The National Academies

NCHRP 10-136 [Pending]

Right-of-Way and Utility Risk Identification and Management

  Project Data
Funds: $700,000
Contract Time: 30 months
Staff Responsibility: Christopher T. McKenney
Comments: Contractor Selection meeting was conducted on 03/20/24.


Recurring right-of-way (ROW) and utility risk factors could hinder the capability of state departments of transportation (DOTs) to deliver projects efficiently and within budget. Project delays and budget overruns often occur due to factors such as ROW research and design, appraisal process, acquisition challenges, utility facility locations, coordination issues, constructability concerns, temporary traffic control, and safety precautions. A comprehensive risk management process involves identification, assessment, mitigation, allocation, and monitoring of these risks throughout the project delivery process. Existing resources such as risk registers are available, but state DOTs need a more detailed approach to identify and manage utility and ROW-related risks. These approaches should promote collaboration consistent with project-level risk management strategies in other functional areas (e.g., environmental, hydraulics, traffic, construction) and develop methods to better assess risks quantitatively and qualitatively.

To address these knowledge challenges, a holistic and cost-effective risk identification and management approach is essential, encompassing all project phases from planning to post-construction. Enhanced risk management strategies, which are based on detailed utility and ROW risk assessments, are critical for ensuring the timely, budget-conscious delivery of infrastructure projects. To manage ROW and utility issues during project delivery in an inclusive and economic manner, research is needed to develop essential measures to employ industry standard risk identification and management tools, strategies, and best practices.


The objective of this research is to develop a framework and complementary tools for state DOTs to implement ROW and utility risk factor identification and management strategies during each project delivery phase.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.


PHASE I – Planning and Data Collection

Task 1. Conduct a literature review of relevant research related to ROW and utility risk identification and management throughout the life of a transportation project. The review shall include published and unpublished research conducted through the NCHRP; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); and other national, international, state, and pooled-fund sponsored research.

Task 2. Propose a methodical approach (e.g., surveys, targeted interviews, focus groups, and other appropriate methods and/or tools) to collect information from state DOTs, practitioners, and relevant stakeholders as it relates to risk identification and management at the project level.

The proposed approach shall identify and summarize information needed to characterize the current state of practice as well as future needs including:

  • Utilization of readily available information-based details (e.g., recorded deeds and plats, accurate coordinate locations, reliable detection, markers);
  • Interactions with other local, state, tribal, rail, transit, and federal agencies;
  • Identification of environmental constraints as it relates to ROW;
  • Financial (e.g., federal-aid and state funds, franchise fees, and leases), technical (duct banks, utility corridors, easements, and dedicated or shared spaces), and Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) requirements;
  • Innovative utility accommodation strategies, guidelines, and ROW management tools;
  • Potential differences between design-bid-build (DBB), design-build (DB), construction manager/general contractor (CMGC), and other project delivery methods; and
  • Data exchange standards and requirements to ensure compatibility and continuous flow of data from inception to asset management (e.g., creation or development of digital as-built drawings and as-acquired drawings).

Task 3. Execute the data collection approach according to the approved Task 2 Report. Synthesize the results of Tasks 1 and 2 and identify knowledge gaps relative to risk identification and management as it relates to ROW and utilities. These knowledge gaps should identify sections of the AASHTO Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets (Green Book) that could be impacted by the results of the research findings.

Task 4. Propose the research plan, to be executed in Phase II, to achieve the research objective. At a minimum, the research plan shall include:

  • Developing a performance matrix to identify, evaluate, quantify, and rank risks during each phase of project delivery involving (1) ROW and utilities, individually and jointly; and (2) multiple holistic solutions for each risk factor.
  • Identifying strategies for risk factor management for project life cycle that include (1) pillars of risk management (e.g., identify, assess and analyze, mitigate and plan, allocate, and monitor and control); and (2) low-level risk factors that may be considered for acceptance.
  • Identifying methods to minimize recurring risk factors for future projects that include (1) archival storage for ROW and utility project data (e.g., geographic information system (GIS), repositories, depositories); and (2) coordination between state DOTs, government agencies (e.g., local, county, state), and utilities providers.

Task 5. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents Tasks 1 through 4 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. The updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phases II through IV

I – Execution

Task 6.  Execute the research plan according to the approved Interim Report No.1.

Task 7. Propose a preliminary outline and table of contents for the framework and complementary tools based on the findings from Phases I and II, which should incorporate key findings, supported with examples, to include:

  • Suite of complementary tools (e.g., guide, compendium, infographics, spreadsheets, framework, and roadmap); and
  • Draft language for consideration by AASHTO using the results and knowledge gaps identified in Task 3, hereafter called the AASHTO Deliverable.

Task 8. Prepare Interim Report No. 2 that documents Tasks 6 and 7 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the projectThe updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phases III and IV. 

I – Framework Development

Task 9. Develop the framework and complementary tools according to the approved Interim Report No. 2, supported with examples. The selection of examples should demonstrate the effectiveness to:

  • Communicate information among the transportation industry and relevant stakeholders (e.g., planners, engineers, elected officials, and community residents);
  • Incorporate implementation strategies for the framework and complementary tools; and
  • Determine archival and maintenance solutions for ROW and utility project data.

Task 10. Develop the AASHTO Deliverable.

Task 11. After NCHRP approval of the framework, complementary tools, and the AASHTO Deliverable, plan and conduct a workshop with 20 representatives of state DOTs and other stakeholders to review the draft framework and complementary tools. Revise the draft deliverables according to the outcomes of the workshop. The invited representatives shall be approved by NCHRP.

Task 12. Prepare Interim Report No. 3 that documents the results of Tasks 9 through 11 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. The updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phase IV. 

PHASE IV – Final Products

Task 13. Revise the framework, the complementary tools, and the AASHTO Deliverable after consideration of the panel’s review comments.

Task 14. Submit the final deliverables including (1) a final research report documenting the entire research effort and findings; (2) the framework and the complementary tools; (3) AASHTO Deliverable; (4) prioritized recommendations for future research; (5) presentation material and resources; and (6) technical memorandum on implementation.

STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.



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