Relocation of Utilities for State Highway Construction
Most Tennessee cities have utilities located in a state highway right-of-way. When the relocation of such utilities is required for state highway improvements, cities may be required to pay for the relocation. The relocation may be very expensive for a city, and such expenses are often not anticipated and budgeted. Under the provisions of T.C.A. § 54-5-804, cities may request that the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation include the cost of relocating utilities on state rights-of-ways as part of construction cost. If federal highway funds are being used to fund the project, such cost may be approved by the commissioner.
Notification to the City
T.C.A. § 54-5-853 provides that the department of transportation notify the city with utilities occupying the rights-of-way of proposed construction of highway improvements by certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the designated representative of the city.
Within 60 days following the receipt of notice from the department, the owner informs the department, in care of the person sending the notice at the address listed in the notice, whether or not it is the owner of the utility facilities and if so, the type of utility service, description and general location of each facility.
For each owner who receives a notice and does not respond to the department within 60 days as to whether or not the owner has utility facilities at the highway location described in the notice, the department provides a second notice by certified mail, return receipt requested.
Within 10 days following the receipt of the second notice from the department, any owner notified informs the department, in care of the person sending the second notice at the address listed in the notice, whether or not it is the owner of the utility facilities and if so, the type of utility service, description and general location of each facility.
The failure of an owner to comply with this section creates a presumption that it is not an owner, and the department and its contractor may then undertake construction without liability to the owner for damages to the owner’s utility facilities, and in addition, the owner is liable to the department’s contractor for damages resulting from the failure.
Relocation of Utilities by the Department
The department’s contractor is liable for any damages negligently inflicted to the city’s utilities. If the city fails to comply with required provisions, the contractor, with consent of the department, may undertake construction without liability to the city for damages to the city’s utilities, and the city is liable to the contractor for damages resulting from the failure.