ITD shares right-of-way expertise with Wyoming DOT

Officials in Wyoming are working with private industry to accommodate demands of fiber optic communications in highway right-of-ways. What are the advantages? The limitations? How can contracts of mutual benefit be developed?

So many questions. But where to find answers?

WYDOT found those answers in its neighboring state to the west and Robert Linkhart.

At the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s (WYDOT) invitation and expense, Linkhart traveled to Cheyenne, Wyo., on July 17 to explain how ITD negotiated right-of-way use for fiber optic facilities and lessons learned in the process.

Linkhart, a subject matter specialist on rail and utilities, met with WYDOT’s chief engineer and personnel representing information technology, design, and utilities in the morning. He met and individually with other personnel in the afternoon.

He said Idaho and Wyoming have many common challenges, ranging from a rural environment and sparsely populated areas, resource needs, right-of-way installations, relationships with Native American tribal government and invasive plant species.

Like Idaho, Wyoming is making a commitment to improve statewide communication through use of its highway right-of-way. Such uses can be viewed as a competing interest, especially with the plethora of requests from utility companies. But Linkhart considers right-of-way use as complementing transportation, not competing with it.

“Transportation is more than just vehicles and pedestrians,” he explains. “Transportation includes data, communication, water, sewer, gas … Our concern is how to plan for that use and accommodate all of the demands,” he explains.

ITD has developed a good plan for serving those growing needs over the years, he added.

His assistance – and ITD’s progressive approach – drew praise from officials at the WYDOT. Delbert A. McOmie, chief engineer, expressed his appreciation in a letter to ITD Director Brian Ness.

“I want to thank you for allowing Robert Linkhart of your utilities section to travel to Cheyenne and share Idaho’s experiences, procedures, and lessons learned from allowing fiber optic facilities within the interstate rights-of-way. Governor Matthew Mead has made increased statewide connectivity through fiber optic expansion a priority for his administration. The Wyoming Department of Transportation is looking at this option as fiber facilities are now being placed in Colorado’s I-25 right-of-way at our southern border.

In our research earlier this year, we had determined that Idaho had handled this in a manner which we are contemplating following. Having Mr. Linkhart educate us was invaluable in helping us determine our course and helping to avoid the pitfalls of ‘reinventing the wheel.’

The ability to share with a fellow Department of Transportation shows what can be accomplished with a free exchange of information and a commitment to working together for providing a better transportation system for the traveling public and in negotiating with utility companies across state boundaries.”

Delbert A. McOmie, P.E.
Chief Engineer

Linkhart is a member of ITD’s Resource Center located at Headquarters. The Resource Center and its personnel assist districts and HQ sections in environmental planning and right-of-way services, research and expert support in hydraulics, roadway geometrics, geotechnics and other similar services. It was created as part of the realignment process and is under the direction of Resource Center Engineer Nestor Fernandez.

Wyoming’s request for advice falls in line with a challenge Director Ness issued to ITD employees early in his tenure. He said one measure of our drive to become the best transportation department in the country is to have other DOTs seek our expertise and experience – to use ITD as a model of success.

Sharing that expertise and experience with colleagues in Wyoming represents another step in ITD’s continuing quest to be the best.

Published 7-27-2012