The National Academies

NCHRP 10-138 [Pending]

Guide for Early Right-of-Way Engineering Involvement

  Project Data
Funds: $450,000
Contract Time: 24 months
Staff Responsibility: Christopher T. McKenney


Right-of-way (ROW) engineering is the term given to tasks that address the gaps between real estate and engineering teams. Activities that include verifying ownership of the road ROW, identifying easements for various needs (e.g., utilities, cross-access), validating ROW acquisition areas, and reviewing designs for ROW need and constructability are core functions of ROW engineering. State departments of transportation (DOTs) may expand on these duties as appropriate for their needs. Whether a state DOT utilizes a designated ROW engineering section or if the work is divided between other divisions (e.g., survey, ROW, and design), the work is completed as part of the project delivery process.

The project design phase in which ROW engineering tasks begin varies greatly between and within state DOTs. Controls such as state DOT standards, project scope of work, and funding sources can dictate the start time of ROW engineering work. State DOTs may set additional conditions based on the district or region where the project is located. These factors can push the start of ROW engineering activities to a point later in design, resulting in ROW’s frequent appearance on a project’s critical path.

With a more effective and timely approach to address ROW needs for engineering, state DOTs can depend on comprehensive research, accurate reviews, and ultimately clear the ROW as scheduled and within budget. Research is needed to identify and analyze the timing of current state DOT ROW engineering practices and illustrate the benefits of starting this work at the earliest stages of project development.


The objective of this research is to develop a guide and complementary tools for state DOTs to implement strategies and methods for early ROW engineering involvement in the project delivery process.

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 (1) relevant research related to ROW engineering involvement during the project delivery process, (2) state DOTs ROW manuals, and (3) AASHTO training materials. The review shall include published and unpublished research conducted through the NCHRP; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); and other national, international, state, and pooled fund sponsored research.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 early ROW engineering involvement in project delivery.

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

  • Identification and evaluation of existing state DOTs ROW engineering activities;
  • Correlation of initial ROW engineering involvement vs ROW related project delays and the impacts to schedules/budgets;
  • Identification of state of practice for ROW engineering review schedules; and
  • Identification of state of practice for funding early ROW engineering involvement (e.g., dedicated staff, agency resources).

Note: A Task Report for Task 2 is to be submitted for NCHRP review and approval before Task 3 can begin.

Task 3. Execute the methodical approach according to the approved Task 2 Report. Synthesize the results of Tasks 1 and 2 and identify knowledge gaps relative to project delivery as it relates to early ROW engineering involvement. 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 guidelines for early ROW engineering processes;
  • Developing time management processes for ROW engineering duties; and
  • Identifying strategies for funding early ROW engineering activities in a project’s budget.

Task 5. Propose a preliminary outline and table of contents for the guide and complementary tools based on the findings from Phase I, which should incorporate key findings, supported with examples, to include:

  • Suite of complementary tools (e.g., 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 (see Special Note C).

Task 6.  Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents Tasks 1 through 5 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. The updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phases II through III


PHASE II – Execution and Guide Development

Task 7.  Execute the research plan according to the approved Interim Report No.1.

Task 8. Develop the guide and complementary tools according to the approved Interim Report No. 1, supported with examples. At a minimum, the selection of examples should demonstrate the effectiveness to:

  • Communicate information among the transportation industry and relevant stakeholders (e.g., planners, engineers, surveying professionals, appraisers, and real estate agents); and
  • Incorporate implementation strategies for the guide and complementary tools.

Task 9. Develop the standalone AASHTO Deliverable.

Task 10. Prepare Interim Report No. 2 that documents the results of Tasks 7 through 9 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. The updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phase III. 


PHASE III – Final Products

Task 11. Revise the guide, the complementary tools, and the AASHTO Deliverable after consideration of the panel’s review comments.

Task 12. Submit the draft final deliverables including (1) a final research report documenting the entire research effort and findings; (2) the guide 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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