Department at 585-948-5970.