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U.S. Department Of Transportation 2005 Uniform Act Annual Report - April 2006

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

The United States 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 2005 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.

The FHWA is committed to assuring that affected property owners and displaced persons receive the protections provided by the Uniform Act. In addition, programs and projects of benefit to the American public continue to be advanced with consideration of every party directly impacted by the Federal Government's programs and projects.

The DOT greatly appreciates the commitment of the FHWA and the actions it has taken in fulfilling its responsibilities as the lead Agency for implementing the Uniform Act. These responsibilities have been especially difficult due to the complexity of projects, statutory and regulatory changes, real estate market evolution, funding constraints, and technological innovations. Succession planning for each of these issues must be addressed by a dwindling number of experienced personnel in the public sector real estate workforce.

As lead Agency, the FHWA's primary responsibilities are to:

Informational meetings are held on a regular basis for all affected Federal agencies to keep them abreast of recent Uniform Act issues. Uniform Act information is kept current and made available to all Federal agencies through the FHWA Web site at: www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate/uniform_act/ and through FHWA sponsored publications.

The report that follows was prepared by the FHWA.

LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY MATTERS

A Final Rule was Published - On January 4, 2005 the FHWA published a final rule for the implementation of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations, (CFR) Part 24. The regulations were finalized with the involvement of the 17 other Federal Agencies after an extensive outreach effort that included the State Departments of Transportation (State DOTs).

Potential Update and Modifications to Statute - During the outreach efforts required for publishing the final rule, the FHWA, as lead Agency, began to explore the need for updates and modifications to the Uniform Act Statute. As a result, an interagency taskforce group was formed and five meetings were held during 2005. The first meeting to address the proposed updates was held in May 2005. The proposals focused on:

The FHWA anticipates circulating a legislative proposal package through the FHWA and to the other 17 Federal agencies with plans for the DOT to submit the final proposal to the Office of Management and Budget in 2006.

Final Rule Training Course Development - To implement the new final rule, the FHWA developed and published an "Informational Guide" that summarized the key changes made within each subpart and appendices of the regulation, and included background and rationale for each change. In addition, a side-by-side version of the new rule was prepared that displayed each section of the previous regulation beside the revised regulation with corresponding sections of Appendix 'A' to enable the user to quickly locate the changes from the previous regulation. The training materials include an online self-paced tutorial, which is available on the FHWA's Office of Real Estate Web site.

The FHWA Final Rule Training Outreach Efforts - To assist all Uniform Act users in understanding the changes to 49 CFR, Part 24, the FHWA presented a series of ten training sessions at strategic locations throughout the country beginning in February and ending in May 2005.

During the first training session, the FHWA hosted a live simultaneous, national satellite broadcast and Webcast that covered the modifications to the government-wide regulation for implementing the Uniform Act. This broadcast, courtesy of the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), successfully reached over 1,000 right-of-way professionals, including viewers at the FHWA and the HUD field offices across the country.

The remaining instructor-led train-the-trainer sessions brought local right-of-way managers and trainers together to discuss changes and applications to the new rule. The train-the-trainer materials and sessions allowed the trainers to return to their home offices and train right of way professionals locally. The train-the-trainer sessions provided training to over 300 trainers in nine locations across the country. Attendees came from State DOTs and other Federal, State and local governmental agencies.

Fixed Payment for Moving Expenses: Residential Moves Schedule - The Fixed Payment for Moving Expenses: Residential Moves Schedule was updated and published in the Federal Register, Vol. 70, No. 19 on May 16, 2005 and became effective June 15, 2005. The schedule is updated periodically by the FHWA and is based on local moving costs. The schedule is used to determine the dollar amount a relocatee is allowed for a self-move and is based on the number of rooms of furniture a displaced person owns. The Fixed Payment for Moving Expenses Residential Moves Schedule provides an alternative for displaced persons who do not choose to be paid moving and related expenses based on actual costs incurred.

UNIFORM ACT PROGRAM ACTIVITY

All Federal Agencies Uniform Act Implementation Meetings - The FHWA hosted two All Federal agencies Uniform Act Implementation Meetings in May and November of 2005. A list is enclosed identifying the Federal agencies that participated in the meetings. In addition, the meetings were available by videoconference to provide immediate nationwide field assistance to the FHWA field staff and other Federal agencies.

The All Federal agencies meetings held in 2005 focused on:

Several of the FHWA's Division Realty Officers sponsor and encourage interagency Uniform Act meetings in local states. These meetings provide an opportunity for Federal field personnel to discuss issues of concern to them and share some of their success stories and best practices.

Real Estate Services Web site - The FHWA's Office of Real Estate Services Web site is continually updated. It includes Legislation, Regulations, Policy and Guidance, Training Opportunities and a Community of Practice discussion group. The most current Uniform Act and program information is provided at this site. It can be accessed at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate/.

Point of Contact System - During 2005, a Point of Contact (POC) System was initiated by the FHWA's Headquarters Office of Real Estate Services in order to enhance the delivery of guidance and technical assistance to the agency's Division Realty Officers and other Federal agencies. Upon receipt of an inquiry or request for assistance, the designated POC would either personally address the issue or seek further guidance and assistance from the appropriate technical expert within the Office of Real Estate Services. Toward the end of 2005, an informal survey indicated general satisfaction with the POC System as an appropriate and effective means of communicating and addressing the need for right-of-way guidance and assistance.

Domestic Scans - In 2005, three domestic scans were held in Phoenix, Arizona, Dearborn, Michigan, and Richmond, Virginia. The primary purpose of the scans was to foster peer-to-peer exchange and to share experiences and best practices. The topics addressed in the scans were Advanced Acquisition and Corridor Preservation, Right of Way Oversight of Local Public Agencies and Outdoor Advertising Control. Another purpose of the, Scans was for the FHWA to learn what has and has not been working in the States and for the States to communicate with the FHWA those areas in which they need further assistance and guidance. There were 24-30 scan participants at each scan, which included participants from both State DOTs and the FHWA. To assist other Federal agencies in implementing the Uniform Act, the FHWA continues to share the results of its Right-of-Way Domestic Scans. The best practices and ideas are shared at the FHWA's All Federal Agencies Uniform Act Implementation meetings. A CD-ROM is also developed and shared with the public that includes reports on each scan, copies of presentations from the scans and additional materials on the topics.

Excellence in Right of Way Awards - The FHWA Excellence in Right-of-Way Awards Program highlights examples of outstanding implementation of the Uniform Act. These biennial awards recognize right-of-way professionals who excel in streamlining or improving the real property acquisition process, while ensuring the protection of the rights and benefits of property owners and tenants. In the fall of 2005, nominations were accepted via the Internet for the 2006 FHWA Excellence in Right-of-Way Awards in the following categories:

Over 40 entries were received. The Excellence is Right of Way Awards will be announced in Baltimore, Maryland in 2006 at the FHWA/American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Right of Way and Utilities Subcommittee Meeting. The FHWA believes that by recognizing these achievements, right-of-way professionals are encouraged to implement innovative practices and foster innovation in their organizations. The shared success stories and best practices gathered from Right-of-Way Domestic Scans and Excellence in Right-of-Way Awards aid in promoting better implementation of the Uniform Act.

Training and Information Initiatives - In an effort to provide high impact training to our Uniform Act customers, partners and stakeholders and fulfill the need to update our existing training to implement the final rule, 2005 proved to be a very busy year for right of way training. The FHWA completed three instructor-led courses and began course development on a fourth course. In addition, the FHWA published and distributed a Local Public Agency (LPA) Workshop, cosponsored a Uniform Act Symposium and began online course updating and development for three more courses.

Advanced Relocation Course - An updated Advanced Relocation course was developed in 2005 to assist public sector employees who provide relocation assistance. As part of the development of this course, the FHWA included the participation of two Federal Agencies, and SDOT relocation personnel. This course was completed in 2005 and is currently scheduled for several presentations in 2006.

Appraisal Course - The Appraisal course was designed to introduce practicing real estate appraisers to the requirements of the Uniform Act. The recently developed appraisal course was presented as a "pilot" in Orlando, Florida in 2005 and will be available for delivery in 2006.

Appraisal Review Course - This course was designed to introduce appraisers and review appraisers to the Uniform Act. The target audience for the course is practicing real estate appraisers and review appraisers with limited experience in appraising and reviewing for Federal-aid or federally assisted projects. The course "pilot" was presented in Jackson, Mississippi in January 2006 and will be available for delivery in 2006.

Business Relocation Course- In 2005, the FHWA began updated course development on the Business Relocation course for SDOT employees who provide relocation assistance. The purpose of this course is to provide an in-depth, comprehensive examination of business relocation assistance under the Uniform Act statutory and regulatory requirements, as well as current policy interpretation. Scheduling for presentation is anticipated to begin in September 2006.

Local Public Agency Workshop - the FHWA developed this workshop as a tool to promote and support the SDOT stewardship and oversight of Local Public Agencies. The layout of the workshop follows the previously published Real Estate Acquisition Guide for Local Public Agencies. Workshop materials include a Participant Guide, Instructor Guide and Self-Paced tutorial CD-ROM. Workshop materials were delivered to Federal Division Offices for distribution to State DOTs.

Uniform Act Symposium - In November 2005, the FHWA and the International Right of Way Association (IRWA) cosponsored a Uniform Act Symposium in Anaheim, California. The symposium was a comprehensive 3-day educational event devoted to the 2005 revisions to regulations implementing the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act. Over 400 attendees chose from among 72 workshops formatted into four distinct educational tracks, including Relocation, Transportation, Valuation and Local Public Agency. The FHWA Office of Real Estate Services gave presentations on issues ranging from "Scope of Work" in appraisal assignments to "Corridor Preservation through Advanced Acquisition." The sessions were well received and many participants visited the FHWA booth and took home Uniform Act materials provided by the Office of Real Estate Services. The materials included CD-ROMs, brochures and side-by-side comparisons.

Real Estate Acquisition Under the Uniform Act: An Overview - The FHWA's Web-based Uniform Act training course developed in 2002 has been very popular. The Uniform Act online course provides valuable training needed when acquiring real estate for a federally funded project. The target audience is Federal, State, and local public agency employees, and right of way consultants, who acquire real estate, serve as program or project managers, or serve as grant administrators for grant recipients. In 2005, 241 enrolled in the course from State or local government, 218 from the private sector and 73 from Federal Government. A total enrollment of 532 participants took the online course.

AREAS OF CONCERN

All too often the complaints received by the FHWA from constituents on Federal-aid projects were related to the Federal-aid programs managed by staff of other agencies that were not completely familiar with the Uniform Act and its requirements. Many local public agencies and some State agencies receiving Federal funding are not knowledgeable about the law and, frequently, do not believe that it applies to them. TheFHWA, in cooperation with the other Federal agencies, will continue to develop initiatives to encourage Federal managers to become fully informed about these programs, including the Uniform Act and its requirements.

The FHWA and many other Federal agencies continue to experience the loss of employees knowledgeable in the Uniform Act. Retirements, reorganization, changing agency priorities, and other events have meant that the number of staff and the depth of knowledge about the provisions of the Uniform Act have diminished or have been lost in some areas. Replacing that expertise is an ongoing challenge.

CONCLUSION

During 2005, the FHWA and the other Federal agencies worked together to expand their collective knowledge about training needs and availability. The FHWA continues to learn about the diversity of the other Federal agencies' programs and about how to address their concerns. The Interagency Federal Taskforce working sessions and the semi-annual All Federal Agencies Uniform Act Implementation meetings held during 2005 were informative and beneficial in understanding the uniqueness of each agency.

The DOT appreciates the many hours of hard work and spirit of cooperation afforded by each taskforce member and the cooperation of each agency. This cohesive working relationship produced a greater understanding and appreciation of each agency's program as the FHWA strives to make the "Uniform Act" truly uniform.

The DOT and FHWA appreciate the opportunity to serve as the lead Agency for the Uniform Act, and hope this report helps others understand the lead Agency activities for 2005.

Updated: 09/05/2014
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