The National Academies

NCHRP 10-140 [Pending]

Guide for Right-of-Way Management with a Utility Awareness

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Contract Time: 30 months
Staff Responsibility: Christopher T. McKenney


Accommodating the utility infrastructure within the right-of-way (ROW) is recognized as a priority of public interest, which necessitates permitting authorized agencies to manage and integrate utility activities within the ROW. Additionally, accommodation requests from utility companies have increased due to the deregulation of telecommunication, Dig-Once guidelines, broadband initiatives, and other emerging trends, which previously restricted utility companies from occupying the ROW.

State departments of transportation (DOTs) have identified limitations (e.g., managing project costs, schedules, and associated risks) to comprehensively review, manage, and inspect the utility installations with current available resources. Another concern is the quality of record management for utilities details and installation locations as well as accessing record drawings of new installations. Additionally, within state DOTs organizational structures (e.g., permitting, utility and broadband coordination, ROW engineering and acquisition, construction inspection, and intelligent transportation systems (ITS)), ROW management duties tend to occur among multiple departments that could affect activity alignment during the project delivery process.

Research is needed to address the evolving business practices of ROW management to accommodate utility involvement and develop innovative utility accommodation approaches and strategies to align ROW management processes within a state DOT as well as a state DOT’s involvement with external stakeholders.


The objective of this research is to develop a guide and complementary tools to assist state DOTs with issues related to ROW management and utility involvement.

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 management and utility involvement. The review shall include published and unpublished research conducted through the NCHRP; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); and other national, international, state, and pooled fund sponsored research.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., questionnaires/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 ROW management with a utility awareness.

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

  • Identification of the barriers (e.g., cost, time, technology, and staff resources) and strategies to streamline the coordination of ROW management and utility involvement;
  • Identification of the value of ROW management as it relates to collecting and documenting activities within ROW versus state DOTs resources (e.g., project delivery, project funding, utility delay claims, staff limitations, and technical infrastructure and management);
  • Identification of the barriers and strategies for capturing, maintaining, and utilizing accurate data records as it relates to ROW management and utility accommodation requirements;
  • Identification of barriers of data interoperability of digital information (e.g., utility attributes and location information, and subsurface engineering (SUE) and digital as-builts (DAB) data) within a state DOT as well as state DOT’s involvement with external stakeholders (e.g., local agencies, utility companies, ROW occupants, and contractors);
  • Investigation of the legal, regulatory, and legislative requirements for implementing a framework as it relates to ROW fee structures (e.g., required payments for permit fees, occupancy fees, installation inspection, and as-built and their budgetary allocations); and
  • Identification of case studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of ROW management and cross-disciplines (e.g., design and utility coordination) use of data including an assessment of benefits and risks from the utility’s perspective.

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 ROW management as it relates to utility involvement within the ROW. These knowledge gaps should be addressed in this research or in the recommended future research as budget permits.

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:

  • Identifying the sharing capabilities of digital utility information (e.g., utility attributes and location information) collected and/or exchanged by state DOTs and utility companies;
  • Developing operational procedures to assist state DOTs ensuring ROW requirements identify (1) existing utilities, (2) utility relocation needs, and (3) the potential of future utility accommodation needs while maintaining ITS and other infrastructure;
  • Developing a guide and complementary tools for state DOTs to implement a ROW management program (e.g., reducing delays from acquiring critical parcels, avoiding extended utility relocation and construction delays, reducing project costs, and preventing issues involving environmental commitments); and
  • Identifying innovative utility accommodation procedures, ROW management tools, and current and emerging technologies as they relate to data collection and information management (e.g., maintenance, archival, traditional project plans conversion to digital format, and digital data).

Task 5. Propose a preliminary outline and table of contents for the guide and complementary tools (e.g., compendium, infographics, spreadsheets, framework, and roadmap) based on the findings from Phase I, which should incorporate key findings, supported with examples.

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 and 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. The selection of examples should demonstrate the effectiveness to:

  • Communicate information among the state DOTs and relevant stakeholders (e.g., construction contractors, utility owners, and third-party utility contactors);
  • Incorporate implementation strategies for the guidelines and framework; and
  • Establish archival and maintenance solutions for continuous data management.

Task 9. After NCHRP review of the guide and the complementary tools, plan and conduct a workshop with 20 representatives of state DOTs and other stakeholders to review the draft guide and complementary tools. Revise the draft deliverables according to the outcomes of the workshop. The invited representatives shall be approved by NCHRP.

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 and complementary tools 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 complementary tools; (3) prioritized recommendations for future research; (4) presentation material and resources; and (5) 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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