It has been recognized that it is in the public interest for utility facilities to jointly use the right-of-way of public roads and streets when such use and occupancy does not adversely affect highway or traffic safety, or otherwise impair the highway or its aesthetic quality, and does not conflict with the provisions of Federal, State, or local laws and regulations. The opportunity for such joint use avoids the additional cost of acquiring separate right-of-way for the exclusive accommodation of utilities. As a result, the right-of-way of highways, particularly local roads and streets, is often used to provide public services to abutting residents as well as to serve conventional highway needs.
Most utility considerations involve the following:
- Accommodation of utility facilities on highway right-of-way. The States must decide if they want utilities on highway right-of-way, including freeways, and if so to what extent and under what conditions. Whatever they decide must be documented in an FHWA-approved utility accommodation policy. A State may permit certain utilities and exclude others. Fees charged for utility use are at a State's discretion and may be used as the State sees fit. If a State so chooses, it can prohibit any longitudinal utility installations.
- Use of Federal-aid highway funds for the relocation of utility facilities. Since the initiation of the Federal-aid highway program in 1916, utility relocation work has been eligible for Federal-aid participation as a construction cost item to the extent the State was obligated to pay for such work. During the early years, the use of Federal-aid funds for utility relocations was quite limited; however, with the advent of the Interstate Program in the 1950s, it became a much more common practice for the States to use their highway funds to reimburse utilities for relocation costs.
Laws and Regulations
Utility facilities, unlike most other fixed objects that may be present within the highway environment, are not owned nor are their operations directly controlled by State or local highway agencies. Because of this, highway authorities have developed policies and practices which govern when and how utilities may use public highway right-of-way, and under what conditions public funds may be used to relocate utility facilities to accommodate highway construction. Federal laws and FHWA regulations contained in title 23 of the United States Code (cited 23 U.S.C.) and the Code of Federal Regulations (cited 23 CFR), respectively, have been developed to reflect this situation.
Two sections of Federal highway law in title 23 of the United States Code (cited 23 U.S.C.) deal specifically with utilities:
- 23 U.S.C. 109(l) (.pdf) addresses with the accommodation of utilities on the right-of-way of Federal-aid highways.
- 23 U.S.C. 123 (.pdf) addresses with reimbursement for the relocation of utility facilities necessitated by the construction of a project on any Federal-aid highway.
Present FHWA regulations, policies, and practices dealing with utility relocation and accommodation matters have evolved from basic principles established decades ago, with many of the policies remaining unchanged. Present utility regulations in part 645 of title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations (cited 23 CFR 645) and non-regulatory supplements are contained in chapter I, subchapter G, part 645 of the Federal-Aid Policy Guide (FAPG).
Memoranda and Guidance
- Rural Interstate Corridor Communications Study – Report to Congress, August 2007
- Rural Interstate Corridor Communications Study Report to States, February 2009
- 2011 Excellence in Utility Relocation and Accommodation Awards Winners
- Program Guide: Utility Adjustments and Accommodation on Federal-Aid Highway Projects, Sixth Edition January 2003, Publication No. FHWA-IF-03-014. This publication provides non-regulatory guidance for the Federal utility regulations contained in 23 CFR 645 Subparts A and B. The material presented in the regulations is reviewed by subject matter and historical perspective on topics is also provided.
- Right of Way and Utilities Guidelines and Best Practices (.pdf), Highway Subcommittee on Right of Way and Utilities in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, January 2004. This publication summarizes recommended guidelines and best practices for the major functional work areas involved in the Right of Way and Utilities process to assure timely procurement, clearance of rights of way and adjustment of utilities.
- Utility Location & Highway Design, National Cooperative Highway Research Program Synthesis 405, Transportation Research Board, 2010. This study explores current practices for consideration of above ground and underground utilities during the project development process, including where in the process the utility impacts are assessed and when relocation decisions are made, and how design decisions are influenced by utilities.
- Highway/Utility Guide, June 1993, Publication No. FHWA-SA-93-049. This publication provides comprehensive, state-of-the-knowledge guidance on highway/ utility issues, including planning and coordination, design, permits, information management and mapping, notification procedures, legal matters, safety, construction, maintenance, reimbursement, and others.
- Utility Relocation and Accommodation: A History of Federal Policy Under the Federal-Aid Highway Program, Part I: Utility Relocation (.pdf, 7.5 mb), June 1980. This publication provides a history of Federal policy from 1916 to 1980 on the relocation and adjustment of utilities to accommodate highway construction on Federal-aid highways.
- Utility Relocation and Accommodation: A History of Federal Policy Under the Federal-Aid Highway Program, Part II: Utility Accommodation (.pdf, 2.6 mb), June 1980. This publication provides a history of Federal policy from 1916 to 1980 for accommodating utilities on Federal-aid highways.
- CCC: Making the Effort Works! This 19-minute video is based on the research and recommendations contained in AASHTO Utility Guidelines and Best Practices. It is designed to inform transportation agencies and utility companies of actions they can take toward avoiding construction delays and reducing or eliminating unnecessary project costs, and to motivate them to work in partnership with each other toward this common goal.
- Viewing & Discussion Guide for use with the video CCC: Making the Effort Works! This Guide is useful for staff training, management awareness, or information exchange activities. It provides an overview of the video content; facilitator tips for providing a comfortable viewing environment; key points that may be copied and distributed for on-going reference; discussion questions to foster ideas and encourage action; and additional resources.
A bibliography listing utility-related documents, publications and articles is available for further information. Additionally, information on the topic of Subsurface Utility Engineering is also available from a variety of sources