Railroads on my Project - Can I Deliver on Time?
Michael Romo, SR/WA - August 3, 2020
Meeting project delivery deadlines when railroads are involved can be a difficult maze to get through with many obstacles to avoid. The key is proper planning, allowing adequate time in the schedule, and engaging the team early, and yes Railroads are part of your team. Developing a positive relationship with all stakeholders reinforces a team approach to meeting the goal of securing your Right of Way Certification on time, which is paramount to securing the needed funding for construction.
It is critical that your team be familiar with all aspects of railroad requirements, and that you allow adequate time in your schedule to accommodate what is required. Also bear in mind you can have several stakeholders that have a vested interest. As an example, a new structure spanning over the Railroad, the state highway and a different jurisdiction on the other side of the structure such as a County agency. This means a meeting of the minds will be necessary from all parties as they relate to the Railroad Construction and Maintenance (C&M) agreement.
Another party that can throw a wrench into your schedule are utilities. As an example, if existing transmission lines span the project area, and the new structure height requires the relocation of transmission poles or re-engineered poles with a greater height to clear the structure, if not enough time is allocated for utility involvement your project may not meet the deadline. Another party you need to include is the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Ensure you know the time requirements needed to obtain approvals of your CPUC applications and the type of application that is necessary for the project. Keep in mind without fully executed C&M agreements, approved CPUC applications, and settlements reached by all parties, you will not be able to move forward with your project.
Acquiring Railroad rights for a project are no different than a typical acquisition in that an appraisal, review appraisal, approval of just compensation and a formal offer of just compensation are still required to meet Uniform Act and Caltrans requirements if the project is Federally Funded. Outside the C&M agreement and CPUC requirements, what is unique when your project has Railroad involvement is the fact Railroads in general tend to consider the value of their property significantly greater than your offer of just compensation. Based on this, ensure your project is adequately funded to cover additional acquisition costs to settle with the railroad administratively. While condemnation is an option it is rarely used as a tool to secure property rights necessary for construction.
Lastly keep in the mind railroads sometimes have windows of time where construction activity is not allowed. With that in mind, the period necessary for the construction contractor to work may need to be extended to allow for the delay time. Work with the railroad on construction timing to verify if periods for temporary rights need to be longer.
In summary you can deliver your project on time even with railroad involvement provided you properly plan for all activities that need to occur, you engage the railroad and other stakeholders early in the process and you track all the railroad related activities necessary to complete your project on time. In the event you need guidance or support to deliver your project with railroad involvement you can rely on companies like rightofwayco.com to help you through the process.