State of the practice Research in the Development of LPA Program Stewardship and Oversight strategies - As part of the Nation's economic recovery program, local governments will be receiving millions of dollars to fund local infrastructure projects. Any transportation project funded with Federal dollars must comply with the provisions under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (Uniform Act).
As a result of the Uniform Act requirements and the risk involved in the delivery of this program area by Local Public Agencies(LPAs), The Office of Real Estate Services(HEPR) has been successfully delivering and providing training through the instructor led course " Introduction to Federal-Aid Right of Way Requirements for Local Public Agencies". Through the presentation of training to our customers - State Department of Transportations, LPAs, and City and County Officials, it was determined that additional efforts are being required to administer this program area. Therefore HEPR is engaged in a research effort which gathers information relative to the State of the Practice research in the development of LPA stewardship and oversight strategies.
This research effort will provide State DOTs with information that will enable them to assess their local public agency (LPA) processes as they relate to the stewardship and oversight of their realty program area as well as provide an opportunity to develop tools that will enhance the oversight of the realty aspects of LPA programs thus providing an opportunity to diminish the risk of not complying with the Uniform Act.
Reverse Mortgages Study - This research study was intended to provide FHWA with the technical expertise on reverse mortgages to develop guidance for establishing a fair and effective method of addressing reverse mortgages encountered when displacing persons in accordance with the Uniform Act. The purpose of the research was to collect, analyze, and organize the information needed to explain reverse mortgages and the impacts to both displacing agencies and persons displaced by Federal or federal-funded projects.
The research provided a basic calculator to estimate a replacement housing payment for the various situations that are encountered with these mortgages.
Electronic Notices and offers - The Electronic Notices and Offers research effort is studying the effects of electronic offers and notices on the Uniform Act Acquisition process. The research project draft report is currently being reviewed by HEPR Program office and the final report is anticipated to be published in December 2014.
Electronic vs. paper systems - This research study will provide FHWA and state and local DOTs with a tool kit using tangible and easily understandable documentation with quantitative metrics. This toolkit will assist these professionals as they endeavor to get their leadership buy-in to support implementation of Integrated Electronic ROW Management Systems. Currently, 9 Case studies have been completed and the consultant is currently working on flow charts to identify ROW process activities and data elements associated with each core function of ROW. The research project is on schedule. The current contract completion date is September 2, 2015.
Early Acquisition: Statewide Land Use, Environment and Transportation Planning Requirements - Examining Reimbursable State-Funded Early Acquisition under MAP-21 Section 1302 - The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sponsored this research to learn more about how State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have met the statutory criteria described in section 1302 of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). The report offers an analysis of how States have interpreted or implemented mandatory comprehensive and coordinated land use, environment, and transportation planning processes required in section 1302 as codified in 23 United States Code (U.S.C.) 108, challenges they have met in doing so, and opportunities that exist to further clarify the section's requirements. The draft report has been transmitted to HCC for concurrence. The final report should be ready for publication in November 2015.
IRWA Virtual Chapter - The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Offices of Real Estate Services (HEPR) seeks to create a "virtual" International Right of Way Association (IRWA) chapter to enhance information exchange, resource sharing and peer interaction among professionals in the right of way field. With nearly 10,000 members throughout the U.S., Canada, and Africa, the IRWA serves a central authority in the right of way profession. The organization works to unite the efforts of its members toward professional development, strong ethics and improved service to employers and the public, along with advancements within the right of way profession.
FHWA has a Strategic Partnering Agreement with IRWA. The agreement is intended to help FHWA and IRWA "promote greater coordination of efforts to improve the Nation's public infrastructure by providing a quality training system for our customers." Specifically, FHWA and IRWA have agreed to jointly undertake activities that focus on educational and training needs in the right of way discipline, training outreach, and proactive training activities.
As one activity to further the achievement of the agreement's goals, FHWA seeks create a "virtual" IRWA chapter to enhance information exchange, resource sharing and peer interaction among professionals in the right of way field. The chapter would be made available to Federal employees that work on projects and issues associated with the Uniform Act (UA). The chapter could be a useful vehicle for information exchange, resource sharing, and peer interaction. The purpose of the developing the chapter is to help ensure consistent implementation of the UA.
Identifying State DOT Needs Related to Advance Acquisition - The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Offices of Real Estate Services (HEPR) seeks to determine the types of additional guidance and tools that FHWA Division staff needs to assist State Departments of Transportation (SDOTs) to implement flexibilities they are afforded under Section 1302 of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).
MAP-21 provided State DOTs with several new tools to use in streamlining the right-of-way acquisition process. One of the changes made in MAP-21 via Section 1302 was to clarify and expand the types of property interests that may be Federally-funded under 23 United States Code 108, which governs the advance acquisition of real property interests (see Q&A). "Advance acquisition," also known as "early acquisition," is the acquisition of property prior to the completion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review for the project that intends to use that property.
As a result of these new provisions, FHWA is in the process of amending its regulations governing the early acquisition of real property to include the new MAP-21 flexibilities. However, the early acquisition section of MAP-21 law came into effect on October 1, 2012, which has resulted in SDOTs and other grantees being eager to implement these flexibilities but delayed due to their desire to wait on the rulemaking process. Although HEPR is aware of FHWA Division staff and its partners' requests for additional guidance to implement early acquisition, it is not clear on the type(s) of guidance needed and/or the form(s) it should take.
The USDOT Volpe Center (Volpe), in coordination with HEPR, will work to identify, develop, and disseminate additional materials intended to help FHWA Division staff assist SDOTs as they implement the early acquisition flexibilities. The effort must be completed by March 31, 2015.
MOU Training and Services Implementation Plan - The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Offices of Real Estate Services (HEPR) seeks to develop an implementation plan for the identification of Federal agencies' needs associated with Section 214 of the Uniform Act (UA), which is a new section that MAP-21 created. MAP-21 modified the UA by inserting Section 214 "Agency Coordination." This new section requires the negotiation of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the FHWA acting as lead agency and the other Federal agencies that are subject to the UA. Those negotiations are underway. Section 214 also provides that the agencies: "shall transfer to the lead agency for the fiscal year, such funds as are necessary, but not less than $35,000, to support the training, assistance, and coordination activities of the lead agency..."
On execution of the MOU, the contracting sections of FHWA and the other agencies party to the MOU shall enter into an Interagency Support Agreement (ISA) that will serve two functions. The ISA will serve as the conduit for the transfer of funds. The ISA will also set forth the training, assistance, and coordination that will be provided in exchange for the payments made. It would be beneficial in meeting the above requirements to develop an implementation plan for the identification of the needs of the agencies; the manner in which the services would be provided; and how the funds managed and accounted for. This effort will involve the creation of the implementation plan and administration of the plan deployment through March 31, 2015.
Option Contract Research
MAP - 21 amended section 108 of USC 23 striking "real property', "right-of-way and "rights-of-way" replacing those terms with "real property interests", making it possible for SDOTs to use option contracts in Advance Acquisition projects. The research will examine, among other things, what types of options are appropriate for SDOT usage, how option considerations should be determined, and if and to what extent Federal funds should participate in the option consideration. The results of the research will be disseminated on the FHWA website and via webinar.