Phase II - Development

Phase II - Development

There are four basic components in the development phase.  They are: Project Initiation, Scoping, Design, and Clearances. Scoping and design may be further defined by the stages of development, Stage I through Stage V. The design clearances include Environmental, Right of Way and Utility clearances.

Most projects in the Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program [Five-Year Program or Program] will require additional scoping prior to beginning design.  The scoping and design processes may be authorized and developed as one phase by the same development team (one-step) or as separate phases with their own individual authorization (two-step).  The two-step process is used when a project is large and complex, requiring more detail in scoping to adequately define the desired alternatives and costs necessary to properly program a project.  These projects usually require a higher level of environmental documentation in the form of an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Once properly scoped and based upon the needs of the project, the project manager calls together ADOT technical teams, agency representatives, and other relevant stakeholders to design review and revise project elements until a biddable and constructible set of plans and specifications is produced.

Loop 303 and I-10 Traffic Interchange - March 2014
L-303 & I-10 Traffic Interchange - Mar 2014


Project Initiation

development graphicProject Initiation is where the project will begin in earnest for the Project Manager (PM).  At this point, you should be assigned a project recognized in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP, aka 5 Year Program), which constrains the project’s Fiscal Year and Budget for both design and construction.

The first order of business for the PM is to request a TRACS No. and appropriate subphases for the new project, and to assess and document the scope, schedule and budget.  The PM will gather the known relevant information/data for the project, as well as, interview the project sponsor (e.g., District, Bridge, Traffic, LPA, etc.).  Whether the project will be developed by in-house resources versus consultants will have an impact on the PM’s point of view when drafting the Scope of Work, Schedule and Cost Estimate.  The decision to go with in-house or consultant resources is generally made by a committee referred to as Subprogram Project Initiation Review Board (SuPIRB).  A document indicating the distribution can be found on the ECS External Site, Advertisements, under the Upcoming Projects tab.  The PM may now draft both a Scope of Work for the project and an independent development estimate.  A complementary schedule will also be drafted by the PM, which meets the expectations of the project sponsor.  All of this information is to be summarized in the Project Framework Form.

If the project involves consideration (e.g., funding, land, material, labor, etc.) from another entity (e.g., Federal, State, County, Local, Private, etc.), a Joint Project Agreement (JPA) or an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) may be necessary.  JPA Section staff will help guide you through the process of initiating a new agreement.  Once the agreement is executed, any funding being offered by the entity will be invoiced.

Concurrent with the IGA development, the PM will request an audience with the Project Review Board (PRB).  This let’s ADOT know the project is being actively pursued.  Financial Management Services (FMS) will request Federal Authorization when funding referenced in the JPA/IGA is received and PRB approves the project.  It is imperative for the PM to know and educate all other resources, that no work prior to the Federal Authorization is reimbursable by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

If the project is being designed by a consultant and the contract value is greater than $500K, the PM must go through the consultant selection process managed by the Engineering Consultant Section (ECS).  If the project is being designed by consultant and the contract value is less than $500K, the PM may elect to go through the On-Call Consultant pool for a designer.  This greatly reduces the time and resources spent on the consultant selection process.

The Federal Authorization must be received prior to ECS’ Request for Proposals advertisement (RFP) or before receiving a consultant candidate from the On-Call Consultant Contract Manager. Selection by RFP involves reviewing and scoring numerous consultant proposals and building consensus on the best consultant candidate by a panel of reviewers.  Once a consultant is selected, the PM will negotiate a reasonable level of effort with both the consultant resources and in-house staff resources relative to the scope of work.  When agreement is reached on the consultant effort, ECS will process the new contract or Task Order Contract Modification and issue a Notice to Proceed.  The process of negotiating and contracting with a consultant is monitored utilizing the Task Order Assignment Schedule Tracker or TOAST.  The PM is responsible updating the progress of the new contract utilizing this system.

PM Actions, Tasks and Deliverables

  • FARA Form
  • Provide basic project identification/location data to FMS
  • Brief description of the project scope
  • Project budget
  • Basic funding source information
  • Fiscal year
  • Framework Form
  • Basic project identification/location data
  • Brief summary of the scope of work and/or the scope of services
  • Funding information
  • Start the Project Team list
  • Project Master
  • Request new project TRACS no.
  • Request new project sub phase
  • PM Scope/Schedule/Budget
  • Develop/finalize scope of work
  • Draft project schedule
  • Develop independent PM development estimate
  • Who will Scope/Design the Project – In-House vs. Consultant?
  • Negotiate in-house scope, effort and costs
  • Coordinate with ECS for an RFP
  • Coordinate with on-call contract manager for an on-call consultant
  • Initiate TOAST
  • Negotiate consultant contract
  • Coordinate with consultant resources for development
  • Who will Advertise the Project – Procurement vs. Contracts and Specifications
  • If your project has installation or construction elements, coordinate with Contracts and Specifications
  • If your project is purely item/product acquisition, coordinate with Procurement
  • Joint Project Administration (JPA)
  • Develop a consensus with agreement stakeholders
  • Document the scope, schedule and/or budget relative to the agreement
  • Initiate JPA utilizing JPA’s CAR system
  • Coordinate with JPA Specialist
  • Obtain executed JPA
  • Engineering Consultant Section (ECS)
  • Initiate RFP with ECS Contract Specialist
  • Coordinate with Contract Specialist for consultant contract

Project Initiation Attachments


Stage I (15%)Scoping is the first stage of an iterative engineering design process that incorporates planning level project information into an engineering based scoping document that sets the primary parameters (scope, schedule and budget) for design.

The purpose of a scoping document is to reach agreement with all stakeholders regarding the scope, schedule and budget of a project.  The Scoping document provides a detailed scope of work that may include various alternatives that were evaluated, lists items that may impact the proposed scope of work, provides a preliminary engineering cost estimate and estimates the project’s construction schedule.  The document also identifies the project stakeholders and their roles regarding the project.  The scoping process ends by obtaining internal stakeholder approval via completion of the Project Determination Form.  The final scoping document is then used by the various technical groups to enter the design stage of the project.

Dependent upon the anticipated complexity as well as impact to the environment, various engineering scoping documents are available. A Scoping Letter is used for the simplest of projects that are singular in scope and typically only require one engineering disciplines with limited with impact to utilities, right-of-way or the environment. A Project Assessment is used for projects that are more complicated, typically requiring multiple engineering disciplines and may require the evaluation of a limited number of alternatives. A Feasibility Study or a Design Concept Report is used for complex projects that typically have numerous alternatives and usually impact utilities, right-of-way, and the environment.

Depending upon the final scope, schedule and budget, the PM may be required to submit the project to PRB, PPAC and the Board for changes, (per the project change process) if the final scoping document is significantly different from what was programmed. Changes in the scope or a poorly defined scope have serious consequences related to delivering a final package on-time and within budget. Engagement of major stakeholders is essential to ensure adequate budget is available for the scope of work.

PM Actions and Tasks

  • Determine technical disciplines needed for the project team.
  • Schedule kickoff meeting and field review to help with scope definition.
  • Reach consensus with project team of scope of work items.

PM Deliverables

  • Design Concept Report, Project Assessment or Scoping Letter
  • Project Schedule

Scoping Links


Phase IIThe design phase follows project initiation and is easily responsible for the bulk of the PM responsibilities.  The PM is focused on the scope, schedule and budget for each assigned project with delivery or advertisement as the primary goal.

Starting with the project kickoff meeting, the PM will establish consensus from the project stakeholders regarding the scope or design features of the project, the delivery schedule and anticipated milestones, and the project construction budget.  It is important to setup a regular schedule of meetings to share progress, list the next steps or tasks needing attention, and to identify challenges or risks and formulate resolutions facilitating the development of the project.  There may be times where consensus on a resolution evades the interests or capacities of the project stakeholders.  In these cases, the PM will need to escalate the issue in a timely fashion, so as not to impede the progress of the project

A projects progress is typically published, reviewed and commented upon at four (4) development stages; Stage I (15%), Stage II (30%), Stage III (60%) & Stage IV (95%).  The PM shall facilitate the submittal of comments to the lead designer, set the schedule for the initial comment disposition and hold a comment resolution meeting.  The final comment dispositions should be filed, published and distributed to the entire project team.

The Stage V (100%) submittal may be reviewed and commented upon by a limited number of stakeholders when necessary, but is generally the last submittal before the plans or procurement project are requested for advertisement.

Throughout the project development and specifically at the regularly scheduled progress meetings, the PM should assess the overall progress of the project.  Is the project advancing as anticipated?  Is the project falling behind the published schedule?  Is the project at risk of not advertising in the published quarter of the programmed year?  Usually there is some free float worked into a project schedule to account for inevitable surprises and delays that happen.  If the schedule is in danger, the PM may exercise a number of strategies to return the schedule to its target.  Some strategies include; add resources, change the logic ties, concurrent development of tasks, skip milestone submittals, reduction of scope contributing to risk, etc.

During the development stages and specifically at the stage submittals, the PM should check the funds spent and available balances against the progress of the project.  Does the expended amount match the anticipated burn rate and development stage of the project? Does the PM expect to need additional monies?  If so, the PM must prepare and justify a request to the PRB.  The construction budget may also be checked against the programmed budget.  Again, if additional funding is anticipated, the PM should complete a request for PRB.

Project coordination between stakeholders is critical throughout the development process.  A PM will find by creating an environment where all the stakeholders may freely communicate with each other, the project will develop with fewer issues and more quickly.  Publicly demonstrating these principles helps to break down barriers which may exist between staff, disciplines and agencies.  The PM may find they need to assist others to reach out, ensuring an appropriate exchange of information and ideas to aid project development and improve the project’s quality.  If the PM and the project team have successfully negotiated this process, the project will advertise, the bids will be opened and the Transportation Board will award the project. Congratulations – the project is headed for construction.  Your next task will be participating in the construction partnering meeting.

PM Actions, Tasks and Deliverables

  • Schedule and chair the kickoff meeting
  • Draft and publish meeting notes
  • Schedule and chair progress meetings
  • Provide project oversight
  • Facilitate coordination and communication between stakeholders
  • Monitor project progress
  • Monitor discipline subtasks and schedules
  • Monitor agency subtasks and schedules
  • Prepare and represent project changes at PRB
  • Prepare and represent project changes at PPAC
  • Monitor project schedule
  • Strategize schedule compliance
  • Update PIRT milestones
  • Monitor project expenses
  • Monitor project costs
  • Facilitate issue resolution
  • Escalate unresolved issues
  • Facilitate contract modifications
  • Review and approve progress payment reports
  • Initiate IGA
  • Draft and submit federal authorization paperwork
  • Facilitate submittal distribution
  • Facilitate comment collection
  • Facilitate comment resolution
  • Schedule and chair field reviews
  • Facilitate clearance submittals
  • Schedule & chair construction hand-off meeting
  • Setup PDS CM

Design Links

Design Attachments


Phase IIThe Project Manager (PM) works to deliver a set of documents suitable for a successful advertisement and construction of a transportation project.  Before monies for construction can be requested, three basic clearances must be acquired for most or all projects.  ADOT’s clearances are right-of-way, utility, and environmental. They are issued by the Environmental Planning Group (EPG), Right of Way Group (ROW) and Utility and Railroad Group (URR) respectively.  Even if your project does not have impact on one or more of these disciplines, all three clearance documents must be obtained.

An environmental clearance, issued by the Environmental Planning Group (EPG) will list and define the agreed upon mitigation measures necessary to offset a measured and documented impact on the environment by the project, and name the group or agency responsible for its execution.  The Clearance will include verbiage limiting or eliminating the contractor’s impact in specific areas and to the adjacent environment.  It may also include admonishments describing a particular action which must be taken if and when a specific condition is encountered.  The mitigation measures are often reproduced in the specifications provided to the bidding contractors.

A right-of-way clearance is issued by the Right of Way Group (ROW). A right-of-way clearance documents that the project has acquired all necessary rights-of-way, or that it has no need for new rights-of-way and/or easements.  It will indicate the legal precedence under which the right-of way is acquired, such as the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  It will also list the parcel(s) acquired along with some basic information about the parcel and acquisition.  An acquisition may take the form of a total or partial take of a parcel, a limited use of a parcel (e.g., drainage easement) or the temporary use of a parcel (temporary construction easement).  The right-of-way acquisition process is dependent on the environmental clearance and FHWA concurrence.  A separate Federal Authorization is required for any project acquiring right-of-way and utilizing any federal monies.

The utility and railroad clearance or utility clearance issued by Utility and Railroad Engineering, lists any known utilities in the project limits, anticipated impacts, what is to be done with an impacted utility, which will perform the work, when it will be performed relative to the construction project, and any relevant contact information for each utility.  This documentation is often reproduced in the project specifications provided to the bidding contractors.  A utility clearance is often dependent upon an environmental clearance and/or a right-of-way clearance.

All three of these clearance documents must accompany the final construction documents to Contracts and Specifications.  Contracts and Specifications will include the dates of these clearances with the Federal Aid Request for Authorization documentation forwarded to FHWA for approval.

These processes and documentation are neither consistent among entities and jurisdictions, nor straight forward in their application.  Your EPG, ROW and URR technical leaders are experts in their field and will save the PM a great deal of time and expense when they are engaged early in the development process.

PM Actions and Tasks

  • PM shares scope of work (SOW) for discipline review
  • PM to finalize SOW
  • PM drafts independent development estimate
  • PM requests discipline development estimates
  • PM shares consultant proposal with discipline for review/comment/concurrence
  • PM invites project team to kickoff (KO) meeting
  • PM acquires project schedule consensus
  • PM supplies KO meeting notes to project team
  • PM invites project team to monthly meetings
  • PM supplies monthly meeting notes to project team
  • PM supplies project footprint/impacts to Environmental  Planning Group/environmental  consultant
  • PM supplies project right-of-way needs to ROW
  • PM drafts and submits FARA for ROW acquisition
  • PM supplies base files for Utility and Railroad  Group (URR)
  • PM shares utility data with the designer
  • PM coordinates Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) Program requirements with URR
  • PM supplies submittals to project team for review and comment
  • PM facilitates/negotiates issue resolution
  • PM champions escalation
  • PM facilitates/ensures all clearance documents to Contracts and Specifications

PM Deliverables

  • Project SOW
  • Project development estimate
  • Project development budget
  • Project team list
  • Project schedule
  • Meeting notes
  • Project footprint/impact
  • Project ROW needs
  • FARA for ROW
  • Base files for disciplines
  • Project submittals

Clearances Links

Environmental Planning Group - Extended Information

Environmental Planning Overview

The ADOT Environmental Planner leads the environmental review process including managing the project’s environmental schedule, budget and documentation prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other applicable environmental laws and regulations.  The Environmental Planners are responsible for coordinating and communicating closely with the ADOT Project Manager, Technical Specialists assigned to the project, the ADOT Districts and the LPAs. ADOT Environmental Planners are also required to review each stage of plans and ensure that any project-specific mitigation measures are incorporated into the Plan, Specification and Estimate (PSE) and to ensure that a valid Environmental Clearance is on file at the time of construction authorization. 

Environmental Planning Technical Specialists manage and approve technical analysis, reports, and agency coordination in conformance with related environmental rules and regulations.   The Technical Specialists are responsible for coordinating closely with the project Environmental Planner and developing mitigation measures that are clear, reasonable, and constructible. Environmental Planning guidance for preparing NEPA documents and technical guidance can be found under Environmental Planning.

ADOT has been assigned FHWA's NEPA responsibilities pursuant to the State Assumption of Responsibility for Categorical Exclusions Program, otherwise known as CE Assignment. The environmental review responsibilities are carried out by ADOT pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 326 and a Memorandum of Understanding dated January 3, 2018 and executed by FHWA and ADOT.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

All Federal-aid Highway Program (FAHP) projects must be in compliance with NEPA. The level of NEPA documentation required for FAHP projects is prescribed in three classes of action:

Class I: Actions likely to cause significant impacts on the environment. The preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required for this class of project.

Class II: Actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the environment. Categorical Exclusions (CE) are for actions that normally do not require an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement.

Class III: This class of actions requires the preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) to determine which aspects of the proposed action might have social, economic, or environmental impacts and eventually to determine if an EIS is required.

Projects that will require an EIS or EA are typically identified in the Planning and Programming stage because a substantial amount of funding must be programmed to develop an EIS or EA. For the vast majority of projects the initial determination of the NEPA classification will be that the project qualifies as a CE. This preliminary determination helps define project development costs and the scope of work for inclusion in project budgets and Joint Project Agreements (for LPA projects). An estimation of the appropriate environmental studies that need to be conducted should be part of the project preliminary scoping phase.

Categorical Exclusions (CE)

As described in 23 CFR 771.117, federal “actions”, i.e. FAHP projects, can be classified as a CE if they; do not cause significant adverse environmental effects, they meet the definitions contained in 40 CFR 1508.4 and are excluded from the requirements to prepare either an EIS or EA. Most of the FAHP projects developed by ADOT normally meet the requirements of a CE. For these projects ADOT Environmental Planners must confirm that a project will not result in significant environmental impacts by reviewing the project’s description against the CE criteria listed above. 

Projects designated as a CE are actions which:

  • Do not induce significant impacts to planned growth or land use.
  • Do not require the relocation of significant numbers of people.
  • Do not have a significant impact on any natural, cultural, recreational, historic, or other resource.
  • Do not involve significant air, noise, or water quality impacts.
  • Do not have significant impacts on travel patterns.
  • Do not otherwise, either individually or cumulatively, have any significant environmental impacts.

There are specific lists of actions that typically qualify under 23 CFR 771.117(c) and (d) and are therefore known as “c-list” and “d-list” CE projects.  For these projects a CE Checklist is prepared for ADOT approval under CE Assignment. CEs not specifically listed under paragraph (d) may still qualify as a CE under paragraph (d) as an individually documented CE. These are projects which meet the definition of a CE but do not appear on the list of examples in Section 771.117(c) or (d). Adding highway capacity (through-lanes) on certain projects, reconstruction of an existing traffic interchange and construction of a new service traffic interchange are examples of projects that, though not specifically listed on the d-list, may still qualify under paragraph (d) as an individually documented CE.  

A project that does not involve construction, or is of limited construction can be approved with a (c)(1) CE. These are projects which do not result in physical construction or are very limited (minor) in nature. These are projects that do not require technical analysis and can be cleared in a very short amount of time. Examples of c-listed actions that qualify for a CE Checklist without technical analysis include; funding authorizations, such as those for materials procurement and equipment purchase, design exceptions, and planning studies as well as bicycle, striping and sign projects that restrict work to the existing pavement or existing infrastructure such as sign posts.

For a typical CE, other than a (c)(1) CE, it can take between three (3) to nine (9) months to complete the environmental analysis and NEPA process depending on the project-specific environmental issues and other relevant environmental laws that must be addressed. Technical areas such as Section 4(f), Section 106, Section 7 and Section 404, as well as project financial issues can be the critical path ‘drivers’ of the schedule. Keep in mind that each consulting agency may have its own review timeframe requirements. For example a 135-day consultation timeline for formal Section 7 consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is in federal regulations.  ADOT must work closely with each agency to determine and incorporate their required timeframes into the schedule. 

Environmental Assessments (EA) and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)

The environmental process to be followed is determined by the type of project and the significance of the environmental impacts identified during the planning effort. For major projects an Environmental Assessment is completed as a distinct project phase in advance of a Design Project and is completed in concert with the preparation of a Design Concept Report. These studies are funded as line items in the Five-Year Construction Program. Projects requiring preparation of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement involve public participation, including scoping and information meetings as well as formal public hearings.

A Draft EA is prepared concurrent with the preparation of the Initial Design Concept Report. This document will generally describe the impacts of the recommended action and the necessary mitigation measures. Technical studies may include; air quality, noise analysis, biological evaluations, cultural resources investigations and hazardous material assessments.

A Final EA shall be prepared concurrent with the preparation of the Final Design Concept Report. This document will describe the Selected Alternative, incorporate a Public Hearing transcript and document responses to comments received on the Draft EA.

An EIS is completed for projects with significant environmental impacts. These projects are for very large undertakings and take many years to develop. A Project Manager would implement individual projects or phases that may be identified in an EIS. Consult the Environmental Planning website for more information.

Scope Changes and Re-Evaluations of Environmental Documents

A re-evaluation is an analysis of changes in a proposed project scope or affected environment and anticipated impacts after NEPA approval. The purpose of a re-evaluation is to determine whether an approved environmental NEPA determination remains valid and to evaluate and document any changes required. Re-evaluation of a CE, EA, or EIS may be required if any one of the following conditions is identified: There are changes in the proposed action that are relevant to the environmental concerns; there is new information that is relevant to the proposed action or its impacts; three years has passed since the original NEPA determination; or a federal law that is relevant to the project is updated or has changed.

Scope changes could result in unanticipated monetary and schedule requirements and can occur at any point during the project. If changes to project scope occur, the Project Manager should contact ADOT Environmental Planning as soon as possible to determine whether re-evaluation is necessary. If the scope of work or project limits change, the Environmental Planner shall inform all of the Technical Specialists and determine if any re-analysis is needed.  Direction by Technical Specialists to consultants regarding project changes that could impact the budget, scope or schedule should not be given without first coordinating with the Environmental Planner and the ADOT Project Manager as these changes my require approval of the ADOT Project Review Board (PRB) or the Local Public Agency (LPA).

Valid CE at the time of a Federal Funding Authorization Request

A valid CE (NEPA approval) must be on file when an ADOT authorization request is sent to FHWA for construction funding. An acknowledgement that NEPA is approved is included in the request for authorization letter from ADOT Contracts and Specifications (C&S) to FHWA or from the ADOT Project Manager to FHWA for LPA Certification Agency Projects. The ADOT Project Manager will confirm with the Environmental Planner that the CE is still valid by including the Environmental Planner’s signature on the funding request letter sent to FHWA. This is a formal step at the time of the request. Any updates to the environmental clearance need to be conducted and completed as part of the project development process and be performed well in advance of the funding request and NEPA validation.

Technical Resource Studies

Technical resource studies, also known as Environmental Analysis, are the evaluative tools commonly used as the basis of decisions rendered in environmental documents. The Environmental Planner works closely with the Technical Specialists to ensure all necessary environmental analysis is conducted and that outside agency approvals are secured for the project

Environmental resources that may require analysis include air quality, noise impacts and hazardous materials as well as natural, cultural, social and recreational resources. Technical studies generally have established measurable criteria for evaluating potential project impacts. The methodologies, conclusions, and mitigation measures are coordinated with oversight agencies and regulatory bodies—such as the USFWS, which has jurisdiction over endangered species; EPA, which sets and enforces air quality and hazardous materials regulations; and the Corps, which enforces the Clean Water Act requirements. Environmental documents (EA/EIS) usually include summaries of the technical analyses and reference the technical study. For projects cleared with a CE the technical analysis will be in the Environmental Planning Project File.

Public Involvement

Environmental Planning sends Agency and Public Scoping Letters early in the process in order to explain the project and to gather input from the affected agencies and public. The Project Development Process will consider the issues and concerns of affected agencies’ and the public. All scoping methods are tailored to meet the needs of each individual project including whether or not public scoping will be included.

Public meetings and public hearings are typically undertaken only for larger scale projects that involve alternatives and the preparation of an individually approved CE, an EA or an EIS. The purpose of such meetings is to identify issues, inform the public of projects alternatives, solicit input and answer questions regarding the scope and schedule of a proposed project. Public Meetings will typically be held in advance of a required Public Hearing for large-scale project.

Though not always required under the regulations, the ADOT Public Involvement Plan will generally require a public hearing for projects in which an Environmental Assessment is being prepared.  A public hearing is always required for projects in which an EIS is being prepared. Procedures to be followed in the public hearing are outlined in the ADOT Public Involvement Plan. Public Hearings involve additional NEPA requirements in regard to advertisements, availability of documents for review and responses to comments. 

For ADOT projects ADOT Communications works in cooperation with the Project Management Group and Environmental Planning to set up and conduct public meetings and public hearings. Communications is responsible for advertising and managing all such meetings. The Project Team works together in the preparation of documents and exhibits for public meetings. Communications, Project Management and Environmental Planner need to concur on public involvement materials as outlined in the matrix and agree on public meeting dates.

The Project Manager will work cooperatively with Communications and Environmental Planning to ensure that public involvement materials are developed according to the Public Involvement Matrix and that the appropriate project team members review all public involvement materials for the project. For LPA design-administered projects the LPA is responsible for leading the public involvement efforts. If ADOT is administering design then ADOT Communications may act in an advisory role.

Substantive comments received from Public Hearings are addressed by the project team. Certain comments from public scoping meetings or public meetings may be addressed by the project team and responded to. When responding to comments in writing, the project team will obtain consensus on whose signature should appear on the correspondence depending upon the type of inquiry.

Environmental in Preliminary Design

An initial determination of a project NEPA classification will be made during the Planning and Programming phase of a project. Some level of project scoping will have been performed in order to program a project in the Five-Year Transportation Construction Program or LPA’s TIP. Environmental constraints and the anticipated level of NEPA documentation and environmental analysis may have been identified at that stage in order to program the project.

Environmental Planning should be involved in development of the contract or task order project scope of work at the initiation of the project in order to determine environmental efforts and costs needed to develop a project. Some projects may have preliminary scoping completed during the planning and programming process. Once a project begins, additional refinement of any previously developed scoping may be performed as part of Preliminary Engineering early in the design of a design project. Scoping documents should identify key environmental issues only such as the need for historic structures evaluations, 404 Individual permits and known areas of concern for biological or cultural resources. For one-step projects in which a Scoping Letter or Project Assessment is being prepared the environmental analysis and preparation of the CE will begin at the project kick-off so superfluous detailed environmental information is not required in the scoping document. The Environmental Planner should review the Project Assessment/Scoping Letter and provide comments based on their early assessment.

Final Design and NEPA

Project design must not advance too far without NEPA approval in order to remain compliant with FHWA regulations. The Project Manager needs to be aware of the design progress in relation to the completion of NEPA for a project. This is especially important for federally funded projects with a single phase funding authorization.

For major projects that require an EA or EIS for the NEPA document the Preliminary Design is developed up to the 30% level in conjunction with NEPA (EA/EIS). Funding for Final Design can be authorized by FHWA after a project attains NEPA approval (FONSI/ROD).

For non-major projects such as pavement rehabilitation, bridge repair, traffic safety, etc. the CE is required between 30% and 95% Design. NEPA should typically be attained by 60%. But, this may not always be possible due to design in relation to environmental analysis requirements. For example the 404 permit requires 60% plans be submitted to the Corps as part of the permit review process so the NEPA approval will come later in the design process. Proceed cautiously to 95% in consultation with the Environmental Planner. Environmental Planning will make a risk assessment for proceeding past 60% based on the relevant environmental issues and the level of environmental work completed. 95% plans can be distributed with Environmental Planning approval prior to NEPA Approval (email). The Project Manager should closely coordinate the timing of plans submittals and the NEPA approval with the Environmental Planner.

NEPA Approval and ADOT Environmental Clearance

All projects with federal funding require NEPA Approval and ADOT requires an Environmental Clearance for final approval. Both approvals are important in the Project Development Process. Typically, for projects that are completed under a “one-step” authorization for federal Preliminary Engineering funds and for which a CE is the appropriate NEPA classification, the NEPA Approval and ADOT Environmental Clearance are completed at the same time as one conflated approval.

NEPA  Approval  is  the  completion  of  the  federal NEPA process  as  indicated  by  the  approval of  a CE, EA or EIS. For two-step federally funded design projects, the NEPA Approval date is the date that federal funds can be authorized for final design. For example, once an EA is approved an individual project (or phase) can be authorized for final design funding. The NEPA Approval date is also the date after which FHWA can authorize ROW acquisition and construction funding. If a project requires a NEPA Re-evaluation due to the lapse of time since the date of NEPA Approval, or as a result of design changes, then a re-evaluation approval date will be tracked as a separate approval date.

An ADOT Environmental Clearance is an internal ADOT approval sent from Environmental Planning to C&S to certify that the environmental process and documentation is complete and that the project is ready for advertisement. This is a distinct step in the Project Development Process, separate from the NEPA Approval (ADOT Approved CE or FHWA Approved CE). The Environmental Clearance will include the date of NEPA Approval and provide C&S with the packet of ADOT Environmental Commitments to be included in the Special Provisions. Neither the ADOT Environmental Clearance itself, nor the CE, is included in the final bid package, only the applicable Environmental Commitments. The Project Manager should get confirmation from the Environmental Planner that the Environmental process is completed.

Environmental Commitments

Environmental Commitments include project-specific mitigation measures, permit commitments, special species handing guidelines, or other project related commitments that need to be carried through to construction. There may be specific commitments to avoid, minimize or mitigate an environmental impact including design mitigation measures that must be accounted for through the project development process. Agreed upon project design features that are incorporated specifically to mitigate or avoid an environmental impact are included in the environmental commitments. The Environmental Planner will ensure that any project specific design mitigations are included in the PS&E.

Project-specific mitigation measures may be developed for a project as needed. Development of mitigation measures is to be accomplished in coordination with the appropriate ADOT District(s), the Project Manager, and LPA as applicable, prior to the development of a CE or the submittal of a draft EA or EIS.  ADOT Districts play a key role in ensuring that mitigation measures are constructible and agreed upon. For LPA CA projects the CA Agency is responsible for the mitigation measures. The ADOT Environmental Planner will submit the non-standard/project-specific mitigation measures to the appropriate ADOT District, LPA if applicable and ADOT Project Manager for concurrence, prior to final review of the environmental document. Once approved in the NEPA Document/Environmental Clearance the mitigation measures are not subject to change without authorization from Environmental Planning.

If a technical analysis proposes to address project impacts by using mitigation measures the Technical Specialist must inform the Environmental Planner. Environmental Planners coordinate with the ADOT Districts and LPA, if applicable, to ensure mitigation measures are agreed upon and constructible. Environmental Planners are also required to review each stage of plans and ensure that the mitigation measures are incorporated in the PS&E. The Project Manager must continue to send all design submittals to the Environmental Planner even after the NEPA is approved for the project.

During construction of ADOT administered projects, the ADOT RE is the primary ADOT contact and is responsible for communicating construction related environmental issues to the FHWA Area Engineer.  On LPA CA Agency administered construction projects the LPA assumes the role of ADOT RE. The Environmental Planner shall further coordinate with the appropriate Environmental Planning Technical Specialists as necessary for issues that arise during construction. Environmental Planning staff shall inform the ADOT RE when additional coordination with outside agencies is required to address environmental issues that arise during construction. 

For projects in which there is an environmental consultant to monitor during construction, monitors shall work directly with the ADOT RE to resolve environmental issues in the field and shall keep Environmental Planning, the District Environmental Coordinator and the Project Manager informed of any environmental issues and communications. The ADOT RE is the primary ADOT contact for the project during construction and issues in the field need to be communicated to the ADOT RE.    

Resource Agency Liaison Positions

Federal-aid funding for resource agency positions is allowed under SAFETEA-LU for in order to expedite environmental review and project delivery. Environmental Planning manages liaison funding with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the USFWS, the US Forest Service and the BLM.

The US Forest Service has responsibility for the National Forest lands throughout the United States. Numerous routes of the state highway system pass through the National Forests. Liaison staff positions with the Coconino, Tonto and Apache Sitgreaves National Forest administrators in Arizona are maintained by formal agreement between ADOT and the Forest Service.

ADOT funds positions with the USFWS to aid in Section 7 Consultation on Biological Evaluations (BE) and with the US Army Corps for their assistance with expedited Section 404 permitting. The funded liaison positions are to ensure outside agency staff support and to allow ADOT to set the review priorities for ADOT projects requiring action and approval on the part of the resource agencies.

Issue Resolution

Conflict resolution applies within ADOT as well as with outside agencies, stakeholders, and District staff. Disagreement between the Environmental Planner and the ADOT Project Manager or technical staff needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. The same escalation steps apply with the immediate supervisor being the first step in the resolution process.

Waiting for information can also delay a critical project decision or become a factor in the critical path of the schedule.  This escalation process should also be employed if there is no response when critical information is needed to advancing the project development. 

Financial Considerations

At the initiation of a project the Project Manager should send a request to the Environmental Planning Project Delivery Manager for assignment of an Environmental Planner to the project. This request should also include a preliminary scope of work and request for input on the budget [Design Itemized Cost Estimate – Dice] for the purposes of attaining a federal authorization for Preliminary Engineering funds. A Framework Form should also be sent to the Project Delivery Manager at this time if it has been prepared. Environmental Planning will prepare a Project Determination Form (PDS) to help inform the consultant’s task order scope of work for environmental analysis and documentation. The Environmental Planner will send the completed PDS with the environmental level of effort required to the Project Manager. Information from the PDS is used to inform the consultant’s task order/scope of work and can greatly expedite the process and help the consultant deliver the right scope of work for the project. The Project Manager then sends the Framework Form, along with the PDS, to the consultant to request a scope of work and fee.

On ADOT administered projects, including ADOT administered LPA projects, the Environmental Planner reviews the initial environmental scope of work (Framework Form) that initiates all consultant task orders. The Environmental Planner then reviews the task order scope of work and fee received from the consultant. The Environmental Planner will seek assistance from the appropriate technical disciplines within Environmental Planning as part of this review. It is important to ensure adequate/necessary analysis, compliance, and documentation based on the scope of work and predicted impact for the project. 

On projects for which the LPA is allowed to administer design, Environmental Planning is available to help the LPA by performing courtesy reviews of consultant scope and man-hour estimates. These can result in time and cost savings to the LPA. A degree of State-funded staff charges are allowed for Environmental Planners to assist in preliminary scoping advice, scope of work definition or cost proposal development. ADOT Environmental Planning can help “right-size” the project scope of work for environmental review activities and costs.

Changes in project scope can precipitate the need for additional environmental analysis or re-evaluation. The timing to secure additional funding can become the critical path for the environmental analysis and the entire project schedule so careful planning of financial resources is of the utmost importance.

Environmental Planning maintains a position on the Project Review Board (PRB). Project Managers will represent the Project Teams for all project issues coming before the PRB and should coordinate with the project Environmental Planner ahead of the meeting for any issues to be brought forth to PRB related to scope, schedule and budget of environmental issues.   Environmental Planning will assist the Project Manager in helping to resolve any environmental issues in order to secure federal funding authorizations.

QA/QC Plan

The ADOT Environmental Planning Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) Plan provides QA and QC procedures, CE Assignment MOU requirements, and processes for environmental document review and approval.

Right of Way Group - Extended Information

The Right of Way Group’s responsibility is to be the acquiring agency of the Arizona Department of Transportation in acquiring all real property and real property rights required for the construction and maintenance of all federal and state highways, maintenance facilities, material sites, and other highway related purposes: and to act as the administrative agency of the Arizona Department of Transportation in all matters relating to the management and disposal of Department owned excess real property and the administration and management of relocation Assistance Program.  Additionally, the Right of Way Group is responsible for oversight, review and approvals of the right of way processes performed by local agencies throughout the state.

Sections within the Right of Way Group

Administration Section

The highest level of management, oversight and approval authority of the Right of Way Group. Providing leadership, guidance, direction, schedules, standards, regulations, policies and procedures to meet the Department’s strategic goals. Ensures Right of Way Manual is on-line, current and certified by FHWA every five years.

Plans Section

Responsible for the technical management of and the production of right-of-way surveys, plans, staking, monumentation, acquisition documents, condemnation exhibits and resolution plats for Transportation Board resolutions.

Titles Section

Responsible for the technical management of and preparation of property title reports, existing right of way reports, resolutions of establishments and disposal for approval by the State Transportation Board.  Prepare data for the Attorney General’s office when condemnation proceedings are required.

Project Management Section

Responsible for coordinating and monitoring the project activities of the Right of Way Group for timely acquisition of rights of way.  Perform appraisals and review appraisals for property acquisition.  Is also responsible for the “Red Letter” program, Advance Acquisition program and the Local Public Agency Assistance program.

Acquisition Section

Responsible for the technical management and performance of right-of-way negotiations including acquisition and relocation, and for agreements with other public agencies.  When required, initiates condemnation action to obtain right-of-way by eminent domain.

Operations Section

Responsible for processing and maintaining payment and accounting documentation of all Right of Way Group expenditures, general record keeping, inventory and requisition of equipment and supplies.  Provide management, control and storage of permanent right of way files.  Provide Right of Way Group with Consultant Contract Unit.

Property Management Section

Responsible for inventory of all land owned and controlled by the Department of Transportation.  Clearing right of way for construction projects, testing for and abatement of asbestos demolition activities.  Lease acquired property in accordance with construction schedule.  Implementing the disposal process for parcels of excess land.

Five Items a PM Should Know about Right of Way

Project Managers can learn more about working with Right-of-Way by clicking the attachment below or visiting their website at Right of Way.

Five Items ADOT Project Managers Should Know About Right Of Way

Advance Acquisition of Right of Way

When Federal funds for right of way are involved on a state highway project, advance right of way acquisition requires prior approval of the Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Division Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.  On state highway projects with no Federal-aid involved in right of way costs, the ADOT Director may authorize advance acquisition. In either case, acquisition of the land may be authorized within the adopted preliminary corridor utilizing the funds allocated by the State Transportation Board through the Priority Program.

When there is no Federal funding involved in right of way costs, advance acquisition may be carried out by a local public agency after an approved route plan has been adopted by the governing board of the agency.  If Federal funds are used for right of way costs, advance acquisition must be specifically authorized on a parcel-by-parcel basis by the Federal Highway Administration.

In all instances, advance acquisition should take place only if it is necessary to prevent significant development in the corridor, to relieve financial hardships on property owners, or if property owners are suffering an undue hardship because their property is in the designated corridor. 

Advance right of way acquisition may take place until normal project acquisition begins.  This may cover a period of several months to several years.

Right of Way Activities

Following receipt of required sufficient location information, the Right of Way Group is responsible for obtaining any temporary rights of entry for activities necessary for preparing the project scoping studies.  Such activities may include geotechnical investigations, hazardous material or toxic waste investigations and archaeological inspection.

Also during the Project Scoping Phase, preliminary right-of-way requirements are determined and assessed for probable acquisition costs and potential acquisition problems.  Information from this evaluation assists the Project Team in comparing possible solutions to the project.

The Right of Way Group representation on the project team will provide the basis for cost estimating future proposed Right of Way associated with preliminary right of way requirements.

In some rare instances, advanced acquisition (or early acquisition) of required right of way becomes feasible. 

The Scoping project manager is responsible for coordinating the planning and scoping of right of way activities with those of other involved technical units.

Right-of-Way Appraisal

An appraisal is required by law when ADOT intends to purchase land and/or property rights. An appraisal is a comprehensive report that establishes a professional opinion of the value of the impacted land and the intended area of acquisition. Appraisals completed for ADOT must undergo a comprehensive review by an ADOT Review Appraiser.

Request for Right-of-Way Clearance

The Right of Way Clearance for each Design project is developed by the Right of Way Project Management Section of the Right of Way Group. The Final Right of Way Clearance can only be completed after all the Design requirements have been finalized and all the parcels required by ADOT have been properly acquired.


The timeline of the entire Right of Way process consists of several schedules with timelines within it. The Right of Way process requires several steps or phases to complete and consists of several products and services which require no less than twelve months and most often several more months to complete.

Uniform Act

The Uniform Act, passed by Congress in 1970, is a federal law that established minimum standards for federally funded programs and projects that require the acquisition of real property (real estate) or displace persons from their homes, businesses, or farms.


Each of the several Sections within the Right of Way Group monitor the products and services within their respective Section but the Right of Way Coordinators working in the Right of Way Project Management Section are responsible for the monitoring the schedules, products and services provided by all the Sections within the Right of Way Group. The Right of Way Coordinators ultimately develop and provide the Right of Way Clearance.


The Right of Way Group must follow an established process when completing abandonments or turnbacks of right of way not required by ADOT. Abandonments must be approved and finalized by the State Transportation Board.

Issue Resolution

Depending on the complexity and/or the severity of the circumstances, the Right of Way Group can approach Issue Resolution by multiple means. Less complicated circumstances may be resolved by improved communication or by Administrative Settlements, while the most complicated issues may require use of the formal Condemnation process.

Financial Considerations

The Right of Way Group follows both State and Federal laws throughout the entire right of way process.

Example Clearances

Local Public Agency - Extended Information

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) delegates authority to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to administer federal funded local public agency (LPA) projects through the FHWA and ADOT Stewardship and Oversight Agreement for Arizona. ADOT and FHWA’s Arizona Division follow the provisions and oversight responsibilities outlined in the agreement to implement the Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP)

Local Public Agency staff provides information and guidance to assist LPAs (i.e., counties, cities, towns, and tribal governments) with projects funded under the FAHP, from planning to final acceptance. Staff will also assist helping a project manager understand policies and procedures the LPA projects must follow and provide references to important contact and resources throughout the project development process.

During the different phases of the project development process, LPA projects are planned, programmed, designed, constructed, and accepted accordingly.  LPA staff will provide the project manager with key documents and identifying and prioritizing projects as well as the taking the lead on the following:

  • Securing documentation that the project is listed in the ADOT STIP and the regional TIP so it is eligible for federal funds.  
  • Working with the local stakeholder to clearly define the project scope of work including anticipated project costs and budget.
  • Initiating the project and the sub phases (example 01D and 01C) within Project Master.
  • Assisting with securing intergovernmental agreements for self-administered projects.
  • Attend monthly and/or quarterly Council of Governments (COG) and Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meetings. 

Once a project has been initiated, it is dispersed to the project manager to oversee. The project manager can reference the Local Public Agency website below for further guidance, documents and manuals.

Local Public Agency Section - Overview

Utility and Railroad Engineering - Extended Information

Roles and Responsibilities

Utility and Railroad Engineering is responsible for the coordination of all public utilities within the right of way.  The Project Designer/Utility Coordinator and URR roles and responsibilities in the utility clearance process can be found in sections 430–435 of the ADOT Dictionary of Standardized Work Tasks and within the URR's Utility Coordination Guide for Design Consultants.

  • The URR Section consists of the following functional subsections:
  • Utility Coordination (Project Management Group (PMG) and Local Public Agency (LPA))
  • Railroad Coordination and Railroad/Highway Crossing Safety Program
  • Utility Agreement Compliance
  • Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) Program

Before a project can be advertised for construction it must receive a utility clearance. The utility clearance certifies that all utility and railroad related concerns and conflicts have been addressed, such as no unexpected delays or expenses will occur during construction as a result of conflicts with utility or railroad facilities. This clearance is translated in the project plans and specifications that contain all the information needed by the contractor to prevent unforeseen issues involving utility facilities. An approved Utility Clearance Letter is required before the project can be obligated for funds or advertised for bids.

Utility Clearance Letter

URRs role regarding highway construction projects is directed toward one goal: the production of a Utility Clearance Letter. This letter is the result of a utility coordination process by URR to ensure that all utility and railroad related concerns have been addressed on the project in accordance with ADOT standards and guidelines.

Utility Clearance Overview

The utility clearance process involves identifying and coordinating with affected utility companies to avoid or address utility conflicts, and the completion of several documents, including the Utility Report and the Utility Special Provisions, a Utility Agreement, and the Utility Clearance Letter. Guidance for preparing utility clearances is provided online in the ADOT Part B: Dictionary of Standardized Work Tasks (sections 430 through 435), Dictionary of Standardized Work Tasks and URRs Utility Coordination Guide for Design Consultants. The project design team must comply with the URR Stage Submittal Checklist which can also be found in Appendix 1 of the Utility Coordination Guide for Design Consultants, the checklist will be reviewed for compliance by URR at each stage submittal.

Any project that lies within the right-of-way (ROW) of a federal-aid or a direct federal highway project and involves the installation of new utilities, or the retention, relocation, or adjustment of existing utilities, must follow Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines contained in 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 645 Utilities, which is available online. FHWA delegated authority to the state transportation department to enforce the utility clearance guidelines, but reviews and approves the state’s policies and procedures. Refer to the FHWA Utilities Program website and Program Guide for Utility Relocation and Accommodation on Federal-Aid Highway Projects website FHWA - Utilities.

Other policies and procedures regarding utilities and railroads may apply depending on the location and jurisdiction of the proposed project (e.g., Maricopa County Department of Transportation), and should be considered by the project design team during the utility clearance process.

Railroad activities are regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration and by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Clearance Timeline

The utility clearance process is ongoing throughout the design phase of the project as described in detail below.

Step 1: The utility clearance process starts immediately after the project design is initiated. During preparation of Stage I plans, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator is responsible for identifying each utility company with facilities within the project limits, establishing contact with the relevant utility companies, and preparing a Utility Report.

Within 30 days following notice to proceed (NTP), the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator must provide URR with an initial draft of a Utility Report that contains a list of all utility companies in the project area and each company’s contact person. Guidelines and a template for preparing Utility Reports are available online at Utility and Railroad Engineering.

Information regarding the utilities in the project area can be obtained from sources such as the permit logs that are maintained by ADOT, utility companies’ horizontal and vertical information, calling AZ811 (Arizona Blue Stake), and/or by using a Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) consultant for utility designation and potholing. Statewide utility permit logs are available through ADOT maintenance districts and through ADOT URR district utility coordinators. Also, some archived permit records are available at Utility and Railroad Engineering.

If a SUE consultant is being considered, the Project Designer should contact the project’s URR Utility Coordinator to initiate the process. For more information on SUE Request Requirements, see Helpful Links for URR SUE submittal checklists for designating and locating on URR website: Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) Checklists.

When the Stage I plans are complete, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator must send the plans to the relevant utilities to solicit comments. One set of the plans and a copy of each of the transmittal letters sent to the utilities must also be provided to the URR.

If a railroad is present in the project area, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator must request that URR make initial contact with the railroad company to obtain railroad information before the design kickoff meeting. The URR Railroad Liaison, rather than the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator, will coordinate with the railroad company. If a railroad is involved, the Stage I plans should also be sent to the URR Railroad Liaison. Note that the FHWA requires an executed Railroad Agreement at the time of plans, specifications, and estimates (PS&Es) approval; URR will coordinate with the railroad companies to execute the agreement. Obtaining a Railroad Agreement can be a lengthy process (approximately 2 years for major projects) and should be initiated as early as possible. For utility facilities within the railroad right of way, contact the railroad one call center for utility information. Such utilities are not always listed within the Blue Stake database.

Step 2: During the preparation of the 30% design plans (Stage II), utility information is further refined. At this point, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator updates the Utility Report to contain an updated initial utility cost evaluation for the relocation of utilities in conflict, as well as an identification of ROW necessary for utility relocations. When complete, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator must send the Stage II plans to the utility companies to solicit comments. One set of the plans and a copy of each of the transmittal letters sent to the utilities must be provided to the URR. If a railroad is involved, the plans should also be sent to the URR Railroad Liaison, who will coordinate with the railroad company.

Step 3: Between Stage II and 60% design plans (Stage III), utility conflicts should be identified. The information from the utilities obtained in Step 2 should be added to the plans and compared with the project design. It may be appropriate to modify the roadway design to avoid conflicts. If avoidance is not practical, the relocation process is initiated in accordance with the Guideline for Accommodating Utilities in the Right of Way.  A determination that the ROW is adequate for utility relocation and future maintenance access should also take place.

As part of the relocation process, URR will authorize the utility company to begin preliminary engineering design and request prior rights documents. It is the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator’s responsibility to review prior rights materials to ensure that they represent the areas of the project where utility relocations may be required. This information is then submitted to URR for review and verification of the prior rights. If the utility company has prior rights, then URR starts the Utility Agreement process to pay for relocation. Utility Agreements are processed by URR; the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator may be requested by URR to assist, if necessary. If the utility company does not have prior rights, URR will notify the utility company to relocate at its own expense, and a Utility Agreement is not needed unless the utility company requests that ADOT’s contractor complete their relocation. Utility Agreements can require several months to execute and they must be completed before the Utility Clearance Letter is issued and before the bid advertising date.

It is also during Step 3 that the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator must evaluate the ROW width with respect to the proposed utility relocations. If the ROW is inadequate, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator must advise URR and the ADOT Right-of-Way Group. If ROW acquisition is required, the utility relocation work must be coordinated with the ROW process to ensure that the utility relocation work will not delay the project from advertising on schedule. Finally, during this stage, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator should coordinate with all utilities in the project area to determine if any betterment projects are desired, such as the installation of sleeves. These betterments could be completed during the construction of the project at the utility’s expense. Any requests that are identified must be relayed to the URR coordinator so that they can be discussed further and the Utility Agreement procedures can be planned.  The decision to include betterments or make utility adjustments must be determined and the initial cost estimates provided no later than the Stage III submittal date.

Step 4: This step occurs during the preparation of Stage III plans. The Project Designer/Utility Coordinator should continue to refine the utility information and begin drafting the Utility Special Provisions. By the completion of Stage III plans, the updated Utility Report should include a listing of who is responsible for relocation work payment, mitigation measures listed by utility, a summary of meetings held with each utility, pothole data that has been requested and provided, any betterment requests, and a preliminary estimate of ADOT’s costs for utility relocation. Stage III plans must be sent to the utilities along with identification of areas of change such as ROW, cut and fill, slope conditions, or structure change that could affect the utilities’ planned activities. One set of the plans and a copy of each transmittal letter sent to the utilities must be sent to the URR. If railroads are involved, one copy of the plans and transmittal letter must also be provided to the URR Railroad Liaison who will coordinate with the railroad company.

An initial draft of the Utility Special Provisions must be submitted to URR for comment. The Special Provisions should include a list of relevant utility companies, a description of any utility conflicts, and details regarding any work required due to those utility conflicts. For more information on requirements for the Utility Special Provisions, see Section 434 of ADOT ITD’s Part B: Dictionary of Standardized Work Tasks or the URR’s Utility Coordination Guide for Design Consultants.

Step 5: During the preparation of the 95% design plans (Stage IV), the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator should coordinate with the utility companies and URR to fully define how utility conflicts will be resolved, including who is doing the work and who will pay for the work. At this time, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator must request relocation plans and schedules from all the utility companies that are being relocated, regardless of prior rights. This information is used by both the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator and URR to ensure that the relocation plans are compatible with roadway design and construction sequencing, and that relocation will not interfere with ADOT’s schedule. The utility companies’ relocation plans and schedules are also needed for preparation of the Utility Agreement. URR may request assistance from the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator in obtaining relocation plans and cost estimates from the utility companies so that Utility Agreements can be processed by URR in a timely manner.

During this stage the plans also need to review any on-site utility requirements and assure that those needs are met and addressed.  These agreements are often service agreements and not relocation agreements.

At this time, the Utility Report is finalized and includes a notification of approval from URR that utility company relocation plans are in conformance with the project design and standard ADOT procedures and practices. The Utility Report must also include the construction schedule for each utility and a final cost estimate for each utility with approved prior rights and/or betterments.

Step 6: Additionally, during the preparation of the Stage IV plans, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator drafts the Utility Clearance Letter and Utility Special Provisions and submits them to the URR coordinator and ADOT Project Manager for review. Refer to Section 434 of ADOT ITD’s Part B: Dictionary of Standardized Work Tasks or the URR’s Utility Coordination Guide for Design Consultants for more specific information on what to include in the Utility Special Provisions and Utility Clearance Letter.

Step 7: During Step 7, the Stage IV plans are sent by the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator to the utility companies for review and comment. One set of the plans and copies of the transmittal letters sent to the utilities must be sent to URR. If a railroad is within the project limits, an additional copy of the plans must be provided to the URR Railroad Liaison, who will coordinate with the railroad company.

Step 8: During Step 8, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator updates the Utility Special Provisions and Utility Clearance Letter, and submits the letter and backup documentation to the ADOT Project Manager for review. URR will verify the information and forward the Utility Clearance letter to ADOT’s Contracts and Specifications (C&S) Section and other appropriate parties. The Utility Clearance Letter certification must be received by C&S before the project is obligated for funds or advertised for bid. Projects will be advertised for bid once the following have been completed:

  • Environmental, ROW, and Utility clearances are approved
  • Utility Agreement has been executed
  • PS&E package is approved

Projects are advertised, bids opened, bids reviewed and certified, and awarded by the State Transportation Board. This process typically requires a minimum of 2½ months. Post-clearance activities are handled by URR; however, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator’s assistance may be called upon if conflicts arise during construction. 

Utility Agreements Coordination

Utility Agreements are needed between URR and each impacted utility company if utility relocation is required, and either the utility company has prior rights, or the utility company does not have prior rights but requests that ADOT’s contractor complete their relocation. The Utility Agreement process may begin as soon as the utility conflicts are identified and the prior rights are determined. If the utility company has prior rights, then URR starts the Utility Agreement process to pay for relocation. If the utility company does not have prior rights, URR will notify the utility company to relocate at its own expense, and a Utility Agreement is not needed unless the utility company requests that ADOT’s contractor complete their relocations. Utility Agreements are processed by URR, but the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator may be requested by URR to assist. It is the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator’s responsibility to verify the need for an Agreement and review prior rights materials to ensure that they represent the areas of the project where utility relocations may be required. URR requests and verifies utility’s prior rights after the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator’s review, and prepares and processes the Utility Agreements. Utility Agreements can require several months to process, and they must be completed before the Clearance Letter is issued and before the bid advertising date.

Authorization to Proceed

Once the Utility Agreement is executed, ROW has been acquired and demolition is complete, any environmental issues are resolved, and an encroachment permit is approved; URR will issue an authorization letter to the utility company indicating that relocation activities may begin.  URR will authorize the utility companies, regardless of prior rights status, when they can start design or construction. Authorizations must be given in writing and in all cases must be dated and signed with copies provided to appropriate individuals. If a verbal authorization is given, it must be followed up with a written authorization.

At this point, the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator should call a meeting to coordinate with the affected utility companies to establish actual field schedules and construction sequencing for relocation activities. This information is needed by the Project Designer/Utility Coordinator to prepare the final Utility Clearance Letter and Utility Special Provisions.

Financial Considerations


Projects receiving federal funding are subject to the policy requirements for utility relocations, adjustments, and reimbursements defined by FHWA in 23 CFR Part 645.


Projects receiving federal funding are subject to the regulations for highway projects involving railroads defined in 23 CFR 646.

Helpful Links