Section 3: Liaison between TxDOT and Utilities

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TxDOT promotes liaison at all levels with the utility industry to provide maximum lead-time, efficient flow of information, and early adjustment. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the International Right of Way Association (IRWA) at the national level encourage the states, through their departments of transportation, to establish utility liaison committees. Both the annual AASHTO/FHWA Right of Way and Utilities Conference and the IRWA Conference devote several workshops to address the issues of highway/utility cooperation and coordination. Utility representatives from all segments of the utility industry and representatives of various states' departments of transportation can then establish and maintain a framework for exchange of information, concerns, and ideas. This education and mutual sharing of issues by all parties should encourage efforts to accomplish the following objectives:

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  • prompt accomplishment of utility adjustments;
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  • performance of utility adjustments in a manner providing maximum safety to the traveling public, TxDOT personnel, and utility industry personnel;
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  • provision of adequate protection to the highway and utility facilities; and
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  • performance of utility adjustments at minimum cost, inconvenience, and delay to the highway and utility industries.

The education and sharing of information should also be carried out at the local level. Several Districts have developed Utility Coordination Councils to accomplish the open exchange of information among the private and public utilities, governmental agencies, and construction related organizations. They promote cooperation among these groups in the planning, design, and implementation of projects affecting one another. Each local group should strive for a proactive liaison between all parties for everyone’s mutual benefit.

TxDOT Districts should conduct continuing liaison on the local level from the preliminary study stage to completion of construction. The inability to provide for efficient adjustment of utility facilities can create delays in project planning and/or delays during the construction phase, resulting in increased construction costs and contractor claims.

Lapses in the efficient adjustment of utility facilities typically result from a breakdown of communication, cooperation, and/or coordination. To overcome these lapses, maintain a proactive effort that includes the following:

Communication. There must be a continuous flow of information between all parties involved in the utility adjustment process. Therefore, it is important that TxDOT and utilities respond quickly to requests for information.

Cooperation. TxDOT and utilities must cooperate in executing the process of utility adjustment.

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  • TxDOT, for its part, must do the following:
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    • Utilize the “The Process.”
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    • Eliminate conflicts with utility facilities through modifications in project design, when feasible.
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    • Include, as a part of project sequencing, utility adjustment work to be accomplished during construction.
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    • Include utility adjustment work in the highway contract, when possible, and in the agreement with the utility.
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  • Utilities, for their part, must do the following:
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    • Participate in “The Process.”
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    • Begin preparing utility adjustment plans when TxDOT plans are at a stage where they show a refined profile, basic drainage requirements, and pavement structure design.

Coordination. TxDOT should take the lead in coordinating the utility adjustment process.

Utilities are encouraged to inform TxDOT of proposed new installations so utility construction can be accomplished in a manner compatible with proposed highway projects, whenever it is feasible. This may eliminate future adjustments, thereby avoiding the inconvenience of utility service disruption and person-hour loss to both the utility and to TxDOT.

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General Accounting Office Report

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) directed the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) to assess the impact that delays in relocating utilities were having on the delivery and cost of Federal-aid highway and bridge projects. The reader may review the entire GAO Report for more information.

In summary, the report identified the following areas that may cause delays:

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  • Short periods for the State to plan and design a project.
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  • Relocations given low priority by utilities.
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  • Increased workload on utility adjustment crews because of an increase in highway and bridge construction.
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  • Delays in starting utility adjustment because some utilities would not start work until a construction contract was advertised or let.
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  • The phasing of construction and utility relocation work was out of sequence.
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  • There was inadequate coordination or sequencing among the utilities.
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  • Inaccurate locating and marking of existing utility facilities.
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  • Delays in obtaining right of way.
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  • Shortages of labor and equipment for the utility contractor.
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  • Project design changes that require changes to utility relocation designs.
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  • Utilities were slow in responding to contractor’s requests to locate and mark underground utilities.
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