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To meet the study objectives and address the investigative questions, the research team utilized a work plan that focused on assessing the scope and effects of implementing the appraisal waiver provision. The approach utilized an initial one-day stakeholder meeting to define the broad issues. The web-based survey of State right-of-way managers then helped to narrow the range of issues for further study and identify a number of individual States for further detailed follow-up through telephone interviews.
The key steps of the research approach were:
The subsections below describe each of these work plan components in more detail.
Dye Management Group, Inc., along with FHWA's Office of Real Estate Services, conducted a one-day stakeholder meeting at the Spring Hill Suites at Baltimore Washington International Airport in Baltimore, Maryland on July 26, 2005. This stakeholder group consisted of representatives from seven State Departments of Transportation as well as participants from FHWA's Office of Real Estate Services. These stakeholders have a considerable amount of experience with appraisal waivers. The purpose of this meeting was to evaluate the investigative questions, the web-based survey instrument, and the interview processes proposed for gathering information regarding current practice.
Dye Management Group, Inc. first discussed the project background and overview with the stakeholders. The research team then handed out and walked through the investigative questions and draft survey instruments; getting stakeholder input along the way in regards to clarity and appropriateness. This session also gave the stakeholders the opportunity to suggest additional questions for study if needed.
Based on the input received from the stakeholders, the research team finalized the investigative questions and survey instruments. The team then prepared the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) information collection request to obtain approval to conduct the survey of the State Departments of Transportation and worked with various USDOT staff to respond to OMB questions.
Following approval by OMB of the team's information collection request on June 1, 2006, the research team invited all State Department of Transportation right-of-way managers including the right-of-way managers in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to participate in a web-based survey. The research team sent an e-mail invitation to each prospective respondent on June 13, 2006 with a link to the website containing the survey. The survey was open for completion during June and July of 2006. The research team used e-mail reminder messages as appropriate to encourage completion of the survey.
The purpose of this voluntary survey was to assess if the use of waiver valuations under provisions in 49 CFR 24.102(c)(2) contribute to effective practices compatible with the intent of the Uniform Act, and whether the use of the appraisal waiver is complementary to operations of public land acquisition agencies. The analysis of the survey results identified which States are currently using the appraisal waiver provision; how the procedures in these States were developed and are being applied and the experiences of each State to date with the provision based on their reported level of use.
Forty-seven of 52 invited participants completed the survey, for a response rate of 90.38%. Exhibit III-1 provides a list of the States that responded to the survey.
Exhibit III-1: State Departments of Transportation Responding to the Web-based Survey
|State DOT Responses|
|Delaware||Maine||New Jersey||South Carolina|
|Florida||Maryland||New Mexico||South Dakota|
Based on a review of the responses to the web-based survey, the team conducted follow-up telephone interviews to clarify and obtain additional details regarding implementation practices with realty personnel in 16 States. These follow-up interviews helped to further explain how State Department of Transportation managers initially selected the low-value threshold amount, as well as how States select the projects and parcels on which waiver valuations are appropriate.
Exhibit III-2 provides a list of the States contacted for follow-up telephone interviews.
Exhibit III-2: States Selected for Follow-up Telephone Interviews
|Follow-up Interview States|
The specific contact interviewed within each State was selected from the list of contacts each State provided during the web-based survey. In a limited number of cases, alternate contacts were required including contacts with the local FHWA Division Realty Officer. The follow-up telephone interviews concentrated on documenting how the appraisal waiver program was established including the selection of the low-value threshold, and the procedures being used in determining, preparing, and negotiating based on waiver valuations. The interviews explored how waiver valuations are being received based on acceptance by negotiators, legal counsel, and property owners.
Based on information collected during the follow-up interviews and using the input from the web-based survey, the research team compiled excerpts from current State Department of Transportation right-of-way manuals containing the procedures being applied to implement the appraisal waiver process. The team also collected forms used in documenting waiver valuations that may be of interest to other States. The research team also reviewed laws from a number of States specific to the appraisal waiver process.
The team then analyzed the information compiled from the web-based survey, follow-up interviews and review of procedures documents. The analysis of survey and interview responses enabled the research team to better understand the reasons for the variation between State procedures and identified some areas of concern regarding the long-term effects the use of the waiver may have on maintaining or developing staff appraisal capabilities. The remaining sections of the report highlight these findings and observations and some proposed recommendations to address issues identified by the study team.