Section 3: Planning and Sequence of Project Development

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Actions Preliminary to the ROW Acquisition Process

TxDOT's project development process is a joint effort of many team members. Reducing project delay can be accomplished by integrating ROW personnel into early stages of the project development process. This is important for:

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  • identifying potential design/construction funding related to the current Unified Transportation Program (UTP);
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  • placing a project in the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP);
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  • developing the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP).

The Right of Way staff should be consulted by the project planners and designers to determine the best project location and design with consideration given to:

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  • local land usage;
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  • potential disturbances to individual property owners; and
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  • impact on area development and ROW costs, for example, effects of possible hazardous material and possible need for wetland mitigation.

ROW cost is a significant part of overall project cost and should receive due consideration with all engineering factors.

When studying proposed project locations, the designer should consult with Right of Way staff regarding ROW impacts that may have high costs for:

Minor changes in design, such as change in alignment or adjustment of ROW width, may be made without a reduction in the integrity of the design or a disproportionate increase in construction costs in relation to ROW costs.

Refer to the TxDOT Project Development Process Manual for information on the following project development tasks.

ROW acquisition requirements and information for obtaining CONSTRUCT (CONS) authorization are discussed in the TxDOT Project Development Process Manual. There is a targeted percentage of ROW acquisition that should be complete for priority status, but the percentage may vary depending on the size of the ROW project. To verify that a project can be constructed as a CONSTRUCT (CONS) Status project, evaluate the project's amount of ROW acquired to date. This evaluation minimizes the possibility of ROW acquisition delaying a letting and demonstrates the importance of involving ROW staff in project development.

Initial ROW acquisition is authorized when PLAN or DEVELOP (DVLP) authorization is obtained. PLAN or DEVELOP (DVLP) status is required for ROW acquisition authorization.

Long Range Project (LRP) status is obtained as the last and lowest level of project development.

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Sequence of ROW Project Development

To initiate a ROW project:

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  • the work must receive program approval by the Commission;
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  • schematics must be approved (See the Project Development Process Manual.);
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  • public involvement requirements must be met. (See the Project Development Process Manual.); and
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  • environmental clearance requirements must be met. (See the Project Development Process Manual.)

The authority to proceed from the ROW Division and issuance of the General Expenditure Authorization, to cover the project costs, must be deferred until these preliminary requirements are complete.

After the project is authorized, the ROW staff is responsible to plan project development to completion. The ROW staff should undertake the following actions in a coordinated work plan:

Eminent domain (ED) proceedings should occur only when negotiation is unsuccessful. Once legal proceedings begin, they should be given priority handling, at least through deposit of the Commissioners' Award, which provides possession of the ROW. The ROW staff will assist with eminent domain proceedings. However, under the Constitution of the State of Texas, the Attorney General's Office (OAG) must act as counsel for TxDOT in Commissioners' Hearings and all court proceedings.

Area Engineer staff should consult with the Right of Way staff regarding special design and construction issues that may relate to ROW negotiations.

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Overview of Project Development Meetings

Refer to the TxDOT Project Development Process Manual for more information on the following meetings and activities. The first step in beginning a project is to identify project need and scope.

Preparing a programming assessment may be needed to obtain approval of Long Range Project Status for some projects.

The two meetings required for most projects are the Preliminary Design Conference and the Design Conference. Each of these meetings should allow for sharing information and discussing ROW issues.

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Contractual Agreements with Local Governments

Statutory Authorization. Transportation Code, Section 203.051, authorizes TxDOT to acquire whatever interest in any property that is needed for highway ROW purposes. Usually, TxDOT will enter into an agreement with a local government (LG) that established responsibilities of each agency in the acquisition process. Transportation Code, Section 224.002 (a) states that an LG must acquire highway ROW as requested by TxDOT. The statutory authority allowing LG's to contract with TxDOT for acquiring needed ROW is found in Transportation Code, Section 224.005. Terms and conditions of any agreement entered into by and between TxDOT and an LG is determined between the parties. Transportation Code, Section 224.005 (a) provides that TxDOT must reimburse an LG not less than 90% of the cost of the ROW.

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