With all the attention over the Crain Avenue bridge thanks to last week’s CSX train derailment I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the status of the bridge replacement. The City and County are in the process of replacing the Crain Avenue bridge but trust me, hitting the bridge with a train was not part of the planned demolition process. You won’t find train demo anywhere on our project Gantt charts. What you would find is completion of the preliminary engineering, wrapping up of the right of way acquistion phase and bids being prepared for advertisement this winter so that a contract could be awarded early next year to begin what will likely be a 2 year construction contract.
The design and engineering phases were substantially complete this summer (see the images here) which meant that it was time to get into the right of way acquisition phases in the fall. The project activities over the last 3-4 months have been dominated by the right of way aquisition and that has put a number of land purchases for the bridge project on City Council’s agenda.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is a County bridge located in the City limits that is relying on federal, state and local funds to be replaced which means there’s a long list of partners on this project. Ultimately, because it’s in the City, we take the lead on the local issues, like buying land from affected property owners. And although it’s a lot of work, I think it’s probably a good thing since the local government is usually in a better position to understand and work with affected property owners than an engineer sitting in Columbus or Washington DC.
That means that the property purchases get processed through City Council but that doesn’t mean that City Council foots the entire bill. We only pay our proportional share which in right of way acquisition turns out to be 10%. Yet because the purchase is required to be approved by the local agency, in this case our City Council, the process can be confusing. With that in mind our City Engineer, Jim Bowling has provided a good summary of the right of way process.
RIGHT OF WAY
SUMMARY FROM JIM BOWLING, CITY ENGINEER
In light of the recent questions regarding acquisition for public improvements utilizing Federal dollars (ie Fairchild Avenue Bridge) the following is a short synopsis of the process required by any local agency to acquire property to construct an infrastructure project.
Public Right-of-Way is the land available for public use such as roads, bridges, bikeways and utilities. This land is seen as being necessary for the public good. Once a piece of property is determined necessary to complete a federally funded infrastructure project the following is required.
Step 1 – Complete an appraisal of the property value: There are several different types of appraisals. The types vary depending on the value of the property to be acquired. More expensive properties require more work in the appraisal process to determine the value. A Summary Appraisal Report is required when acquiring a complete property (building and land). The Summary Appraisal Report looks at different approaches when determining the value for the property. These include a COST APPROACH (components of the property can be valued based on the amount they contribute to the whole property); a SALES COMPARISON APPROACH (comparable properties of similar utility and appeal are analyzed); a INCOME APPROACH (value based on income).
Step 2 – Review appraisal of the property: Once the appraisal is completed a “third party” independent appraiser is required to review the appraisal. This is required to make certain that federal money is not abused in obtaining land and that the property owners are fairly compensated for the lost property. The review helps to ensure that the fair market value estimates include all pertinent facts and that the fair market value is realistic.
Step 3 – Local agency review: Once the appraisal is completed and reviewed the Local Public Agency approves the appraisal to be offered to the owner. The local public agency can not arbitrarily change the offer. The review is performed only to verify that the appraisal correctly interpreted the proposed needs of the project.
Step 4 – Notifying the Owner: The owner is then notified of the value of their property to be acquired.
Step 5 – Negotiations: After the initial offer the owner has the right to review the appraisals and contest any appraisal by obtaining their own from a qualified appraiser. The owner may suggest a counter offer, however the Local Public Agency does not have the authority to accept any offer without approval of the State Agency overseeing the funds (ODOT). Increases in the initial offer may be determined appropriate due to errors in the appraisals, an appraisal provided by the owner or to keep from appropriating the property (ie going to court).
Step 6A – Mutual agreement on a price: All accepted offers require approvals from State Agency overseeing the funds (ODOT).
– or –
Step 6B – Appropriation: If a mutually agreeable price can not be determined the Local Public Agency must appropriate the property. The Local Public Agency deposits a check with the courts for the amount of the reviewed appraisal and the court grants the agency the right to obtain the property to complete the necessary improvements for the public good. The ensuing court case then determines the appropriate value of the property and that amount is paid to the owner.
Lastly, only ODOT pre-qualified appraisers, review appraisers, negotiators, managers and relocation assistants may mange and implement the right-of-way acquisition process. The City of Kent (and most Local Public Agencies) has no ODOT pre-qualified right-of-way personnel on staff. Therefore we are required to use outside consultants when acquiring property for a federally funded project.
As can be seen the process is overseen at every critical juncture. The Local Public Agency is the engine that moves that acquisition through the process however it has minimal say in determining the final price for any land.
JIM ON RIGHT OF WAY FUNDING
For the Fairchild Avenue Bridge Project we are receiving funds from two separate sources with 2 separate matching amounts. These are listed below:
AMATS STP Funds – 80% federal contribution with a 20% local match. Up to $1 million in federal funds available for R/W
State HSP Funds – 100% federal contribution with no local match. Up to $2.25 million available for R/W
The current estimate for R/W is $3.0 million, therefore the city’s percentage for R/W is just under 10%.