Supporting Local Public Agencies to Meet Uniform Act Requirements
Many cities and counties, also known as Local Public Agencies (LPAs), receive Federal-aid highway funds to help support their transportation programs and projects. In some cases, Federal-aid projects undertaken by LPAs require the acquisition of real property. When this happens, LPAs must ensure the accurate implementation and administra-tion of the requirements of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, known as the Uniform Act.
The purpose of the Uniform Act is twofold: (1) to provide for equitable treatment of persons displaced from their homes, businesses, or farms by Federal and federally assisted programs, and (2) to establish uniform and equitable land acquisition policies for these programs. If an LPA needs to acquire real property, its right-of-way acquisition must comply with the Uniform Act and the act's implementing regulations outlined in 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 24. Compliance is necessary if Federal funding contributes to any phase of the project, from planning to right-of-way and construction.
FHWA Review Reveals Need for Training
A national review, led by FHWA, of the LPA-administered projects in 2006 identified several risk factors associated with LPAs' implementation of Federal-aid projects. The review, in part, suggests that FHWA may need to provide more oversight and training to ensure that LPAs meet Federal-aid requirements for projects they administer.
"As a result of these findings, FHWA has implemented several strategic objectives aimed at improving the integrity of the LPA program through risk-based oversight," says Carolyn James, a realty specialist in the FHWA Office of Real Estate Services. "To support these objectives, FHWA outlined a national initiative to develop procedures, training, and oversight guidance for the delivery of LPA projects."
To assist with meeting the strategic objectives for increasing LPA training, the National Highway Institute (NHI) created the course Introduction to Federal-Aid Right-of-Way Requirements for LPAs (FHWA-NHI-141050). The goal of the course is to support local agencies in their knowledge of Federal-aid requirements regarding real property acquisition, specifically those laid out in the Uniform Act. The course consists of information from existing NHI training materials, information culled from the Office of Real Estate Services, and up-to-date guidance on complying with the Uniform Act. NHI also is assisting in the development of a Web site for LPAs, which will provide information, guidance, and resources related to the requirements for using Federal-aid highway funding in locally administered projects.
About the Course
Introduction to Federal-Aid Right-of-Way Requirements for LPAs is designed to provide participants with a working knowledge of Federal requirements and procedures for acquiring property for federally assisted transportation projects. The course is hands-on and highly interactive. For example, course instructors present case studies of agencies acquiring real properties and encourage participants to comment and share ideas relative to the acquisi-tion, valuation, and relocation processes. In addition, the instructors facilitate role-playing exercises to demonstrate real-life interactions between landowners and LPAs.
Participants learn how to explain the legal basis for land acquisition by a governmental entity, assess the impact of a roadway project as it relates to the Uniform Act, sequence the right-of-way process within the overall project development process, determine the appropriate valuation process for right-of-way acquisition, apply the Uniform Act requirements for right-of-way acquisition and relocation assistance, and determine their agency's responsibilities for managing real property. For participants with limited knowledge of right-of-way requirements, NHI provides a free Web-based overview course, Real Estate Acquisition Under the Uniform Act: An Overview (FHWA-NHI-141045). Participants can take the Web-based course for a basic overview of the Uniform Act before attending the Instructor-led session.
The course is relevant for LPAs and those individuals responsible for overseeing LPAs' Federal-aid projects. However, the course content also is appropriate for any Federal, State, and local personnel responsible for acquiring rights-of-way for transportation projects using Federal funds.
"This course emphasizes coordination and communication between the State department of transportation and LPAs, and provides a forum for the exchange of ideas between them facilitated by a qualified instructor," says Lisa Barnes, vice president of O. R. Colan Associates, and project manager for the Course Development Team.
For a full course description, visit NHI’s Web site at www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov.
Lilly Pinto is a contractor for NHI.