When Verizon announced plans to lay 16 million feet of fiber-optic cable throughout Hillsborough County, Fla., infrastructure managers were poised to avoid the chaos that usually accompanies "fiber-to-the-premises" projects.

Several years earlier, in an effort to standardize procedures for contractors as well as other city departments working in the right of way, the county's public works department had consolidated all employees involved in permitting, inspections, traffic control, and contract management into a single Right of Way Management Office within the Transportation Maintenance Division.

"We had to shut [Verizon] down at least twice," says John Newton III, whose division cares for 3200 centerline miles. "But now we have a great relationship with them."

The new office developed checklists for each step of construction, from permitting to close-out, that have significantly reduced complaints about inconsistencies and shifted the financial burden of repairing damage to rights of way to the responsible party. For example:

  • Unsigned permit applications are immediately rejected, reducing the permit-approval process to a maximum of 14 days from who-knows-how-long,
  • Permits are issued to "major utility or its agent" so utilities–not contractors or subcontractors–are ultimately responsible for the quality of the work,
  • Field inspectors confirm that the permit is current and applies to the correct work location,
  • The permit application must include a traffic-management plan,
  • Only projects that pass the 1-year warranty inspection are closed out and archived,
  • While utilities aren't required to have an engineer of record for drawings, they must retain one to design any repairs to damage their work may have caused.

After working with the system for two years, Newton's group offers these recommendations regarding staff requirements to effectively manage work taking place within public rights of way. For every 1,000 centerline miles, expect to need:

  1. 3 full-time employees (FTE) for inspections
  2. 3 FTE for temporary traffic control
  3. 2 FTE for permitting
  4. 1 FTE for contract management

For more information, click here

Session: "Gaining Command & Control of Your Rights-of-Way (ROW)"

John Newton III, Director, Transportation Maintenance Division
Tom Rawls, Manager, Right of Way Management Office
Juan Lopez, Manager, Utilities Administration
Sun., Sept. 9, 2007
8:30-9:45 a.m.

This article is part of PUBLIC WORKS magazine's live coverage from the 2007 APWA Show. Click here to read more articles from the show.