Welcome Back - this is the Winter Edition of the Office of Real Estate Services Newsletter. Our Editor (my publicist) requested that my comments be consistent with the theme of this edition - Partnerships through Teamwork.
As Right-of-Way (ROW) staff members are keenly aware, we constantly emphasize the importance of early and continuous coordination. This applies both internally with other Federal Highway Administration/State DOT offices and, externally, with other transportation partners and stakeholders involved in or impacted by the development, operation and maintenance of transportation facilities.
I cannot overstate the importance of this. As those who had an opportunity to read my comments in the last edition are aware, improving coordination in project delivery was an overriding theme in the recent ROW/Utilities international scan on Streamlining and Integrating ROW and Utility Processes with Planning, Environmental, and Design Processes. Achieving this requires a team approach to projects.
However, as I understand that there will be various articles in this Newsletter that will offer examples of teamwork among partners and stakeholders involved in ROW and outdoor advertising control, I want to use this opportunity to comment on a different type of teamwork evident throughout the country (primarily in Florida and Arizona) this time of year.
While this Newsletter edition is technically being published during the winter, once February comes to an end, March to me means Spring Training. From that sweet-sounding phrase stems the perennial promise of the return of the Boys of Summer . And nothing speaks more of teamwork than baseball.
Perusal of the Sunday Book section of the Washington Post over the past couple of months reflects a resurrection of sales of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. However, long before historian Goodwin wrote about Lincoln's Team, she wrote about teamwork in baseball in her Memoir Wait Till Next Year, a coming of age story about growing up in the 1950s, her relationship with her family, and her love of baseball. As a Dodger fan in a neighborhood divided by loyalties to Dodgers, Yankees, and Giants, her team included such greats as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snyder, and Gil Hodges.
Further, Goodwin is not the only historian to cross and/or recognize parallels between government and baseball. Among several books written by David Halberstam on baseball, are Summer of 49, October 1964, and Teammates. As a youth growing up in the Boston area in the 1960s and 1970s, to me the Red Sox epitomized baseball and teamwork. While as a baseball and history fan, I enjoyed reading Summer of 49, I was disappointed by the ending (New York Yankees overtaking the Boston Red Sox for supremacy of the American League). In his later book Teammates, a story about the relationship between Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, and Ted Williams, close friends who were members of the Red Sox, there were no Yankee villains. The story occurs as Pesky and DiMaggio undertake a 1,300 mile car ride from Massachusetts to Florida to visit Ted Williams, who lay dying in Florida.
There are countless other fiction and non-fiction classics that reflect the accounts of teammates in their collective effort to excel. In addition to those mentioned above, among my favorites are:
Moreover, though not included in the above list, I recommend for Red Sox fans who predated 2004 (covering the several decades from 1919 to 2003) Bill (Spaceman) Lee's book The Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History. Through use of this type of revisionist license, we can continue to believe that
The Red Sox won the 1967 World Series, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh game of the series by some miraculous occurrence, the bats of Triple Crown winner Yaz, and teammates Scott and Tony C. -(who, in my revisionist account, was not beaned by Jack Hamilton), - came alive to overcome the deficit and win the game.
The Red Sox won the 1975 World Series, defeating the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh game of the series (or winning it in six after the umpire appropriately called interference on Armbrister in the third game, and the Sox went on to win the game and the Series).
The Red Sox won the 1986 World Series, defeating the NY Mets in the 7th game of the series (or winning it in six following a spectacular defensive play by Bill Buckner who fielded the ball and put out Mookie Wilson unassisted).
How does this relate to acquiring ROW and building highways? One way is to tie this into the coordinated effort through which ROW was acquired for the development and construction of the Ted Williams Tunnel. The Tunnel constitutes the third harbor tunnel under Boston Harbor, and was timely opened on December 15, 1995, to connect South Boston with Logan Airport, and complete the final leg of Interstate 90 from Seattle, Washington.
A broader perspective would suggest that whether we are talking about baseball or about building highways (or life itself), it comes down to teamwork. In baseball, individual stars cannot do it alone. It takes 25 players (together with the manager and coaching staff) to work cooperatively day after day, in order to achieve the level of success that is strived for. Similarly, in project development and implementation - to be able to complete a project on schedule and within budget, and for the facility to be constructed at the level of quality projected in the design - there must be coordination within and among all of the project staffs and their stakeholders and partners.
With this type of teamwork and partnering effort, anything is achievable, and it is conceivable that the Red Sox will be playing the Washington Nationals come game seven this October.
Participation topped 400 as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) partnered with the International Right of Way Association (IRWA) and the Appraisal Institute to present the 2009 Federal Agency Update (FAU). Held In January at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, the 3 day educational forum offered more than 30 interactive sessions and featured speakers from Federal, State, and local agencies.
"This annual event provides the ideal venue to engage one-on-one with our Federal partners, and we are very appreciative of the continued support provided by the FHWA," said IRWA International President, Faith Roland, SR/WA. "We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Gerry Solomon, as his collaborative leadership style has gone a long way in ensuring our mutual success."
The informal workshop format enabled participants to interact with Federal, State, and local government representatives; and hear updates from the FHWA, Department of Housing & Urban Development, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Bureau of Land Management to name a few.
The FAU program was orchestrated by a planning group comprised of Federal agencies, utility companies, IRWA Executive Committee Members, and right-of-way consultants. FHWA Realty Specialist, Marshall Wainwright, who played an active role in last year's Public Real Estate Education Symposium, was instrumental in planning and presenting several of the sessions. Gerald Solomon, Director, FHWA Office of Real Estate Services, provided an update from the agency. Other sessions included Highway Beautification and State Requirements on Effective Control, presented by former FHWA Director, Clyde Johnson; and Accommodating Utilities in Right-of- Way, led by Rebecca Bennett. David Blakeney, SR/WA, Realty Officer, Transportation Planner, Arkansas Division, co-presented the sessions on Relocation and Acquisition Incentives and the Uniform Act Update.
Following the educational event, IRWA conducted an online survey among participants, who overwhelmingly rated the event as either exceeding or meeting expectations. More than 90 percent said they are likely to attend next year, and nearly all respondents would recommend this event to other professionals.
Next year's event will take place January 26-28, 2010, at the Flamingo Hotel,in Las Vegas, Nevada. To view all the photos and see the full roster of participants, please visit www.irwaonline.org.
Following an interagency meeting held in June 2008 to discuss agencies' interest in exploring partnership opportunities to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation sources, 13 Federal agencies formed an interagency working group on transportation, land use, and climate change. The working group's mission was to align Federal programs and resources to support stakeholders in achieving GHG reductions through land use and transportation decisions resulting in reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of cars and trucks. In addition, a sub-group of land management agencies was formed to discuss means to reduce GHG outside of VMT reductions. The long-term goal for the working group is to develop a preliminary interagency action plan including legislative, regulatory, and policy recommendations to reduce VMT and GHG emissions.
Agencies participating in the working group include:
Working Group Activities
From July to November 2008, the interagency working group met four times. Over the course of the four meetings, the working group's activities focused on identifying the following information:
As a result of these activities, the working group has identified several themes where Federal agencies can align efforts in order to facilitate a reduction in VMT and GHG emissions. The themes include:
Over the next several months, the working group will develop an interagency action plan to identify priority recommendations. The group and its member agency managers will meet again in the spring to discuss these priorities and future action.
By Kathleen Hancock
Web-based applications, geographic information systems (GIS), and enterprise-wide data sharing have provided the necessary tools for enhancing business activities, particularly in transportation agencies. Funded through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), Virginia Tech's Center for Geospatial Information Technology (CGIT) has developed a logical model for a geospatially-enabled information management system for State transportation agency ROW offices (NCHRP 8-55A); (http://www.trb.org/TRBNet/ProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=2326).
The result of this project will be a comprehensive framework that ROW offices can use to build or expand an information management system which incorporates GIS. Implementation of this system would increase the accessibility of ROW information improving partnerships with other transportation offices, Federal Highway Administration, and the public.
Specifically, the framework focuses on appraisal, acquisition, relocation, and property-management functions necessary for managing and programming activities related to the acquisition of ROW parcels and management of excess properties. The underlying model has been completed and we are starting the evaluation phase of the project. We will visit several States to discuss how they might implement the framework either in total or by adding GIS capabilities to an existing information management system. Based on their input, we will then develop implementation guidelines to assist States with building a system on the framework that we developed.
On February 4, 2009 the National Transportation Library (NTL) held the fourth of our quarterly information sessions. These sessions highlight some of the many library resources available to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) staff. That morning, the biggest share of the attending audience, by far, was Federal Highway Administration's Office of Real Estate Services (ORES). Thank you very much for attending and contributing to the session's success.
According to the feedback that NTL received after the session, the electronic journal service offered through EbscoHost was of particular interest to ORES staff. EbscoHost provides full text access to over 3000 business and academic publications, over half of which are peer-reviewed journals. This service is available at the desktop of all DOT Headquarters staff and from any terminal inside the DOT firewall. Access is best facilitated via the Electronic Journal Database link on NTL's website at http://ntl.bts.gov/browse/employees.html. Articles can be read, saved, printed, and emailed to others.
As a special service to the ORES staff, NTL has set up an informational search that will be run biweekly in order to gather news stories on current right- of -way issues around the country.
An interesting aspect of the search results is that the stories are collected from the local and regional sources pertinent to the story. For example, the first search conducted included stories from the Omaha World-Herald, Winston-Salem Journal, Florida Keys Keynoter, and other regional publications. These articles provide firsthand, local, and current coverage of specific right-of -way issues. The biweekly search results will be collected into a single document and made available to any interested ORES staff member. If you'd like to receive this document, place your request through email at email@example.com or contact us by telephone at 202-366-0746 and you will be placed on the mailing list.
As everyone is aware, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5) was enacted on February 17, 2009. This Act provides significant new funding for transportation infrastructure. The ARRA will be the subject at various forums around the country including the AASHTO ROW/Utility Annual Conference at Oklahoma City in April 2009. Given that new information on implementation of this law continues to emerge, the best approach to keep our partners and stakeholders apprised is to provide extensive details by identifying resources available at FHWA and elsewhere that will be updated on a regular basis.
FHWA has established a web page which includes important information in implementing projects with ARRA funding. The webpage is accessible at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/economicrecovery/index.htm
Examples of information available on the web page include:
As projects funded by ARRA must comply with the Uniform Act, the website contains information responding to certain acquisition / relocation questions. We also have been asked questions that may arise in connection with activities receiving ARRA funds projects, but are equally applicable to all Title 23 eligible recieving ARRA funds. If there are questions in the FHWA Division Realty offices, please contact your Office of Real Estate Point of Contact.
Further, additional guidance - "Initial Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" is located at the Office of Management and Budget website, and is accessible at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/recovery_default/
By David Blakeney
I was among the 412 Right-of-Way Professionals who traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, during January and attended the 2009 Federal Agency Update/Public Real Estate Education Symposium. From my perspective, the three keys to this event were:
With more than two decades of experience as the Lead Federal Agency for the Uniform Act, FHWA,-ORES continues with the responsibility delegated to it by Congress. FHWA-ORES involvement with other Federal Agencies and Right-of-Way Program stakeholders promotes professional development events such as the FAU/ PRES, and is just one way that FHWA is upholding this responsibility.
The involvement of the ORES staff in planning the FAU/PRES and their sponsorship of the conference contributed tremendously to its success. There were 38 Educational Sessions held during the conference and ORES and Field Staff were involved in 20 percent of these. FHWA's influence in the success of the conference was also recognized through attendance and participation of its current and former employees.
The FAU/PRES was attended by representatives from various public and private organizations including towns and cities with part-time staffs, large municipalities and states, independent real estate appraisers, and representatives of multidiscipline companies. The professional atmosphere of the event supported an environment which allowed an exchange of topics and ideas, as well as promoted networking between attendees.
In 2007, the Federal Agency Update and Uniform Act Symposium were combined into one event, which resulted in the formation of the FAU/PRES. The first 2 years of its inception, these events were held in Addison, Texas. Scheduling the two events together at an inland location promoted attendance to a larger group of Right-of-Way Professionals and provided an opportunity to link these two Federal inspired agendas. The event was structured to allow federal agencies to provide informational and educational sessions for single agency updates and to allow for multi-Agency briefings.
The success of the 2009 FAU/PRES, with its record attendance, is a credit to FHWA and its involvement with the other federal agencies, Professional Associations, and the many stakeholders of the Right-of-Way Profession.
By Becky Bennett, Nevada Division Right of Way Program Manager
As a follow up to Jeff "Jay Z" Zaharewicz's participation in the FHWA International Scan and his article in the Fall Edition of the Office of Real Estate Services Newsletter, Jeff prepared a presentation for the Federal Agency Update (FAU) Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 13, 2009. Due to a scheduling conflict, I gave his presentation. Those of us in right-of-way (ROW) recognize that it is in the public interest for utility facilities to jointly use the ROW of public roads when the use and occupancy does not adversely affect highway safety, or otherwise impair the highway or its aesthetic quality, and does not conflict with the provision of Federal, State or local laws and regulations. The opportunity for joint use avoids the additional cost of acquiring separate ROW for the accommodation of utilities. As a result, the ROW of highways is often used to provide public services to abutting residents.
The presentation included an overview of the utility program's history and related legislation, regulation, policy, guidance, emerging issues, challenges, initiatives and opportunities. Initially, the building of the Interstate led to the practice of using highway funding to reimburse utilities for relocation and adjustment costs. Federal regulations dealing with utility relocations and accommodations have evolved over the past 50 years, with many policies and procedures remaining unchanged.
Current federal laws on utilities are found in 23 U.S.C. 123 and 109. Section 123, Relocation of Facilities, addresses public, private and cooperatives utilities and explains when Federal funds can be used to reimburse a State Department of Transportation. It explains that Federal funds can be used for utilities as long as no State laws are violated; legal contracts between state and utility companies are not violated; and sufficient reimbursement evidence is provided. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) on utilities is contained in 23 CFR, Part 645, Subparts A and B. Subpart A addresses utility relocations, adjustments, and reimbursement. Subpart B, primarily addresses the general requirements of safety, uniform policy and procedures, private lines, scenic areas, wetlands, joint use agreements, traffic control plans, corrective measures, utility accommodation policies, use and occupancy agreements, and the Federal approval process.
Each state exercises discretion regarding terms and conditions for accommodating utilities in the right-of-way. One state may permit certain utilities and exclude others. Fees charged for utility use are established by the State and may be used as the State chooses. Each State's procedures are contained in the Federally-approved accommodation policies. The FHWA's 2003 Utility Relocation and Accommodation "Program Guide" is available on our website. This guidance expands on the Federal utility regulations in 23 CFR 645 and provides non-regulatory guidance for using Federal-aid funds for relocation and adjustment of utility facilities, and for accommodating utility facilities on highway ROW.
There are several merging issues and challenges regarding the longitudinal use of the ROW. There is increasing interest in providing renewable energy facilities, such as wind turbines and solar panels. Several State DOTs have received proposals to install high-voltage direct current electric transmission lines along highway ROW to address the need to increase capacity to meet growing demands for electricity. A guidance memorandum is being developed to address the applicability of 23 CFR 645 or 23 CFR 710 on utility accommodation. It is intended to emphasize the State's definition of "utility" and will encourage proactive, collaborative FHWA and State review.
Major challenges in project delivery arise when we strive to avoid construction delay due to utilities. These challenges are leading to great opportunities and initiatives to improve project delivery and make more efficient the ROW and utility activities for each project.
As reported in the last edition of this newsletter, the FHWA International ROW and Utilities Scan team traveled to Canada and Australia in September 2008, to explore innovative practices which the host countries utilize to better integrate ROW and utility processes with planning, environmental analysis and design. The scan team observed and noted several successful practices that warrant further exploration in the United States. The following is just a sampling of the key ideas for implementation:
When finalized, the 2008 International Scan report will provide greater detail regarding these and other initiatives and strategies targeted for implementation. The report will be posted on the FHWA International Programs Website: http://international.fhwa.dot.gov/.
For additional information on utility accommodation go to: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/utilities/ and the American State Highway and Transportation Officials, Subcommittee on Right of Way and Utilities website: http://rightofway.transportation.org/?siteid=61/.
The Office of Real Estate Services is a vital component of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) with government-wide responsibility for stewardship of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act.
We, as an organization, develop and implement regulations, policies, and guidance to ensure that those individuals and businesses affected by our program receive constitutionally required just compensation and equitable treatment as it applies to the requirements of Federal-aid ROW programs.
The Office of Real Estate Services also develops and promulgates regulations, policies, and guidelines which implement the Outdoor Advertising Control Program as required by the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 (HBA).
The Office of Real Estate Services has made substantial investments in developing methods, tools, and techniques to improve the quality of service which we provide to our internal and external partners and customers. The following information relates to our (FY 2009) STEP Research Initiatives:
PROJECT TITLE: Support of Stakeholder and Partner Outreach and Informational Dissemination Programs
The Office of Real Estate Services sponsors and participates in workshops, training, outreach programs, expert panels, and peer reviews which promote transportation research and also seek to improve and provide tools to advance the implementation and administration of the Federal-aid ROW Program and its implementing regulations which included 49 CFR, Part 24 and (23 CFR) Part 710. Our involvement provides an opportunity to promote innovative information sharing among practitioners who implement the Federal-aid program and carry out activities in compliance with Uniform Act requirements. Partnering with stakeholders and supporting these outreach activities provide opportunities to reach larger groups of audiences who have a vested and direct interest in research as it relates to the Federal-aid ROW Program, the Uniform Act and other real estate programs.
PROJECT TITLE: Integrating Visualization Technologies into the Right-of-Way Processes
Research efforts will include a scan conducted with the Divisions and State DOTs in order to determine the extent to which they are currently using visualization technology, the type of hardware and software being utilized, and the most commonly used visualization products. The recent international scan on integrating ROW and utilities into project development identifies various visualization techniques that have been implemented effectively elsewhere.
Results will be shared as best management practices, guides, and visualization/ROW data elements, as well as technology and tools that can be used by other State DOTs.
PROJECT TITLE: ROW, Design-Build, and Acquisition Models
States are increasingly using design build contracting to develop and construct projects. Research will be conducted to identify the various methods States have used for ROW acquisition and relocation in design-build contracting. This research will evaluate the need for regulatory change to 23 CFR, 710. Information from the research will be used to assess the effectiveness of 23 CFR, 710.313 which covers design-build projects and ROW acquisition. Previous design-build ROW research was completed in 2000 when the traditional approach was in use, whereby ROW was acquired by the agency (or its contractor), and provided to the design-build contractor.
The research will look at new "alliance" type contracting methods where a team is formed early and includes a focus on collaboration during the project development and design process. Information obtained will be used to develop lessons learned and best practices.
PROJECT TITLE: Development of a ROW Competency Navigator and Capacity Building and Training Curriculum Clearinghouse provided on the Federal Highway Administration Website
As part of the on-going Office of Real Estate Services (HEPR) effort to identify training resources for ROW and Outdoor Advertising Control functions and facilitate development, this project will build capacity and core competencies through a Competency Navigator Tool. The Navigator developed will serve as a resource or "clearinghouse" for our partners, internal and external customers, and consultants to define and meet core competency requirements and locate training opportunities and resources. It will also serve to inform other FHWA offices about the many disciplines within the ROW profession and increase the understanding and relevance of HEPR within the Office of Environment and Planning and FHWA. An enhanced understanding of the numerous complex programs administered under ROW will not only promote transportation professional capacity-building, but also increase the junctures at which ROW expertise and input is sought earlier during project development, thereby enhancing the transportation decision-making process.
PROJECT TITLE: Relocation Assistance Retrospective Study
The purpose of this research is to:
PROJECT TITLE: Commercial Electronic Variable Message Sign (CEVMS)and Driver Attention
The scope of the study of CEVMS on driver attention includes evaluating their potential risk to safety. The study's primary focus is the effect of CEVMS on driver behavior.
The report of the first phase of this research project undertaken by the FHWA is posted to the FHWA home page at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate/oac/.
The second phase is underway with an extensive search for two sites to conduct the field data. It is expected that the sites will be selected during spring of 2009. It is anticipated that field studies will be initiated this summer and the results of the study compiled by the end of 2009.
FHWA will analyze the results of this study to identify subsequent guidance, regulatory changes, or suggested legislative proposals to react to the findings of this report.
Collaboration is one of the key values our agency supports and promotes. Working together in a partnership maximizes strengths in a program area or project. In support of the agency's mission and vision, the Office of Human Resources strives to hire and develop employees to support our long term goals and objectives. The Office of Real Estate Services and the Office of Human Resources established a partnership over the last few years through Student Outreach and Career Entry Programs. Participants in the Professional Development Program (PDP), Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), Student Temporary Experience Program (STEP) and the Summer Transportation Internship for Diverse Groups (STIPDG) have worked in the office and provided the means to create an internal pipeline for succession planning. Through on the job experience, students have opporunities to contribute to program office projects in a professional enviroment and apply knowledge gained through their formal classroom education.
The Office of Real Estate Services has become an advocate and proponent of these programs and has therefore accepted several individuals from the various programs. Participants are assigned a mentor and provided with training and developmental experiences which relate to the realty program area. The Office of Real Estate Services has been successful in utilizing this format as a means of recruiting college students and early career entry personnel into the Right of Way profession.
Students can be hired throughout the year. For more information about Student Educational Employment Programs, please contact the Student Outreach and Career Entry Program Group at 202-366-0512.
Our most recent student, who was assigned to the Office of Real Estate Services through SCEP, is Lucy Marius. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, majoring in Spanish with a concentration in Business and also plans to pursue an MBA. While at the University of Maryland, she was a member of the Academic Achievement Program, Smith Undergraduate Student Association, Business Ethics Society, and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.
While attending college, Lucy was able to become a part of SCEP as a Student Trainee for the Office of Real Estate Services (HEPR). Before she entered the SCEP program in September 2008,
she served as an intern in the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Research Management as part of the FTA sponsored Conference of Minority Transportation Officials' Careers in Transportation for Youth internship program. She assisted in planning conferences and events such as the International Accessibility Roundtable held in September 2008 and the bilateral meetings with the Japanese Government held in October 2008 in San Diego, CA, as part of the American Public Transportation Association Annual meeting and EXPO.
Upon her arrival, Lucy experienced a smooth and efficient transition. She received the necessary tools that enabled her to have the proper training needed to understand the role of the HEPR Office in the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Part of her learning experience entailed taking training courses through the National Highway Institue (NHI) and Electronic Learning Management Systyem (eLMS), assisting with projects in different service areas of HEPR, completing assignments that fulfill her HEPR interests, and attending various meetings and events. Though most of her training was based on Real Estate Acquisition under the Uniform Act, she has been able to learn about Environmental Justice, Outdoor Advertising Control, and the Highway Beautification Act. Some of her assignments included formulating a proposal for a Real Estate Exchange Discussion, assisting with the development of an HEPR Survey to understand the relevancy of HEPR
in FHWA, and gathering information from State regulations in regards to Outdoor Advertising.
After the SCEP program, Lucy will become a participant of the Professional Development Program (PDP) in which she will be assigned to a sponsoring office for 24 months. During the duration of the program, she will be able to participate in three major components of the program, which are On-the-Job Training, Developmental Assignments, and a Professional Development Academy. PDP will be able to provide her with essential skills and experience, which she will be able to apply in her future career in transportation.
By Cecil Vick
By the time you read this, I will be retired,although I will probably continue to work in the transportation field somewhere. You may see me again. I certainly hope so. With almost 40 years as a Governmental Real Estate and Environmental Specialist, I've been asked to look back and reminisce about where we've been.
I started in this business in 1970 just as the Uniform Act and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) came into being. Initially, I was placed into Relocation Assistance, because the old hard-line appraisers who ran things saw it as a "socialistic giveaway program" and wanted nothing to do with it.
NEPA was thought to be so unimportant that only FHWA Division Administrator Emery Shaw and I, a 21 year old right-of-way trainee with the Mississippi DOT, represented Mississippi at the first FHWA Region 4 NEPA conference. The relationship I developed with Division Administrator Emery Shaw at that conference is what led to my selection as a Realty Specialist with FHWA.
In retrospect, I am very happy to know that those two programs, that fed me for 35 years and satisfied my yearnings to serve my Country, are now seen as essential to the development of transportation programs in the 21st Century. Everyone now agrees that we could not build projects without them.
The thing I will always remember most about FHWA is the people. I am firmly convinced that they are and have been the best professionals in government. I came to FHWA after four years as a Realty Specialist with the U.S. Postal Service. Their Realty Specialists were good, very good, but I aspired to work with the best. I was active in the Memphis Chapter of the Association of Federal Appraisers, and people from all agencies represented there agreed that the Realty Specialists at FHWA were the best of the best. It took awhile to find an opening, but finally I applied and became one. It was a great decision.
I have photographs from classes I have taken over the years. Most of the people in those photographs have retired, and many of them are no longer with us at all. I knew most of them, and I knew some of them very well. Each person I knew was an intelligent, caring, hardworking professional. The most satisfying part of my career was working with them, and there are many I wish I could sit and talk with for an hour again.
My generation's call to service came from President John F. Kennedy, and today's young people are listening to that call from our new President. I hope they answer the call and that it rewards them as much as I have been rewarded.
I am of the second generation of the modern FHWA real estate professionals. The first generation came in to dispel the corruption uncovered by the Blatnik Hearings, and the second generation served as the Realty Specialists to the first's Division Right-of-Way Officers. Those people excelled at what they did. They could dissect an appraisal like a surgeon with a scalpel. There was never a penny overpaid that they did not catch and demand to be returned to the Federal-aid coffers. They began retiring about 15 years ago and are all but gone now.
My generation learned from the first, but came to understand that the States have matured. We learned that we are not here to police them, but to partner with them, and we adjusted our views accordingly. Most of us are gone now too. Of the few left, I say, value them. They have a world of knowledge, and they can be a great help as mentors to those of you in the third generation who are going to take the Agency into the future. I do not know how things will go for you in the future, but I predict they will always change and that they will always change, for the best.
Please visit this link for all the latest information regarding up and coming events.