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U.S. Department Of Transportation 2010 Lead Agency Annual Report - March 2011

Implementation of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, as Amended

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in its capacity as Lead Agency and in compliance with the Presidential Memorandum of February 27, 1985, submits this report for the 2010 calendar year on the implementation of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (Uniform Act) as amended. The Secretary of Transportation delegated the Lead Agency responsibility to the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The Uniform Act applies to all programs or projects undertaken by Federal agencies or with Federal financial assistance that require the acquisition of real property or that cause displacement of any person. As Lead Agency, the FHWA's primary responsibilities are to: (1) develop, publish, issue, and maintain the necessary regulations to carry out provisions of the Uniform Act with all 18 affected Federal agencies actively involved in developing statutory and regulatory changes; (2) provide Uniform Act leadership, and advisory assistance, as well as materials for developing training, for all affected agencies; (3) monitor the implementation and enforcement of the Uniform Act, in coordination with other Federal agencies. In deference to other Federal agencies and to FHWA resource limitations, FHWA's monitoring activities are generally limited and are currently carried out at the request of other agencies; and (4) perform other duties necessary to assure compliance with the Uniform Act including information sharing with other agencies.

Uniform Act Implementation Meetings

Each year FHWA, acting as Lead Agency, hosts informational meetings to identify and discuss Uniform Act implication issues. The FHWA hosted three All Federal Agencies Uniform Act Implementation Meetings in April, August, and November 2010. The FHWA has committed to hosting two meetings for the coming year. Last year's meetings were well attended by representatives from a number of Federal agencies. In addition, the meetings were available by videoconference to provide the opportunity to participate via remote access to FHWA field staff and other Federal agency staff. These meetings focused primarily on several Uniform Act implementation issues:

Proposed Legislation and Uniform Act Implications

The FHWA led a discussion on several legislative proposals that may have Uniform Act implementations. A discussion took place during the April 2010 meeting on Uniform Act Implications of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). As Lead Agency, the FHWA pointed out how the Recovery Act does not provide any exemptions for existing Uniform Act requirements and regulations or from Federal-aid program right-of-way requirements. Meeting participants were directed to "Q&As" and other sources posted on the FHWA Web site for further Recovery Act guidance.

General Technical Discussions

During the December 2010 meeting, the FHWA discussed its current research on the Relocation of Residences and Businesses for federally Funded Projects on Tribal Lands. The overarching goal of the Uniform Act is to ensure fair and consistent treatment of those whose property is acquired for a project or program that receives Federal financial assistance. Consequently, tools should be provided that help minimize the adverse impact of displacement and maintain the economic and social well-being of communities.

This effort will include partnering with the Bureau of Indian Affairs staff to identify sovereign legal issues related to relocation of Native Americans or special provisions or exemptions to Uniform Act. This effort will also identify training needs for Tribal realty personnel who are acquiring right-of-way on Tribal or private land for federally funded projects administered by a Tribe. Research outcomes may include development of guidance material specific to Tribal acquisition practices and a training workshop for Tribal realty staff engaged in right-of-way acquisition. More information on the Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative (STEP) research program can be found here: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/step/.

Regulations and Guidance

Uniform Act FAQs In May 2010, the FHWA posted eight new questions and answers on its Web site:

Negative Equity

On November 10, 2010, the FHWA re-issued and extended a programmatic Temporary Waiver of 49 CFR 24.401(b)(1), on the calculation of replacement housing payments, when the displaced person has negative equity in the residential property being acquired for transportation projects undertaken with Title 23 funding or reimbursement. This waiver allows the State to consider utilizing administrative settlements to address negative equity while maintaining replacement housing assistance payment eligibility.

National Cooperative Highway Research Program 20-84 Streamline and Simplify Right-of-Way Procedures and Business Practice

The Office of Real Estate Services and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Right-of-Way and Utility Subcommittee co-sponsored this research. Several State departments of transportation (State DOTs) are considering simplifying and streamlining their right-of-way procedures and business practices with the goal of improving project development and delivery and long-term right-of-way asset management. Current right-of-way practice and procedural manuals are the products of 40 years of statutes, case law, regulations, management styles, and best practices. The goal of this research is to develop streamlined, simplified right-of-way procedures that meet the objectives of the Uniform Act but are easier to maintain, cost effective, and result in quicker delivery of projects. In 2010, the researcher prepared a draft survey instrument to send to State Right-of-Way Directors. The survey will identify general practices, issues, and challenges. The research is expected to take 2 years to complete.

Railroad Mitigation Strategy Research

The Uniform Act provides that its purpose, among other things is "... to encourage and expedite the acquisition of real property by agreements with owners, to avoid litigation and relieve congestion in the courts...." It has been observed by several FHWA Office of Real Estate Services partners that increasingly difficult, complex, and time consuming acquisitions from railroads are an emerging national trend. In response to other Federal agencies and State DOT requests, the FHWA has determined that it would be a worthy research effort to explore ways in which public acquisitions from railroads could be expedited to the benefit of all stakeholders and the safety and convenience of the traveling public. This research effort, enabled by STEP funding was initiated in fiscal year 2010 and will continue for a period of approximately 12 months.

FHWA Discipline Support System

The FHWA Office of Real Estate Services created and formalized a Realty Discipline Support System. The support system consists of seven elements to ensure smoother succession planning and professional competency-building for Uniform Act professionals not only within FHWA but at other Federal agencies with Uniform Act responsibilities.

The elements are: Discipline Champions responsible for support; Workforce Management to inventory discipline members and their levels of competency, and identify gaps and needs for the future desired state of the community of professionals (it may include recruiting); Networking and Communication through regional and interagency networks or Conferences, a Quarterly Newsletter, and Technical Discipline Exchange at: https://collaboration.fhwa.dot.gov/dot/fhwa/rex/default.aspx: Learning and Development Support which included developing a Realty Competency Building Navigator Web-based tool on the FHWA Web site for use by any agency that deals with the Uniform Act.

The Web site provides up-to-date resources such as training courses and policy guidance, for each of the core competencies pertaining to the Uniform Act: acquisition, appraisal, appraisal review and relocation assistance, and informational resources for other disciplines needing an awareness of the Uniform Act. Other Federal agencies, including HUD, FTA, and FAA were included on the development steering committee to ensure their agencies' resources were included and needs would be met by the tool. It can be accessed at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate/practitioners/rcb_navigator/; State DOT also has a Professional Competency Building Team that includes Realty to encourage better communication between State DOT modes; Role and Job Expectations are developed for new field entrants listing oversight, stewardship and leadership objectives along with a list of program area experts to call and templates for conducting process reviews or inspections; Reference Library of hot links to current policies guidance and regulations; and Strategic Planning to prepare for new developments and identify issues and seek solutions in the Realty discipline through research, strategic planning, Domestic and International Scans.

Outreach

2010 Federal Agency Update (FAU); formerly Public Real Estate Education Symposium

The Office of Real Estate Services participates in and supports the FAU, facilitated by the International Right-of-Way Association (IRWA). The 2011 FAU will be in Washington, D.C. Details can be found at www.irwaonline.org.

2010 International Right-of-Way Association's Annual Education Conference

The Office of Real Estate Services participated in the 2010 IRWA Education Conference in Calgary, Alberta Canada, where the sessions focused upon the similarities and differences between the Uniform Act and the Canadian equivalent. The 2011 Annual Conference will be in Atlanta, Georgia. Details can be found at www.irwaonline.org.

Livability Initiative

An FHWA priority is to evaluate right-of-way and utility program opportunities to support the DOT, EPA and HUD livability initiative to help families gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs by creating affordable, sustainable communities. Implementation of this initiative includes development of a task force to coordinate Federal transportation and housing investments, and identify strategies that expand choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities and identify transportation options to lower costs, shorten travel times, and improve the environment. Additional information is located at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability.

Informational Meetings

Everyday Counts Initiative (EDC)

An FHWA priority during the months of September through December 2010, the Office of Real Estate Services participated in the delivery of 10 EDC Regional Innovation Summits, with over 900 public and private partners in attendance: AASHTO; 52 State DOT offices (including District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands); Local Public Agencies; Metropolitan Planning Organizations; Tribal Government; Resource Agencies (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Services, Environment Protection Agency); ACEC; Consultants; American Road Builders; and American General Contractors. These summits are critical to implementing the Agency's specific EDC strategies and technologies.

The EDC initiative underlines opportunities for improved coordination of right-of-way activities with other key project development actions in preliminary design; land acquisition for utilities accommodation and relocation project activities; and a number of other areas where streamlined approaches may prove beneficial in shortening project delivery. The initiative deals only with flexibilities allowed under existing regulations and statutes. The Flexibilities in Right-of-Way Initiative include: Use of Incentive Payments to Advance Relocation and Acquisition; Promote the Uniform Act provision for waiving the appraisal with clearly identified thresholds; Allow the same individual to appraise and negotiate property acquisition (up to $10,000); Right of Entry – Federal Land Transfer; Functional Replacement; and Use of Conditional Right of Way Certification. A number of the EDC flexibilities may be used by other agencies carrying out land acquisition programs in support of public projects and programs. The FHWA has made information on EDC flexibilities available to all of our Uniform Act partners. For additional information refer to the FHWA-EDC Web site.

Strategic Issues

Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) 2010

The Office of Real Estate Services provided comments to the Appraisal Standards Board as it considered changes to USPAP. The changes went into effect January, 2010. These include the definition of signature; the definition of jurisdictional exception; and the ethics rule. One of FHWA's primary purposes in commenting was to ensure consistency between Uniform Act and USPAP requirements.

Right-of-Way and Utility International Scan

The travel phase of the Best Practices in Outdoor Advertising Control International Scan was conducted from March 11-28, 2010. The purpose was to learn more efficient or effective methods used in other countries to regulate and control outdoor advertising signs. Mary Jane Daluge, FHWA Office of Real Estate Services, and Matt DeLong, Michigan State DOT

Right-of-Way Division, co-chaired the scan team.

The 12 member team met with officials responsible for the control of outdoor advertising in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane), Sweden, Denmark, and Norway (in Stockholm); Netherlands (Rotterdam), Scotland (Glasgow), and England (London). They also performed a desk scan of Japan to study new laws to control outdoor advertising. The team included members representing the major stakeholders of the Program FHWA, State DOTs, the American Planning Association, Scenic America, Academia, and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. The scan team is reviewing the final draft report at this time. A full report is expected to be published in early 2011, after which the Scan Technology Implementation Plan Team will begin their implementation activities for 2 years. The team observed similarities and differences in the treatment of Outdoor Advertising if it is displaced by a Federal project on a controlled route. This can have Uniform Act relocation and appraisal implications.

TURBO Relocation®

AASHTOWare® formed a task group of State DOT, local public agencies, and FHWA professionals to develop specifications for a software product to calculate relocation benefits. The software, Relocation Assistance Benefits Determination and Calculation (TURBO Relocation) is a software solution which will automate relocation calculations to comply with the Uniform Act. The 13 State DOTs jointly funded development of TURBO Relocation. It was released for licensing and deployment on November 15, 2010. Inquiries may be directed to Vicki Schofield, project manager at 202-624-3640 or vschofield@aashto.org.

Manual for Federal Land Transfers for Federal-aid Projects

In 2010, the FHWA Office of Real Estate Services created the "Federal Land Transfer Working Group" (FLTWG) to support the office's efforts to maintain a current and dynamic Federal Land Transfer Manual, and to provide advice and technical assistance to Office of Real Estate Services on issues relating to Federal land transfers. The FLTWG is composed of two Office of Real Estate Services staff, four Division Office staff, and one person from the Western Federal Lands Highway Division. The FLTWG has identified a series of issues that will be further studied and products such as "white papers" will be posted on Office of Real Estate Services SharePoint site. The current plan of the group is to eventually invite representatives from Federal land management agencies to participate and assist in developing Memoranda of Understanding and other tools to advance and improve the Federal Land Transfer process.

The Federal Land Transfer process is set out in statute and regulation, and provides a process for transferring land under the jurisdiction of a Federal land management agency, such as the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management to a State or State-nominated agency for a highway project. While the requirements of the Uniform Act do not apply directly to the Federal Land Transfer process, the need for acquiring land from a Federal land management agency for construction of a highway project is satisfied when the requirements of
23 USC 317, 107(d), and 23 CFR 710.601 are met.

Conclusion

During 2010, the FHWA Office of Real Estate Services and other Federal agencies worked together to expand their collective knowledge about the Uniform Act training needs and availability. The Lead Agency has undertaken a number of initiatives in 2011 which address needs identified during the 2010 meetings. For more information on the FHWA Uniform Act resources, efforts and reports, please visit our Web site: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate.

Updated: 08/28/2014
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