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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The state of Texas and the Texas Department of Transportation appeal from the trial court’s award of $497,637.80, including costs, to the appellees George and Patricia Delany. The appellees had originally brought an inverse condemnation action arising from the state’s removal of the highway (the connector road) connecting the northbound frontage road of Interstate 45 to Johnny Palmer Road. The state filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which was denied by the trial court. On interlocutory appeal, the First Court of Appeals affirmed and remanded the case for trial on the merits. After making a preliminary finding that there had been a material and substantial impairment of access, the trial court conducted a bench trial on the issue of damages HOLDING:Affirmed. The state argues the appellees’ inverse condemnation claim is not ripe for review. The appellees counter by arguing the law-of-the-case doctrine bars the state from relitigating the ripeness issue because the First Court of Appeals has already ruled on this claim in a prior appeal. The court agrees. The state first claims that redesigning exit ramps within its existing right-of-way is not an unconstitutional taking as a matter of law. However, it is well settled that a direct physical invasion of property is not required under Article I, �17 of the Texas Constitution to entitle a landowner to compensatory damages. The state claims the trial court erred in concluding the appellees had a vested easement of access to the connector road. An abutting landowner possesses an easement of access to and from the highway. The state argues the appellees cannot claim access rights to the highway because the property did not abut the pavement of the connector road. The issue thus presented is whether a landowner has a right of access to the highway when his land abuts only a right-of-way to the highway, and not the highway pavement itself. The record reflects, and the state even contends, the appellees’ property abutted the public right-of-way adjoining the connector road. Courts in other jurisdictions have previously extended access rights to a landowner whose property abuts the road easement but not the road itself. Accordingly, the court holds the trial court properly concluded the appellees had a vested easement of access to the connector road. The court finds the evidence was legally sufficient to support the trial court’s finding that the driveways proposed by the state were unsafe and dangerous. The appellees had an easement of access to the connector road. The evidence establishes that the state removed the connector road, leaving the appellees without access to any highway. Moreover, it is clear the driveways proposed by the state could not serve as suitable means of access. The court agrees with the trial court’s conclusion that the removal of the connector road resulted in a material and substantial impairment of access to appellees’ property. The severity of impairment of access had already been adjudicated, and the viability and cost of driveways, which were already determined to be unsuitable means of access, were not relevant to that issue. Therefore, the trial court did not err in refusing to permit the state to make an offer of proof during the trial on damages. OPINION:Murphy, C.J.; Murphy, C.J., Anderson and Seymore, JJ.

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