Summary of the "Understanding the Value of Your Right-of-Way" Click, Listen and Learn presentation

This past March, several members of APWA's UPROW (Utilities & Public Right-Of-Way) Committee came together to develop and present a nationwide broadcast on the value of public right-of-way. Wm. Roger Buell, P.E. (Right-of-Way Manager-Section Engineer, City of Charlotte, NC) and Tom Wendorf, P.E. (Public Works Director, City of San Antonio, TX) teamed up to be the co-presenters on this topic of national interest.

With the assistance of APWA staff, other members of the UPROW Committee, and Murv Morehead (Engineering Technician II, City of Overland Park, KS), the value of the public's right-of-way was covered. Topics such as management, requirements, compensation, case studies and future challenges were discussed in detail. The program was hosted at 130 sites and viewed by just over 1,000 participants.

Starting with why local officials value the public right-of-way, Buell and Wendorf elaborated on the background and current practices. Supplementing this presentation was the inclusion of numerous "action" photographs of what could and does happen every day in the roadway without proper precautions undertaken.

Most important in public right-of-way management are planning, coordination, communication and cooperation. These four fundamental principles must lay the foundation for an effective program. Detailed permits, plans, fees, and inspections are the manifestations of these goals.

Detailed case studies from each of the presenters' representative municipalities were highlighted. This provided the audience with a cross section of the different sizes of public works programs across the country. San Antonio's detailed computerized right-of-way use permit tracking program provides the latest in bringing technology to the right-of-way field. "The City invested over $200,000 in the computer program for ROW permit management and it has paid off in reduced congestion, increased safety and broad coordination of efforts in the road," Wendorf said.

Charlotte's up-and-coming program acknowledges the challenges in developing a comprehensive management program in one of the fastest growing cities in the country. "We are constantly working on a number of fronts with various ROW stakeholders, from our own internal city utilities, to the legacy utilities of power, telephone, and natural gas, to the private sector of contractors to address their individual issues to promote safety and security that will eventually lead to formal adoption of an ordinance to ensure compliance," Buell said.

Rounding out the group was Overland Park's program, which offered its medium-sized city version of right-of-way management. "One of the things that made our program so successful was the initial passage of the ROW ordinance in January 2000," Morehead indicated.

Highlighted in the presentation were the homeland security aspects of right-of-way management with references to the road itself and the utilities within as having characteristics of critical infrastructure. "By ensuring that we know who is working in the right-of-way, where they are working and what they are working on, we can minimize the opportunity of inadvertent or purposeful destruction of our artery of transportation," Buell said. "Think of our pavement network as a road utility whereby road agencies want to minimize the amount of hits to their system."

Intermixed in the presentation was a series of audience polling questions. These polls gave the participants an understanding of the demographics of the attendees and a general background of their agency and its responsibility or status of right-of-way management program development.

The presenters concluded with summaries of the positive points of each of their programs and advocated a comprehensive right-of-way management program be implemented in all road agencies to protect the public's interest—their property. A comprehensive inventory of reference material was provided at the end of the slide show with web links to organizations, resources and municipalities of interest.

Following the presentation, more than 75 questions from viewers were received. The presenters have prepared responses to each of these detailed questions. A CD version of this two-hour audio/visual presentation and the question and answer session is available at www.apwa.net by clicking on the bookstore icon and following the directions.

For more information on this Click, Listen and Learn presentation, contact Wm. Roger Buell at rbuell@ci.charlotte.nc.us or Tom Wendorf at twendorf@sanantonio.gov.