Right-of-Way: A valuable asset

Carol S. Estes, P.E.
Technical Services Program Manager
APWA Kansas City Office

What is worth millions (or even billions) of dollars, owned by the public, and largely unprotected? If you answered the public right-of-way, you are correct! Right-of-way is one of the most valuable assets of our cities, counties and states. Franchise fees from the use of the right-of-way can add income. Costs of repairing damage in the right-of-way can deplete financial resources. On the local level, public works departments keep close watch over activity in the right-of-way. Who, you might ask, is watching issues on the national level? The Utilities and Public Right-of-Way Committee, or UPROW, is!

One of APWA's most dynamic Technical Committees, the UPROW Committee is constantly concerned with all matters related to rights-of-way. The committee provides education and information to promote the best use of the public rights-of-way. It provides a forum for diverse stakeholders to discuss common issues and best management practices.

The organization of the UPROW Committee is unique. It is composed of six members representing public agencies and utilities, like other Technical Committees, but also a representative of One-Call Systems International (OCSI) and four subcommittees. Each subcommittee is chaired by a committee member and is charged with oversight of a specialized technical area of concern. In addition, each subcommittee prepares or oversees the development of an educational session for Congress. Subcommittee membership is open to all who are interested in right-of-way issues.

The four current UPROW subcommittees are:

  • Right-of-Way Management 
  • Construction Practices 
  • OCSI/Underground Damage Prevention
  • Gas Industry Right-of-Way or GIROW

The UPROW Committee follows right-of-way legislative issues on national and regional levels. Over the last several years, the telecom industry has been working on many fronts to lessen or remove local control over public rights-of-way. Last year, the telecom industry promoted a sweeping communications bill which would have preempted local taxing authority and changed local franchising processes for companies interested in providing video services. Provisions which would have extended the Internet Tax Freedom Act and also placed a moratorium on cell phone-specific taxes were of particular concern to local governments. In the face of widespread opposition, the bill was dropped and new tactics developed.

This year the telecom industry has been working on the state level to obtain statewide franchising laws that preempt local control. The UPROW Committee is following the issue closely.

Together with the Engineering and Technology Committee, UPROW has produced a new guidance statement, "Subsurface Utility Engineering." Approved by the APWA Board of Directors, the guidance statement is available on the APWA website.

If you are interested in right-of-way, be sure to attend the UPROW Committee-sponsored sessions at Congress in San Antonio. Topics this year include: "Fiber to the Premises (FTTP): Force Them to Pave?", "Construction Stage One Calls: The Most Prudent Form of Damage Prevention—and—It's the Law!", and "A Sign of the Times: Nashville's Automated Sign Inventory."

The current members of the UPROW Technical Committee are:

  • Shawn O'Keefe, P.E. (Chair), Engineer III, City of St. Paul, Minnesota
  • T. Mark Andraka, Senior Engineer, PECO Energy Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Wm. Roger Buell, P.E., Director of Public Services, Grand Blanc Township, Michigan
  • Don Reid, Paving Program Manager, City of Nashville, Tennessee
  • Jay T. Spurgin, Engineer Division Manager, City of Thousand Oaks, California
  • Monty Zimmerman, Right of Way Manager, City of Lenexa, Kansas
  • Patricia Hilderbrand, P.E. (Board Liaison), Program Management & Development Manager, City of Kansas City, Missouri
  • Carol Estes, P.E. (Staff Liaison), Technical Services Program Manager, APWA Kansas City Office

Carol Estes can be reached at (816) 595-5222 or