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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Utility Rights-of-Way

Accommodating public utilities on highway right-of-way has traditionally been at no cost to the utility or only involves direct cost reimbursement for replacement ROW. This reflects a public policy that supports limiting the burden on taxpayers for basic municipal services. Pressure to accommodate a growing number of entities who seek private uses of public rights-of-way may require changes in State laws and agency regulations. Demands for accommodating new technologies such as ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) are causing many states and local governments to re-evaluate past policies and seek to gain benefits from their land assets by making their rights-of-way available for these uses.

Local and State governments are reacting to legislative and industry pressures while attempting to protect these assets. While utility accommodation is primarily located in Utilities or Right-of-Way sections of State DOT's, Traffic, Maintenance, Legal, Fiscal, ITS and other sections also may have concerns. How a State identifies applicants (e.g., as a public utility or private enterprise)  impacts their ability to control rights-of-way and obtain cash or services in return. If the applicant is a public utility, rental income may not be required, nor be restricted to Title 23 purposes.

Real Estate income issues - While FHWA does not directly require payment for its proportion of real property interest income, our requirement is that these funds be applied to Title 23-eligible transportation purposes (such as State matching funds). Using fair market rent requirements, and applying appropriate appraisal techniques, Property Management may generate substantial compensation for agencies if accommodation is made for cash or services. The FHWA has developed suggested guidelines for evaluating utility accommodation proposals.

Some larger municipalities (and perhaps other State agencies) have extensive experience in cable systems and wireless antenna accommodation. A number of local government sites are available through your State DOT site or through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) coordination site. For more information on FHWA policy on Utility Accommodation and related subjects please see the following:

Updated: 12/15/2015
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