Our right-of-way GIS helps expedite decision-making processes.
Utah Department of Transportation Gains Multiple Benefits from Managing Its Right-of-Way with GIS
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) maintains almost 16,000 miles of state highway, which amounts to a multibillion-dollar investment in roads, bridges, and other assets, including thousands of acres of right-of-way (ROW). UDOT—as its predecessor, the Utah State Road Commission, began doing over 100 years ago—acquires property. This property acquisition process continues to move forward as the state's highway network expands to keep pace with Utah's significant population growth.
UDOT's central right-of-way geographic information system (GIS) team relies on its ROW GIS to inventory and map all property owned by UDOT. This, in return, has helped the state agency generate millions of dollars in surplus property revenue, eliminated hours of clerical work, reduced property ownership discrepancies, and streamlined cross-departmental collaboration.
ROW Management Rebuilt with GIS
The effort required to inventory the thousands of acres of property acquired over the past 100-plus years is significant. The state legislature provided the funding to create the right-of-way GIS team in 2019 so that it could identify surplus property and sell it to increase revenue. Along with two full-time professional GIS staff members, UDOT has a consultant that assists with digitizing old road scans and plans. Staff load the images into ArcGIS Image Server, which is used for web maps in support of various projects.
Additionally, the GIS staff use coordinate geometry (COGO) to digitize deeds into GIS based on the legal description. Once the properties exist in the ROW GIS, the GIS provides a link to the asset management database. Nightly, the extract, transform, and load (ETL) software, joins the two data sources and publishes it in UPlan, UDOT's internal and external open data site, and via an online map application. A significant effort goes into data quality and verification, as the team's colleagues across the organization need to trust the accuracy of this data so that they may make more informed decisions.
This multiyear data development project is ongoing— at it's halfway point they have completed a total of about 42,900 parcels and 112,818 acres. Other features the team maps include perpetual easements and areas of controlled access.
To make the entire land acquisition process digital, as of April 1, 2022, UDOT requires contractors to submit CAD data following the department's data submission standards to automate the data development process. Learn more about this on the UDOT website.
The True Value of a ROW GIS
With its ROW GIS, UDOT now knows what it owns and where it is and can manage these valuable assets with data-driven decisions to maximize their value. Staff understand how roads interact with surrounding parcels of land. As the team members have developed their ROW GIS, they have experienced many benefits, including being able to identify duplicate parcels. Duplicate parcels are pieces of land that UDOT has purchased more than once—that is, UDOT was not aware it already owned the land and unnecessarily repurchased it. With the ROW GIS supporting the land acquisition process, such mistakes are prevented.
The GIS team works closely with surplus property agents by identifying potential surplus properties to sell. With the ROW GIS, it is easy to visualize what the team members need and what they do not need, to decide what can be sold. Prior to the ROW GIS, the surplus property sales were paper based, with annual sales totaling between $1.5 million and $2 million. Now that the sales process is digital and powered by the ROW GIS, annual surplus property revenue averages about $32 million.
The surplus land transaction process includes these three steps supported by the ROW GIS:
- Staff work to understand any encumbrances or property rights associated with the land.
- Staff analyze the potential and actual future needs for the land for transportation purposes. UDOT has a responsibility to the public to not dispose of any property that it may need for future purposes.
- If the surplus property group members declare the property surplus after working through the entire process, they proceed with a real estate transaction. That transaction is process intensive because buyers and sellers want to ensure that they understand what they are getting/giving up. That means staff work with real estate brokers and agents, appraisers, land surveyors, engineering firms, environmental firms, title companies, and other governmental agencies (e.g., planning, environmental, traffic and safety, and the Federal Highway Administration).
The ROW GIS helps UDOT's surplus property professionals by removing barriers and streamlining processes as they manage large transaction-based workloads. GIS is fully integrated into the selling process, which includes maps and photos of the properties. This is a huge time savings for sales approvals because the process is collaborative. UDOT is divided into four regions, and each region must approve the sales in its region. The decision to approve the sale is much faster using the GIS data rather than having to review hundreds of pages of documents.
There are other benefits of the ROW GIS. UDOT's property has associated water rights, the right to use the water on the land. As the drought situation in the mountain states of the western worsens, the importance of water rights is increasing. The ROW GIS helps UDOT know where water rights are, where it has access rights, and how to better utilize them. Properties that UDOT does not currently use are often leased to residents and agricultural operations. UDOT uses its GIS to track and manage these leases. UDOT has a corridor preservation fund that allows the department to acquire property early in the project process to save time and money. The ROW GIS supports the land acquisition process. Part of that process supported by the GIS includes appraisals and comparable-property analysis. ROW GIS is also used by the state's rural broadband project staff; by the outdoor advertising group to verify location restrictions and permitting; and for project management.
ROW GIS: A Mission-Critical Enterprise Business System
Right-of-way is a valuable asset that should be managed with enterprise GIS to maximize its value. UDOT expanded its enterprise GIS to include its ROW to increase sales of surplus properties for more revenue. Along the way, staff have experienced many other benefits that easily justify the resources dedicated to this mission-critical enterprise business system. Learn more about how you can use GIS to map and manage your right-of-way.
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