Utility Coordination Process Guide
The following outlines the laws, policies and procedures governing utility relocations associated with Maine Department of Transportation (hereinafter “Department”) Capital Improvement projects. The typical utility coordination process as it relates to the Project Development process funded with state and/or federal dollars administered through the Department is also presented.
Note that the process guide is generally applicable to large, capital improvement projects, such as highway reconstruction and bridge replacements. For projects with a reduced scopes, such as overlay projects or bridge deck replacements, most of these steps will not be required.
Any references to a “Utility Coordinator” refer to the person who is responsible for assuring that proper utility and railroad coordination occurs on a given project. This may be a MaineDOT employee, a town/city employee, or a consultant acting on behalf of either party. Any references to Letters #1 through #7 refer to standard letters that are routinely mailed out to utility or railroad companies at a particular stage of a project. Templates of these letters are available on the Department's Utilities Web Site, located at the Utility Coordination web page.
MRSA Title 35-A
- §§2301-2305-B: Public Utilities may locate distribution facilities within the public way, consisting of roads, streets, and highways rights-of-way (hereinafter “ROW”).
- Chapter 25
- §2502(1)(A): When the public way is a state or state-aid highway, excluding urban compact areas, the Department is the licensing authority.
- When the Department undertakes capital improvement projects within the highway ROW in urban compact areas, the Department retains overall jurisdiction.
- §2503: All utilities that occupy the public way must be permitted through the applicable licensing authority.
- §2503(16): Permitted utilities are subject to rules established by the Department. Department rules are outlined in the following:
MRSA Title 35-A: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/Statutes/35-A/title35-Ach0sec0.html
- MaineDOT Utility Accommodation Policy, 17-229 CMR Chapter 210.
- The standards set forth in MaineDOT Utility Accommodation Policy apply to all portions of state and state-aid highways, regardless of who the licensing authority may be pursuant to other statutes, i.e. urban compacts.
MaineDOT Utility Accommodation Policy
- Section 9: Underground Installations
- Facilities must be a minimum of 36 inches below finish grade
- Section 10: Aboveground Installations
- Offset requirements for utility poles are defined based on either from edge of travel way or edge of shoulder.
- §§10(2)(A) - 10(2)(B)
- Offset requirements based off of what is required to facilitate maintenance and proper function of highway facilities.
- §10(2)(C): Clear Zone
- Offset requirements based off of design standards, accounting for roadway classification, traffic volume, and roadway side slope.
- Greater value preferred.
- Exceptions to policy:
Cost for Relocating Utilities Located in the ROW
Maine law does not permit reimbursement for the relocation of utility facilities located within a public highway ROW when such relocation is made necessary by transportation-related construction or maintenance projects. There are two basic reasons for this:
Neither the state nor any of its subdivisions (counties, municipalities, etc.) have legal authority to reimburse utilities for relocating their facilities already within the public highway ROW when those relocations are made necessary due to road projects; and without legal authority, public funds cannot be spent for this purpose. This has been the law in Maine ever since utilities began to be located in public highway ROW. According to Maine’s Supreme Court, the state or a municipality cannot pay to a utility its expense for relocating an installation in a public street or way. See First National Bank of Boston, et al, v. Maine Turnpike Authority, et al., 153 Me. 131.
Maine Constitution Article IX, §19, as interpreted by the Maine Supreme Court, prohibits use of any revenue derived from “fees, excises and license taxes relating to registration, operation and use of vehicles on public highways, and to fuels used for propulsion of such vehicles” to pay for relocation of utility facilities. See Opinion of the Justices, 152 Me. 449. Since most of the funds that would be available to the Department for utility relocation reimbursement are derived from these sources, their use for such purposes would be unconstitutional.
General Utility Coordinator Responsibilities
- The Utility Coordinator will participate as an active member of the project team.
- The Utility Coordinator will meet with utility and railroad (hereinafter “RR”) contacts as necessary to identify and resolve all utility and railroad issues and/or conflicts relating to the project and the Department's current policies.
- The Utility Coordinator will provide information to utility and railroad contacts as early as possible to provide the maximum notice possible.
- If the Utility Coordinator is a consultant working for the Department, the Utility Coordinator shall keep a predefined Department representative informed of all coordination activities by:
- Copying that individual on all utility/RR related project correspondence, and
- Inviting that individual to critical utility/RR coordination meetings.
- This predefined contact will be responsible for providing general oversight of the coordination process and for the review and processing of any necessary utility/RR agreements to be signed by the Department.
General Utility Coordination Process
- Identify Utilities
- Verify Facility Information
- Preliminary Utility Comments, Conflicts, and Relocation Strategy
- Identify Specific Underground Facility Locations
- Final Facility Impacts, Relocation Strategy and Agreements
- Prepare Utility Specification and Certification
- Utility Relocation Schedule
- Coordination with Utilities and Railroads associated with Capital Improvement projects is required by Federal Law (23CFR635.307), and the Department’s policy is to have Utility and Railroad coordination on all projects to be advertised for construction, regardless of funding source.
Detailed Utility Coordination Process
I. Identify Utilities
- Project Kickoff
- The Utility Coordinator will research the Department's utility and railroad database to obtain a list of contact names, addresses, and phone numbers for all utility and railroad companies located in the city/town of the proposed project. This information may be obtained from the Department's Utilities Web Site at the following address: http://wwwmdot/utilities/documents/11-22-2013_PRIMARY_UTILITY_CONTACTS_BY_TOWN.pdf
- The Utility Coordinator will obtain a list of contact names, email addresses, mailing/physical addresses, and phone numbers for any applicable municipal officials in the project town(s).
- The Utility Coordinator will mail, or email, an initial utility contact letter (Letter #1) to all utilities, railroads and municipalities within the city/town of the proposed project to determine the following:
- Whether or not the addressee has existing facilities within the project area and, if so, the type of facilities;
- Whether or not the addressee intends to construct facilities within the project area over the next five years;
- The name of the individual that will be available to mark any existing facilities prior to the project survey; and
- The name of the individual with whom the project team can coordinate throughout the project.
- Compile Preliminary Data
- The Utility Coordinator will research the Department's accident data for any issues relating to the location of utility facilities. This information may be obtained from the Project Manager or from the Department's Traffic Engineering Division (624-3620).
- The Utility Coordinator will coordinate with the project team's Right-of-Way representative to obtain any available right-of-way information.
- The Utility Coordinator will determine whether or not there are any Department-owned traffic facilities within the project limits and will determine how those facilities will be handled throughout the development of the project. If the traffic facilities will not be modified as part of the project contract, the Utility Coordinator shall coordinate with a Department traffic representative as though they were a separate utility throughout the project. A list of the Department's traffic facilities is available at: http://www.maine.gov/mdot/traffic/maindotequipment.htm
- For any railroad crossings, the Utility Coordinator will communicate with the Department's Multimodal Program (624-3420) to determine if any work is planned for the crossing in concern. If the railroad corridor is owned by the state of Maine, similar communication shall also occur with the Department's Office of Freight (624-3560).
- Initial Field Review
- The Utility Coordinator will make an initial site visit to identify (with documentation and photographs as necessary) the following:
- Visible utility facilities on the project;
- Typical offset of the utility poles;
- Whether all of the appropriate utilities were contacted with the initial utility contact letter (Letter #1);
- Features that may affect/limit utility relocations (i.e. buildings close to the highway, shade trees, etc…);
- Major utility installations that may be costly to relocate (i.e. substations, critical poles, telephone switching stations, pump stations, etc…);
- Utility facilities that may be located on their own easements;
- Proximity of any RR corridors to the project and the status and condition of any RR crossings;
- Overhead clearance issues around bridges or major drainage structures; and
- Any other pertinent information.
- Initial Team Meeting
- The Utility Coordinator will attend the Initial Team Meeting and provide a summary of the critical issues identified in the previous steps. If the Initial Team Meeting occurs before the above-mentioned work, a summary of critical issues shall be distributed to the team after-the-fact.
- If applicable, the Utility Coordinator will provide a proposed budget to complete the utility and railroad coordination for the project within the time frame identified at the meeting.
II . Verify Facility Information
III. Prelim. Utility Comments, Conflicts, and Relocation Strategy
IV. Identify Specific Underground Facility Locations
Drainage Plans Available
- The Utility Coordinator shall identify locations where utility test pits are required to obtain the specific depth of underground facilities that may conflict with the proposed design. The Utility Coordinator shall review the proposed test pit locations with the project team and then coordinate with the utilities and Survey for the work to be accomplished.
- The test pit data will be forwarded to the buried utilities, along with relocation requirements. If no test pits were required due to reliable location information, relocation requirements and buried facility designs should be requested as part of the PDR distribution.
V. Final Facility Impacts, Relocation Strategy and Agreements
- 75%-80% Plans Available/Precoordination Meeting:
- The Utility Coordinator will provide all affected utility and railroad companies with 75% - 80% plans for review and comment (Letter #4).
- The Utility Coordinator will hold and moderate a Utility Precoordination Meeting to review utility and railroad impacts and relocations in the field and to discuss proposed schedules for the relocations (Letter #4).
- Following the Precoordination Meeting, the Utility Coordinator will prepare and distribute written minutes from the Precoordination Meeting, including any significant comments from the affected utility or railroad companies.
- The Utility Coordinator will prepare and distribute the draft railroad and utility Special Provisions (Letter #5).
- The Utility Coordinator will prepare any draft agreements and initiate the agreement approval process.
VI. Prepare Utility Specification and Certification
- Project to Contracts
- The Utility Coordinator will provide the final railroad and utility Special Provisions to the Project Manager with a certification that all necessary arrangements have been made.
- The Utility Special Provision needs to include the following information for each utility:
- Certification that all utilities and railroads within the project limits have been contacted and that proper arrangements have been made is required under federal regulations (23CFR635.309). A template certification form is available at: http://www.maine.gov/mdot/utilities/documents/certification_2010.doc
- The Utility Coordinator will draft any agreements required for the project. There are two types of agreements which govern Department interaction with utilities on Department-sponsored projects. These are as follows:
- Accounts Receivable: Agreements where the utility’s relocation work required as part of the project is advertised as part of the Department’s construction contract for the project. Upon completion of the work, the Department will bill the utility for the work associated with the utility relocation. This type of agreement usually occurs with underground utilities.
- Accounts Payable: Agreements where the Department takes existing rights from a utility as part of a project, and the Department reimburses the utility for the impact. An example would be when the Department takes property from an electric utility associated with transmission lines. Compensation would include the cost for taking the property, and any cost associated with relocating or adjustment to the transmission lines. The law outlining this provision is part of MRSA Title 23, §154, as follows: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/Statutes/23/title23sec154.html
- There are other types of accounts payable agreements that the Department will enter into with utilities, these include:
- Agreements where the Department wants to include utility services to a newly constructed transportation facility, including: tourist information centers, and truck weigh stations.
- Agreements where the Department wants to use a utility’s pole to attach new traffic signals or a flashing beacon.
- The Department may enter into other agreements with utilities based on specific project requirements and constraints.
- The Utility Coordinator will fill out a “Location Permit for Projects” form to document the approved utility locations resulting from the utility coordination process. This form may be found at http://www.maine.gov/mdot/utilities/documents/projperm_2010.doc and is to be sent to the address indicated on the form with all associated attachments.
- If relocation of facilities would result in a significant benefit to the project, the Utility Coordinator may request facilities be relocated before project advertise. This will require approval from the Project Manager and Department Utility Engineer, and consultation with the affected Utility & Railroad.
- Advertise and Award
- The Utility Coordinator will provide guidance to the Project Manager to resolve questions from contractors relating to railroads and utilities during the bidding phase of the project.
VII. Utility Relocation Schedule
- Upon notification from the Department's Construction Resident of a Preconstruction Meeting, the Utility Coordinator shall schedule a joint Preconstruction Utility Meeting with the affected utilities and railroad(s) (Letter #6).
- The Utility Coordinator will attend the Preconstruction Meeting and chair the joint Preconstruction Utility Meeting to coordinate the utility schedules with the Contractor's construction schedule, as follows:
- The Utility Coordinator will work with the Contractor and Construction Resident to work out an understanding of how the utility work schedule will be tracked and accommodated within the Contractor’s construction schedule, with an emphasis on identifying any potential issues or conflicts which may severely impact the construction schedule.
- Following the Preconstruction Utility Meeting, the Utility Coordinator shall prepare and distribute written minutes to all utilities and railroads on the project, the Contractor, and the Construction Resident (Letter #7).
- After the Preconstruction Utility Meeting, it is the primary responsibility of the Contractor to work with the Utilities in accordance with the construction Contract Documents, and as outlined in the Utility Preconstruction Meeting.
- If issues arise during construction which cannot be resolved through the Department’s Resident, or a particular utility is unresponsive to the Contractor and the Department’s Resident:
- The Utility Coordinator will work directly with the Utility or Utilities, Contractor, and Construction Resident to resolve the issue.
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