Chapter 4: Preliminary Planning

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Section 1: District Utility Cooperative Process Meetings

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General

Utility coordination meetings are held at the District level to:

  • acquaint TxDOT and utilities with key personnel of each participant;
  • inform interested parties of proposed projects and project needs;
  • give sufficient notice for budgeting of proposed projects;
  • involve utilities early in the project to accommodate design changes and minimize delays;
  • minimize impacts on other participants; and
  • educate TxDOT and utilities on regulations and industry standards.
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Annual Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) Meeting

The District Director of Transportation Planning and Development (TP&D) is responsible for setting up and conducting an annual TIP meeting between TxDOT and utilities, to be held immediately after approval of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The objectives of an annual TIP meeting are as follows:

  • cooperatively discuss the STIP at the District level;
  • provide a STIP project listing, with information presented in a utility friendly format; and
  • examine projects from the utility’s perspective to identify potential conflicts and impacts.

Before the meeting, prepare a chronological listing of the upcoming years proposed construction letting schedule for distribution to affected utilities. The project listing should be mailed with the meeting notification to all LPAs and utilities that might be affected by the project. The letting schedule list should be a cooperative TxDOT/utility effort and should be prepared with consideration of the following:

  • TxDOT projects. Project lettings should be listed in chronological construction letting date order. Current yearly right of way budgets are based upon TxDOT’s 3-year letting schedule. Individual District right of way projects and projected utility adjustments should be identified for inclusion in the right of way budget allocation process.
  • Project information of particular interest to utilities, in a format that is clear and understandable to the public.
  • Project categories without utility impacts should be eliminated from this customized listing. Some examples are:
    • landscaping;
    • pavement markings; and
    • maintenance contracts.

The annual TIP meeting provides a forum for discussion of the TxDOT construction schedule with affected utilities. Place particular emphasis on early awareness of major utility concerns associated with accommodating TxDOT construction. Early communication provides utilities the opportunity to plan budgets for upcoming construction, with consideration given to:

  • utility budget cycles;
  • construction schedules;
  • procurement of materials and fabrication; and
  • consumer service requirements.

The participants to be invited should include the:

  • TxDOT District Director of TP&D
  • TxDOT Area Engineers or their designee(s)
  • TxDOT Right of Way Representative and/or LPA Coordinator
  • TxDOT Utility Liaison
  • TxDOT Environmental Representative
  • Executives or engineers from affected utilities
  • LPA representatives where projects are scheduled
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Annual Meeting (Process Activity I)

Districts are strongly encouraged to host Annual Meetings with all known utilities operating within the District’s boundaries.

Make utilities aware early of the accommodation issues associated with TxDOT construction. Early communication provides utilities the opportunity to plan budgets for upcoming construction and informs TxDOT planners of proposed utility construction in time to minimize costly adjustments and delays, and improve relations with utilities involved.

The District Engineer, along with Area Engineers, is responsible for scheduling annual meetings. Participants include the following:

  • TxDOT District Engineer or designee;
  • TxDOT District Director of TP&D;
  • TxDOT Right of Way Representative and/or LPA Coordinator;
  • TxDOT Utility Liaison;
  • TxDOT Environmental Representative;
  • Executives or engineers of all known utilities operating within the District;
  • County Engineers or their representatives;
  • FHWA Representative(s); and
  • LPAs that may be involved in any proposed TxDOT project.

Schedule the meeting far enough in advance to allow time for participants to make plans to attend and submit items for the agenda. During the initial meeting, discuss potential follow up activities, as described in “The Process."

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Utility Coordination Council Meetings

The existence of a Utility Coordination Council, meeting regularly to discuss upcoming utility projects, may already be established in large municipalities and in some Districts. TxDOT participation and attendance at such meetings is strongly encouraged. If no Utility Coordination Council exists in a particular District, TxDOT personnel are encouraged to actively suggest and assist in the formation of a Utility Coordination Council.

The council should accomplish and promote the following:

  • better awareness of proposed construction activities of each participant;
  • introductions of key personnel, and contact representatives, of each participant;
  • a forum for resolution of conflicts between participants; and
  • an opportunity for partnering in proposed construction.

Participants should include:

  • Utilities
  • LPAs
  • Appropriate TxDOT District Administrative Management Personnel
  • TxDOT District Right of Way Representative
  • TxDOT Utility Liaison
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Initial Project Notification Meeting (Process Activity II)

The objectives of the initial projection notification meeting are to:

  • provide preliminary project description, scope and letting schedule to utilities;
  • set a date for preliminary design meeting;
  • identify TxDOT Project Design Engineer & TxDOT Design Consultant, if appropriate;
  • request identities of utility contacts to be assigned to the TxDOT project;
  • request block maps/mark ups, as built plans, or system drawings indicating utility facility locations and other features from utilities.

The District should invite all utilities that might be affected by construction, and provide each with one copy of the proposed preliminary schematic, the notification of project, the scope of project, the proposed let date, and the name of TxDOT contact person. All utilities should be encouraged to attend. This advance notification enables utilities to:

  • plan for those changes that may be needed by the proposed construction, and
  • make arrangements for adjusting their annual budgets and schedules to accommodate facility adjustment(s).

This activity in “The Process” could take the form of a project-specific letter of information prepared for distribution to all affected utilities. The letter should also include:

  • A request for utility locations:
    • Attach a copy of the preliminary right of way map, schematic, or plan and profile sheets with all known locations of the utility’s facilities indicated.
    • Request the utility to make any additions or corrections necessary to give an accurate account of the facilities to be encountered during construction. It is the utility’s responsibility to establish the location.
    • Request the utility to promptly submit the block maps/mark ups, as-built plans, or system drawings to the District regarding any feasible design changes to insure compliance with the UAR.
  • A request for determination of utility property interests:
    • The notification letter should also request that an indication be made on the right of way map of the approximate boundaries of easements or other interests in lands held by the utility along or on proposed highway right of way. Such information is necessary to estimate reimbursable costs.
  • A request for the name of the utility representative with whom to coordinate:
    • Meet with or correspond with the designated official regarding a determination of utility facilities involved, effect of the proposed construction upon the facility, and exact nature and limits of the utility’s property interests.
    • Make this preliminary contact as early as possible.
  • A date of Early Right of Way Release for Utilities (and FHWA approval, if applicable) from ROW Division is necessary to ensure eligibility for reimbursement of all preliminary engineering costs and right of way charges incurred by the utilities. If release has already been given, notify utilities of date of release.

A copy of the UAR should accompany the letter.

The initial project notification will announce the time and location of the Preliminary Design Meeting. It should be sent out no less than two weeks (four to six weeks is reasonable) in advance to ensure full attendance and to allow adequate time for the utilities to compile requested information.

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Preliminary Design Meeting (Process Actitivity III)

At the preliminary design meeting, TxDOT and utility’s representatives should be introduced, along with any consultants that may be used in the design process. The Director of TP&D, or appropriate TxDOT District Administrative Management personnel, should open the meeting by describing:

  • the proposed improvements, including such drainage facilities, typical sections, structures and other roadside features;
  • right of way needs;
  • PS&E development schedule;
  • environmental clearance schedule;
  • environmental impact;
  • the anticipated letting schedule; and
  • any other potential impacts on utilities.

Participants at the preliminary design meeting should include the following:

  • TxDOT Project Design Engineer/Design Team
  • Utilities
  • TxDOT Design Consultant
  • TxDOT Utility Liaison
  • TxDOT Right of Way Representative
  • TxDOT Advanced Project Development Engineer
  • TxDOT Environmental Representative
  • LPA Parties, as applicable

TxDOT’s Utility Accommodation Standards (UAR) and reimbursement eligibility criteria should be explained at this time. TxDOT should also provide the following:

  • A copy of the UAR may be found on the Internet. Instruct participants of the meeting how to access the website.
  • Reimbursement eligibility criteria. Briefly explain the need for proof of compensable interests and reasons for requesting further information from utilities to verify their reimbursable interests.
  • The expected magnitude of impact. Identify, as early as possible, any conditions that might prevent compliance with the UAR and propose potential solutions.

An action plan for locating affected utility facilities can be developed after a determination has been made whether the field verification is to be accomplished jointly or independently. Concerns to be addressed in the action plan are as follows:

  • The immediate need for horizontal and vertical alignment information on underground and overhead utilities. Special attention should be given to signs, bridges, noise walls, high mast lighting, footings, pilings, etc.
  • Physical constraints affecting methods and equipment to be used in the field verification process, like:
    • access;
    • traffic control (comply with the Texas Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices) (TMUTCD); and
    • right of way restrictions.
  • Anticipated utility adjustment schedules and response times of utility information providers.

As a result of the above discussion, a date will be identified for the Design Conference

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