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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Right-of-Way Local Public Agency Program - Best Management Practices

Intergovernmental Relationships in Washington State

The WSDOT mission statement proclaims, "Together we efficiently build, maintain, operate and promote safe and coordinated transportation systems to serve our public." It accomplishes this through a decentralized governance structure that includes a central office and six regional offices that have responsibility for carrying out the mission locally. This type of decentralized governance structure relies on downward delegation of decision-making authority to the regional offices. The central office role is more of mentor, trainer, technical consultant, and administrator of policy and procedures.

WSDOT clearly understands its role in carrying out these responsibilities. It delegates authority to the regional offices and local agencies that are certified to perform highway construction functions. For smaller local agencies that require more leadership, direction, training and/or technical support, liaison functions and training processes provide these key supports. Furthermore, options exist to allow the local agencies to contract with the parent organization (WSDOT) for any specific role needed to carry out the project.

WSDOT provides support to local agencies to coordinate and maximize eligibility and receipt of Federal funds for roadway projects. Additionally, WSDOT provides staffing to ensure compliance with technical engineering concerns involved in constructing safe transportation infrastructures. This staff focuses on maintaining relationships between WSDOT and the numerous tributary organizations that may be involved in the project. These critical positions are located where needed-at the regional office level where planning and implementation occur. Local agency coordinators are available to assist local agencies on any project at any stage of development, regardless of how the project is funded. This holistic approach permits flexibility both vertically and horizontally across stakeholder agencies. This results in an approach to ROW functions, which balances the best interests of property owners and taxpayers.

WSDOT manages a $2 billion program including construction, maintenance, operations and ROW. This study focuses on two service centers of WSDOT, The Engineering and Environmental Service Center, which include RES, and the Highways & Local Programs Service Center. The RES division, located in Olympia, employs 25 professionals, while Highways and Local Programs Service Center employs 35. Of these 35 professionals, only 6 individuals are involved with right-of-way processes and local agency assistance. The number of RES personnel located within the six regional offices encompasses 105 professionals. Region Local Programs employs approximately 25 professionals, who are located within the six regional offices.

In fiscal year 1999 (FY99), local agencies obtained approximately 560 parcels (100 projects) for approximately $10 million with Federal participation. WSDOT acquired about 430 parcels (94 projects) costing $34 million during this same time period. This indicates that approximately 57% of the total numbers of parcels obtained with Federal involvement were by local agencies. Furthermore, at the state level, WSDOT's RES acquired another 584 parcels in calendar year 1998 and 730 parcels in calendar year 1999. These parcels did not involve Federal dollars, as compared to the 430 parcels in FY 99. This demonstrates that almost twice as many WSDOT RES State projects were constructed with state rather than Federal funding.

The study was conducted by Quality Environmental Professionals, Incorporated (QEPI), of Indianapolis, Indiana, under contract with the Federal Highway Administration Office of Real Estate Services. Principal Investigator for QEPI was Deborah E. Peters.

The cooperation of the Washington State Department of Transportation and their local public agencies is gratefully acknowledged.

This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for its contents or use thereof. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.

Updated: 9/5/2014
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