by Rich Grady, President

Most people agree that recovering quickly from a damaging event is important. Perhaps fewer agree in the wisdom of investing wisely ahead of time to mitigate the risks of damage before it occurs — or if they do agree, it tends to focus on the merit of physical infrastructure improvements.  Damage can be from natural or manmade disasters, and can be major or minor in terms of disruption to our transportation network and the cost of workarounds and repairs. One investment that is not always thought of in this context, or at least not first, is in Right-of-Way (ROW) Management. Investment in mapping Rights of Way has real ROI, as calculated by AppGeo for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans).

State DOTs own a lot of land.  Most of it was acquired in support of transportation infrastructure plans and projects, and it is a valuable asset — one of the few that actually appreciates in value over time.  And yet, not many DOTs manage it as an asset in the same way other assets are managed. Most ROW data are stored as files in a project-centric manner, and are not easily discoverable by a variety of potential users who may benefit from access.  And it may not be easy to answer the questions, “How much do we own, and how much did we invest?”

In part due to project-centric data storage, many DOTs spend a lot of money re-surveying ROW that was previously surveyed, when the original records are not easily discoverable.  The re-survey may be driven by a new project that geographically overlaps an earlier project. If you took the cost of re-surveying a mile of ROW, and multiplied this by the number of miles that get unnecessarily re-surveyed every year, it would be a substantial sum in most states.  And this does not include the time lost from not having rapid access to existing ROW data.

In terms of resiliency, time lost finding ROW data when you need it can result in other unnecessary costs besides re-surveying, such as delays in determining detour alternatives that may be within the ROW, or areas where equipment, materials, and debris could be placed within the ROW.  When ROW data is easily discoverable and georeferenced, statewide, it helps paint the full picture in any location where damage might occur. This can not only save time, but could avoid the cost of reparations to landowners for trespassing on private land adjacent to DOT land, when ROW alternatives might have been available.

When thinking about ways to enhance resiliency, investing in an inventory of ROW drawings, and integrating them into enterprise asset and data management strategies pays dividends when a damaging event occurs in the future. Not only will your readiness improve, but so will enterprise efficiency!