Over, Under, Through, Across: A Right of Way Rule of Thumb

Faye Gillespie, Right-of-Way Specialist, WSB

Ensuring we have the necessary land rights is the first step that we take on all public and private projects. A simple way to determine if you need to consult the Right of Way Department for a new project is to ask the following question:

Does the project or the people who will be working on it have to go over, under, through, or across any land that is not currently owned by your client either temporarily or permanently?

Over: The Right of Way Department often must acquire land for overhead easements and projects that include things like telephone lines, electrical transmission or distribution lines, and other utilities. You may not install anything overhead that crosses private property without an easement providing the right to do so.

Under: Sewer lines, along with various other utilities, are often installed under someone’s land. Whether you need to dig up or directionally bore under private property, installing something under the land requires that rights must be acquired from the property owner.

Through: Any project requiring any access to travel through – or work in/on – any private property requires land rights.

Across: Anything installed across private property, either permanently or temporarily, also requires the right of way process be followed. Sidewalks, trails, roads, and light rail are all great examples of projects that may go across private property.

The Right of Way Department needs to be involved as early as possible on any project that must go over, under, through, or across private land. We follow all federal and state processes when acquiring land for projects. This process can be complicated and take time, but it is critical that we abide by and comply with the law.

Additionally, if federal funding is involved with any aspect of the project, we must act in accordance with the Uniform Act when purchasing land rights from property owners. Not following that process could risk federal funding being rescinded.

Stepping onto private property at any time without the appropriate rights to do so – even temporarily – leaves clients open to both legal and civil consequences.

We provide our clients with the technical excellence and quality projects they deserve. In the Right of Way Department, we are also indebted to our landowners. We must treat landowners fairly and lawfully, and always provide them with just compensation for the land rights our clients need. To maintain this standard of excellence, we always apply the Over, Under, Through, Across rule to all projects from the very beginning.

Related Insights

We've got our eyes on the horizon.

All Insights