This must be the week for transportation.  Yesterday, I received an update from the Tennessee Road Builder’s Association about the acquisition of right of ways on Federal funded projects.  According to a memo from TDOT’s Chief Engineer Paul Degges, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will be enforcing its policy that all property must be acquired under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (Uniform Act). 


What is the Uniform Act? Passed by Congress in 1970, the Uniform Act is a federal law that establishes minimum standards for federally funded programs and projects that require the acquisition of real property (real estate) or displace persons from their homes, businesses, or farms. The Uniform Act’s protections and assistance apply to the acquisition, rehabilitation, or demolition of real property for federal or federally funded projects.

What is the FHWA policy? According to the TDOT memo, FHWA has advised that the roadway contractor cannot acquire the land that is to be incorporated into the right of way during the construction phase.  The contractor is required to strictly adhere to the Uniform Act’s requirements.  Any variance from the policy could jeopardize the Federal funding on the project.  If you need to find the correct contact information for your state, check out the FWHA’s Right of Way Office Roster.  You can also check out the FHWA’s page on Frequently Asked Questions

What should contractors learn?  The events leading to the TDOT memo suggest that a roadway contractor acquired some land during the construction phase of a project that was to be incorporated into the right of way.  The FHWA confirmed that the Right of Way Division should be responsible for "the acquisition of any additional property when this type of situation occurs…"  Thus, if additional right of way is needed because plans are incorrect or a value engineering change proposal recommends it, a plans revision should be issued and the Right of Way Division needs to acquire the property … not the contractor.  According to TRBA, this will not affect waste and borrow areas that the contractor is responsible for acquiring.