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Iowa State Highway Right-of-Way (3-IA-c)

In Iowa, a developer may need a Utility Permit from the Iowa Department of Transportation (“IOWADOT”) to construct utility structures in a state highway right-of-way. The developer must obtain this Permit prior to starting any construction that would encroach on a state highway’s right-of-way. I.C. § 318.8. IOWADOT also provides developers a Utility Policy Guidebook to aid in their understanding of IOWADOT’s utility permitting process.


State Highway Right-of-Way Process

3-IA-c.1 to 3-IA-c.3 – Will the Project Cross or Impact a County Road?

If the developer’s project will cross or impact a county road, the developer must obtain the county’s approval of the project. The developer should contact that county, and give details of the project. If the county does not approve of the project, the developer must consider alternative locations. The developer should obtain the county’s approval prior to submitting a Permit Application (“Application”) to IOWADOT.

I.A.C. § 761.115.8(1)(b).

3-IA-c.4 to 3-IA-c.6 – Will the Project Fall Within the Corporate Limits of a City?

If the developer’s project will fall within the corporate limits of a city, the developer must obtain the city’s approval of the project. The developer should contact that city, and give details of the project. If the city does not approve of the project, the developer must consider alternative locations. The developer should obtain the city’s approval prior to submitting an Application to IOWADOT.

I.A.C. § 761.115.8(1)(b).

Note: If the project will take place entirely within the corporate limits of a city, the developer will only need the city’s approval of the project, and will not need to obtain a Permit from IOWADOT.

3-IA-c.7 – Contact IOWADOT

Once the developer has the necessary approvals discussed above, the developer should contact IOWADOT about the project. IOWADOT has six (6) district offices, and the developer should contact the IOWADOT engineering operations technician (“EOT”) of the district in which the project will take place. A list of IOWADOT district offices can be found on the IOWADOT Utility Accommodation and Coordination Website.

3-IA-c.8 to 3-IA-c.11 - Utility Permit Application

Once the developer has contacted the IOWADOT district EOT, the developer should complete the appropriate Application and submit it to that EOT. I.A.C. § 761.115.1(a); I.A.C. § 761.115.8(1)(b). The Applications can be found on the IOWADOT Utility Accommodation and Coordination Website, or the developer can request the EOT to send a copy of the appropriate Application.

Along with the Application, the developer should submit a project plan to the IOWADOT district EOT. This project plan should show the following:

  • The location of the utility facility by route, county, section, township, range, milepost and highway stationing;
  • The highway centerline and right-of-way limits;
  • The location of the utility facility by distance to the nearest foot at each point where the facility's location changes alignment, as measured from the:
    • Centerline of the highway on non-freeway installations;
    • Right-of-way fence on freeway installations;
  • All construction details including the:
    • Depth of burial (if applicable);
    • Types of materials to be used in the installation;
    • Operating pressures and voltages;
    • Vertical and horizontal clearances; and
    • A traffic control plan prepared by a person knowledgeable in work zone traffic control, or a reference to a standard IOWADOT traffic control plan.

I.A.C. § 761.115.8(3).

If the developer’s project will discharge materials into the nation’s waters, the Application submitted must be accompanied by satisfactory evidence of compliance with all applicable federal, state and local environmental statutes, ordinances and regulatory standards. I.A.C. § 761.115.8(4)(a).

After receiving an Application, IOWADOT will review the Application for completeness. If the Application is not complete, IOWADOT may return the Application to the developer, requesting the developer provide the missing information.

If the Application is complete, IOWADOT has thirty (30) days to review the Application and return their decision to the developer. If the Application is submitted as an “emergency” situation, IOWADOT will act on the Application as “expeditiously as practical.” I.A.C. § 761.115.8(5).

3-IA-c.12 – Does IOWADOT Approve of Project?

Once an Application is received, IOWADOT will review and make a decision whether to approve the Application, approve the Application with additional conditions, or deny the Application. I.A.C. § 761.115.1(4)(a). The decision must be sent to the developer in writing. Some considerations IOWADOT will take into account when making a determination include:

  • The safety of motorists, pedestrians, construction workers and other highway users;
  • The integrity of the highway;
  • The rights of the traveling public and of property owners, including the rights of abutting property owners; and
  • The topography and geometric limitations and constraints affecting typical construction standards.

I.A.C. § 761.115.1(3).

If IOWADOT determines that an additional agreement is necessary in addition to the Permit, and the developer and IOWADOT must agree to the additional conditions of the agreement. This additional agreement is not the Permit, and the developer must still obtain a Permit from IOWADOT before commencing work. Once a Permit is acquired, the additional agreement will be attached to and become part of the Permit. I.A.C. § 761.115.4(2).

3-IA-c.13 to 3-IA-c.15 – Submit Petition for Waiver

If IOWADOT denies the Application or requires an additional condition for approval, the developer may choose to request a waiver from the Director of Transportation (“Director”). If the developer chooses to pursue a waiver, the developer must submit a written petition to the Rules Administrator, Office of Policy and Legislative Services, Iowa Department of Transportation, 800 Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa 50010. I.A.C. § 761.11.5(3).

The petition must be signed and dated by the developer, and at the top of the petition, it must clearly state that it is a “petition for waiver of a rule.” The developer should include relevant information in its waiver petition, including:

  • The name, address and telephone number of the developer, and any license, permit or case number applicable to the requested waiver;
  • A description of and citation to the specific rule from which a waiver is requested;
  • The specific waiver requested, including its scope and duration;
  • The relevant facts and reasons the developer believes would justify the requested waiver, including:
    • Why applying the rule will result in an undue hardship to the developer;
    • Why waiving the rule will not prejudice the substantial legal rights of any other person;
    • Whether another statute or law other than the rule to be waived specifically mandates the provisions of the rule; and
    • How equal protection of the public health, safety, and welfare will be afforded by means other than those prescribed by the rule;
  • A history of any prior contacts between the developer and IOWADOT that are related to the requested waiver;
  • Whether the developer is currently a party to a rule making, declaratory order, contested case, judicial proceeding, or any other proceeding related to the requested waiver;
  • Information regarding IOWADOT’s treatment of similar situations (if applicable);
  • The name, address and telephone number of any public agency or political subdivision that also regulates the activity in question or that may be affected if the waiver were granted;
  • The name, address and telephone number of any person or entity that may be adversely affected if the waiver were granted;
  • The name, address and telephone number of any person who has knowledge of facts relevant to the requested waiver; and
  • Releases authorizing persons with knowledge of relevant facts to furnish that information to IOWADOT;

I.A.C. § 761.11.5(2).

Once IOWADOT receives a petition, it will acknowledge its receipt to the developer. The Director then issues a written decision to grant or deny the waiver within one hundred twenty (120) days after the petition is received by IOWADOT. I.A.C. § 761.11.6(1). If the matter is also subject of a contested case proceeding, the Director may wait until a final decision is issued for that case, before making a decision to grant or deny the waiver request. I.A.C. § 761.11.6(3). If the Director does not grant or deny the waiver within the required time, it will be considered a denial of the waiver request. I.A.C. § 761.11.6(6). Any decision by the Director on the waiver request is final. I.A.C. § 761.11.6(7).

The Director may grant the waiver if the Director finds, based on clear and convincing evidence, that:

  • The application of the rule will pose an undue hardship on the developer;
  • The waiver will not prejudice the substantial legal rights of any person;
  • The provisions of the rule subject to waiver are not specifically mandated by statute or another provision of law, and the waiver will not cause a denial of federal funds; and
  • Equal protection of the public health, safety and welfare will be afforded by means other than that prescribed in the rule.

I.A.C. § 761.11.3(2).

Once the Director makes a decision on the waiver request, IOWADOT sends the developer a written response to the developer’s petition. The response will contain:

  • The name of the person to whom the decision pertains;
  • A citation to the rule or portion thereof to which the decision pertains and a brief summary of the rule’s requirements that are pertinent to the requested waiver.
  • The relevant facts and reasons upon which the decision is based. If a waiver is granted, the decision must include the findings set out above;
  • The scope and duration of the waiver if one is granted; and
  • Any other conditions placed on the waiver if one is granted.

I.A.C. § 761.11.4(1).

3-IA-c.16 – Pay Performance Bond (If Applicable)

If IOWADOT approves the developer’s Application, or if the Director grants the developer a waiver, IOWADOT may require the developer to pay a performance bond to guarantee prompt restoration of any damage that is the result of the developer’s occupancy of the highway right of way. I.A.C. § 761.115.4(4). A performance bond is required for longitudinal freeway occupancy. There are other circumstances where IOWADOT may decide a performance bond is needed, such as an abnormal site conditions, unusual installations, or the developer has a history of performance problems. I.A.C. § 761.115.4(4).

If a performance bond is required, the developer shall file the bond with IOWADOT prior to commencing the project. The bond will be in force for the duration of the Permit. The minimum bond amount required is $5,000, but IOWADOT may decide that a higher amount is needed. I.A.C. § 761.115.4(4).

3-IA-c.17 to 3-IA-c.18 – Utility Permit

After the Application has been approved by IOWADOT and the developer has paid the performance bond (if required), IOWADOT will issue the developer a Permit, granting the developer rights to conduct the project within the highway’s right-of-way. The developer must have a copy of the Permit at the project site at all times. I.A.C. § 761.115.8(7).

The developer must submit an as-built plan or letter to IOWADOT within ninety (90) days after the completion of construction, certifying that the actual placement of the utility facility is as described in the original Permit. I.A.C. § 761.115.8(8)(a). If the developer fails to submit the as-built plan, IOWADOT may hire an independent contract to prepare an as-built drawing of the project, and the developer will be responsible for the costs of the independent contractor. I.A.C. § 761.115.8(8)(b). The developer will be responsible for making any changes necessary to ensure that the project conforms to the description in the Permit. Any changes the developer wishes to make to the project described in the Permit must first be approved by IOWADOT. I.A.C. § 761.115.8(6).


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Contact Information









Edit Iowa Department of Transportation
Transportation Safety, Utilities, and Access Management - Supervisor (515) 239-1267 Visit Website


Edit Iowa Department of Transportation
Transportation Safety, Utilities, and Access Management - Utility Relocation Coordinator (515) 239-1373 Visit Website


Edit Iowa Department of Transportation
Transportation Safety, Utilities, and Access Management - State Utility Engineer (515) 239-1014 Visit Website