Section 3: Field Work Instructions

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Information contained within this section is excerpted in its entirety and/or adapted by the Standing Committee on Surveying (SCOS) for this manual from the TxDOT ROW Manual Volume 1 - Procedures Preliminary to Release.

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An encroachment is defined as any obstruction intruding upon the property of another. An encroachment may indicate the existence of an unwritten right that may evolve into a title right. Under the Texas and United States Constitutions, it is a fundamental duty for TxDOT to determine and compensate the owners for all rights acquired in the taking of property.

Describe and tie all encroachments or possible encroachments in the survey field record.

Exercise special care in observing aerial encroachments such as overhead electric and telephone lines with cross-arms. Record these items in the field record. Other encroachments may include:

  • fences
  • rock walls
  • power poles
  • guy wires
  • driveways
  • buildings or structures
  • underground utilities including water, sanitary sewer, communication, electricity, oil and gas pipelines, etc.
  • sidewalks
  • persons occupying the tract
  • clearing in the trees
  • disturbed ground.

Roads and driveways crossing the subject tract shall be noted. These roads may be used by adjoining landowners for access to their property. Locate all dirt roads; as they may lead to a cemetery or be ingress and egress to another tract.

All improvements within, along, beside, or up to 50 feet outside the property lines must be located in relation to a property line, identified and dimensioned.

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Fence Ties

Property line fences shall be accurately located. Ties will be made as needed. The field survey record will note:

  • age of fence
  • type of fence
  • condition of fence.

The intersection of cross fences with property line fences shall be located. A sketch of cross fences in the interior of a tract shall be made if an aerial photograph is unavailable. Cross fences in the interior of a tract shall not be surveyed unless requested by the RPLS in responsible charge.

Adjoining fences along the property line shall be located in the survey field record. A sketch of such fences will be made if low-level high-resolution aerial photography is unavailable.

Wire fences that meander from tree to tree shall not be located unless they are boundary division fences. When tying tree to tree fences, note in the survey field record as to where the fence begins to go from tree to tree and where the fence ends from tree to tree with periodic ties to fence from a traverse line. Each individual tree does not need to be tied unless required by the RPLS in responsible charge.

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An easement is “an interest in land created by grant or agreement which confers a right upon owners (private or public) to some profit, dominion, or lawful use of the estate of another.”

All surface evidence of utilities corresponding to known easements of record shall be located in the field survey record.

The surveyor will locate all facilities crossing the subject tract to verify the location of the object in relation to the location of a recorded easement.

The surveyor will note:

  • new excavations
  • pipeline markers
  • buried cable route signs
  • cleared routes across property
  • manholes, and
  • any feature that suggests aerial or buried utilities whether or not they were constructed under benefit of an easement of record.

Evidence of all cemeteries or possible cemeteries will be located and noted in the survey field record.

Gates found on the perimeter of the tract shall be located. Apparent frequency of use and condition shall be noted. Sketches of roads entering and exiting the tract shall be made. Aerial photographs may be used as a base map to approximate the location of roads or trails across the property.

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Boundary Checklist

The following boundary checklist shall be reviewed before the beginning and end of a boundary survey:


  • Are all boundary fences located?
  • Note fence type, approximate age, type of wire.
  • Locate all significant angle points in fences and plot on sketch and/or aerial photographs.
  • Prepare detailed sketch of fence at major corners.
  • Locate intersection of cross fences at division fences.
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  • locate serial electric, telephone and cable TV lines (unless previously located by topographic survey)
  • locate all utilities flagged by one call system
  • note the number of wires and brief description of cross bar poles
  • locate all guy wires and down guys
  • locate all sanitary sewer manholes, water valves, and fire hydrants
  • locate all inlets
  • locate all underground pipelines, communication and electric lines (locate route signing and vents of underground utilities)
  • locate all above ground pipeline and oil or gas well appurtenances such as valves, cathodic protection facilities, tank batteries, pumps, etc., if not previously surveyed.
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Property Corners

  • locate all monuments on points of curvature and points of intersection of ROW fronting tract
  • locate sufficient monuments of ROW adjacent to and on either side of tract, and across public roadways, to determine location of tract to adjoining tracts of ROW taking
  • prepare detailed description of property corners located and survey control points set (1/2'' IRON ROD FOUND, 1'' IRON PIPE FOUND, 2 X 2 HUB AND TACK SET, 3/8'' IRON ROD IN ROCK MOUND FOUND, etc.); it is essential to note and markings of found monuments
  • set survey control points in places that will be undisturbed in the future
  • ensure there is sufficient information from deed plot or subdivision plats to tie in to adjoining property.
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Locate Structures in Interior of Parcel near Proposed Taking

  • barns
  • concrete slabs and foundations
  • houses or any permanent structures
  • water wells.
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Locate Natural Features Referred to in Deeds

  • drainage features
  • ridge lines or summits
  • wooded mottes or woods / prairie boundaries.
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Locate Roadways Entering and Exiting the Property

  • any dirt or gravel roads or driveways being used for access to adjacent properties
  • any abandoned roadways.
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Flag All Survey Points

  • guard stake and lath set on property corners of the subject parcel
  • control points
  • survey control points shall be set in such locations to facilitate setting calculated corners in the near future to complete the boundary survey.
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TSPS Survey Categories

Information in this subsection is excerpted and/or adapted for this manual from the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors (TSPS) Manual of Practice.

The Texas Society of Professional Surveyors (TSPS) has published the Manual of Practice for many years. Although aimed at the surveyor in the private sector, this manual contains much information useful to the TxDOT surveyor. In particular, the “Chart for Tolerances of Conditions” (which appears below) may be appended to a “Work Authorization” as a survey specification. The manual contains categories of surveys and tolerances, or specifications, for each category of survey. The categories are further subdivided into conditions.

Category 1A provides specifications for a Land Title Survey. It is designed to fulfill the normal requirements of all title insuring agencies.

Category 1B is specified as a Standard Land Survey. A Standard Land Survey is not intended to support title insurance activities. Category 1B surveys will be used to locate real property, write legal descriptions, or for platting.

Category 2 is defined as a Route Survey. This type of survey is used for the planning of the location and the acquisition of property for rights of way.

The following chart is excerpted from the TSPS Manual of Practice:

Anchor: #i1002335Table 5.1 Chart of Tolerances for Conditions











Urban Business District

Remarks and Formulae

Error of Closure





Loop or between Control Monuments

Angular Closure





N = Number of Angles in Traverse

* Accuracy of Bearing in Relation to Source

40 sec.

30 sec.

20 sec.

15 sec.

Sin α = denominator in Error of Closure Divided into 1 (approx.)

Linear Distances Accurate to:

0.2 ft. per 1,000 ft.

0.15 ft. per 1,000 ft.

0.1 ft. per 1,000 ft.

0.05 ft. per 1,000 ft.

Sin α x 1000 (approx.) where ± = Accuracy of Bearing

Positional Error of Any Monument









AC = Length of Any Course in traverse

Calculation of Area —Accurate and

Carried to:

















To 1 acre

To 10 acres

To 100 acres

To 1000 acres

Elevations for Boundaries by Tides, Contours, Rivers, etc. Accurate to

0.2 ft.

0.1 ft.

0.05 ft.

0.03 ft.

Based on sea level datum

Location of Improvements Structures, Paving, etc.

1.0 ft.

0.5 ft.

0.2 ft.

0.1 ft.

Tie Measurements

Scale of Maps Sufficient to Show Detail but no less than

1''= 2,000'

1''= 1,000'




Positional Error in Map Plotting not to Exceed: (Applies to Original only)

50 ft. 1''=2,000'

25 ft. 1''=1,000'

10 ft. 1''=400'

5 ft. 1''=200'

Generally 1/40th inch (National Map accuracy calls for 1/50th inch)

Adjusted Mathematical Closure of Survey no less than






NOTE: *TxDOT policy requires all bearings or angles be based on the following source: Grid bearing of the Texas Coordinate System of 1983, with the proper zone and epoch specified.

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Information Provided by the State for ROW Mapping

  • work authorization to begin work
  • copy of the department’s Survey Crew Safety handbook to the surveyor
  • an example of a ROW map, traverse closure sheet, and property description
  • existing horizontal control information to the surveyor
  • existing applicable Rights of Way maps of the project area if available to the surveyor
  • a planimetric map in “MicroStation® compatible” media showing existing topography if available to the surveyor
  • authorization for TxDOT bronze disk (Type II ROW marker to monument ROW) and TxDOT aluminum rod caps (monument new/proposed ROW parcel)
  • inspect and approve surveys, property descriptions, and ROW maps
  • pay the surveyor for work performed and accepted.
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