Assessing Practices for Right of Way Acquisition and Reimbursement in Utility Relocations

When a transportation construction project involves the relocation of utility facilities, the state department of transportation (DOT) or other responsible agency must engage in a complex negotiation of state and federal statutes governing acquisition of right-of-way (ROW) or easements to accommodate the relocation and provide reimbursement to affected parties. The process can be costly and time-consuming and may delay overall project completion. While the process for ROW acquisition is controlled by the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act (Uniform Act), state and local statutes have created significant variations among practices across the country. For example, some states legislatively cannot acquire property rights (typically easements) for utility companies, which then requires parallel ROW acquisition processes (one by the transportation agency and one by the utility company). Conversely, there are some states where the reimbursement for utility property access needs is available. Where ROW acquisition by the DOT would involve stringent policy driven negotiations, that same acquisition in the hands of the utility company may entail less effort. Reimbursement policies often depend upon the designation of a utility as a public or private entity and whether the facility requiring relocation has a property interest. When transportation agencies must employ condemnation or use eminent domain to acquire ROW, the utility companies may not have the means to gain access. Some agencies may have broad capabilities to acquire additional ROWs, others may be restricted. In all cases, replacement of ROW or acquisition of easements for utility relocation necessarily includes compensation of affected parties and negotiation of the details of that compensation. Members of AASHTO’s Committee on Right of Way, Utilities and Outdoor Advertising Control have agreed that although the legislative environment differs from state to state, there is much to be learned from an analysis of the common problems agencies must address and effective practices that have been developed for solving these problems. Research is needed to review effective practices for acquisition of replacement utility easements or ROW; allocation of authority or responsibility between the DOT, utility company, or other agencies; use of joint or shared easements; administrative policies and procedures for addressing utility relocation issues; and statutory opportunities and limitations on agency policies and procedures, for example, regarding use of condemnation or eminent domain. The objective of this research is to identify effective policies, procedural steps, and legislative means agencies use to secure needed replacement easements or ROW for utility relocations and to develop guidance DOTs and others may use to enhance the effectiveness of their own practices. The product of this research should be a report describing the primary factors influencing policies and practice, a framework for assessing effectiveness of an agency’s policies and practices, and examples of very effective policies and practices. The report should be helpful to DOTs and utility companies that engage in utility relocations.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $450000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 11-08

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Lemer, Andrew

  • Start Date: 20180619
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01672542
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 11-08
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jun 18 2018 3:03PM