TXDOT maintains 79,000 miles of roads, more than any other state in the country. According to the 2020 United States Census, Texas added the most people of any state in the country from 2010-2020 with an increase to its population of 3,999,94. With data like that, it is easy to understand that a road construction project is likely coming to a neighborhood near all Texas property owners. Before property owners are contacted by TXDOT or its third-party right-of-way agents, they often learn of a road construction project from the news media, neighbors, or social media. In response, impacted owners often want to know what is going to happen next. The phases of a TXDOT road construction project are:
- Project Initiation, which includes coordinating with local governments, budgeting costs and funding, and staffing.
- Preliminary Engineering and Design, which sets the project configuration and includes environmental assessments, geotechnical studies, and traffic studies.
- Environmental Compliance. This occurs throughout the project.
- Plans, Specifications and Estimate Development (PS&E), which includes approval of engineering plans, specifications, estimates, and releasing the project for construction.
- Right of Way and Utilities. This is when TXDOT acquires the private property needed for the project, either through the offer process or disposition during the condemnation lawsuit.
- Letting and Award, which consists of contractor bidding and selection.
A project may be broken into smaller projects or segments. For example, the I-35 Capital Express project in and around Austin is divided into North, Central, and South projects. Currently, the North project is in the right of way phase with construction estimated to start in 2022, while the Central project is in the design and environmental phase with construction estimated to start in 2025.
TXDOT offers multiple resources to inform the public about its construction projects. Its website, www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/project, has pages with information about each of its projects. Public Meetings are held throughout the planning process to give and gather input. Public Hearings, which occur after the final design of the road, are formal and include a presiding officer, and a complete record. TXDOT also offers Open Houses with presentations and the opportunity to meet with TXDOT staff. The schedule for TXDOT’s meetings, hearings, and open houses is found here – Schedule (txdot.gov).
The quickest way to information about any of TXDOT’s projects is to contact our office. Condemnation and eminent domain law is our sole and exclusive area of practice. Therefore, tracking all of TXDOT’s projects is part of our focus on representing property owners.
Property owners are contacted by TXDOT or its third-party right of way agent about the acquisition of their property during the Right of Way phase. It starts with a written notice sent directly to the property owner and is followed by TXDOT’s appraiser conducting an appraisal of the property that will form the basis of TXDOT’s offer to acquire it. TXDOT’s appraiser will contact the property owner to request information and to inspect the property. Property owners are not obligated to communicate with TXDOT’s appraiser, and the appraisal process will continue regardless of an owner’s participation. Once TXDOT’s appraisal is complete, the acquisition process begins with TXDOT presenting its initial offer letter to acquire the subject property.
McFarland’s lawyers counsel and consult owners at every phase of the TXDOT construction process, and welcome inquiries at any time into the status of projects and its impact on your property.