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Tennessee State Highway Right-of-Way (3-TN-c)

In Tennessee, a developer of a utility facility must obtain a Tennessee Department of Transportation – Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement (Form 2015-01) from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to use or occupy a state highway right-of-way. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.04.


TDOT has the authority to regulate the use and occupancy of state highway right-of-ways by public and private utilities pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §4-3-2303(2) and Tennessee – Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1 et seq., Department of Transportation Rules and Regulations for Accommodating Utilities within Highway Rights-of-Way.


State Highway Right-of-Way Process

3-TN-c.1 to 3-TN-c.2 – Will Utility Facilities Encroach on a State Highway Right-of-Way?

A utility owner (developer) must apply for and execute a Utility Use and Agreement from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to install a new utility facility within a state highway right-of-way Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.02(1)(t); Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.04.

A utility owner is a “public agency, cooperative, corporation, company or individual named in the Use and Occupancy Agreement and responsible for the construction, operation and maintenance of a utility facility.” Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.02(kkk).

A utility facility includes “lines, pipes or other systems used… to transmit or distribute…electricity, gas, liquids, steam, sewerage, or other materials.” Tenn. Code Ann. §54-5-852(8).

3-TN-c.3 – Is the Project Exempt From a Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement?

A Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement is not required for:

  • Routine maintenance;
  • Adding cables to existing underground ducts;
  • Changing transformers in electric distribution lines;
  • Minor work such as reconductoring existing poles, or replacing poles;
  • Underground service connections when shoulder or pavement is not disturbed; and
  • Overhead service connections over conventional highways, but NOT freeway projects. Overhead service connections across freeway projects require TDOT approval.

Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.04(5).

3-TN-c.4 to 3-TN-c.5 – Contact TDOT for Preliminary Review (Optional)

The developer should contact TDOT’s Regional Utilities Engineer to arrange for a preliminary review of the highway facility and the proposed utility facility. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.05(1).

TDOT and the developer may conduct a preliminary review. During the preliminary review, TDOT reviews the proposed project and determines the scope of approvals required. TDOT may find it necessary to conduct a field inspection in order to determine the scope of approvals. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.05(1).

3-TN-c.6 to 3-TN-c.7 – Does the Project Require an Overhead Encroachment?

A developer must also submit an Overhead Encroachment Form with the Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement Application for proposed projects that require overhead power or communication encroachments on state highway right-of-ways. Overhead Encroachment Form.

3-TN-c.8 to 3-TN-c.9 – Does the Project Require an Underground Encroachment?

A developer must also submit an Underground Encroachment Form with the Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement Application for proposed projects that require overhead power or communication encroachments on state highway right-of-ways. Underground Encroachment Form.

3-TN-c.10 – Does the Project Qualify for a General Use and Occupancy Agreement?

If the developer is a utility that operates statewide and may require several use and occupancy permits, the developer may apply for a General Use and Occupancy Agreement. TDOT reviews and processes utility facilities proposed under a General Use and Occupancy Agreement the same way TDOT evaluates all other proposals. However, the developer does not need to execute a new Application and Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement every time the utility proposes a new utility facility. Instead, the developer submits the General Use and Occupancy Agreement with supporting documentation for the proposed utility facility in the project plan. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(8).

3-TN-c.11 to 3-TN-c.12 – Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement Application and Project Plan

A developer must submit four copies of a complete Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement Application (Application) and four copies of a project plan to the Regional Utilities Engineer for review. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(1). The project plan must include plans or sketches showing the “existing and/or proposed location of the utility facilities within the highway rights-of-way.” Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.05(3)(m). The plans need to be color coded as follows:

  • Green – existing facilities to be removed;
  • Red – proposed facilities;
  • Yellow – existing facilities to remain; and
  • Blue – temporary facilities.

Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.05(3)(m).

If the developer proposes to build utility facilities under a General Use and Occupancy Agreement (Form 2015-11), the developer submits copies of the executed General Use and Occupancy Agreement and the proposed utility facility’s project plan as prescribed for Utility Use and Occupancy Agreements. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(8).

3-TN-c.13 to 3-TN-c.14 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The Regional Utilities Engineer reviews the Application materials for administrative and technical completeness.

3-TN-c.15 to 3-TN-c.16 – Determine Amount of Surety Bond

The Regional Utilities Engineer determines the surety bond amount to cover a utility facility within a highway right-of-way. The developer must include with its Application such a bond in order to guarantee the “performance of the terms and conditions of the agreement.” Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.07(12).

The developer may post the required bond in one of three ways:

1. Post a cashier’s or certified check in the amount established by the Regional Utilities Engineer; or

2. Post a Surety Bond (TDOT Form U-5) in the amount established by the Regional Utilities Engineer (only applicable if the bond is greater than $2,500); or

3. Post a Running Surety Bond (TDOT Form 2011-09) in an amount established by the Regional Utilities Engineer to cover all approved Use and Occupancy Agreements for a particular geographic area.

Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.07(12)(a).

3-TN-c.17 to 3-TN-c.18 – Assess Application Material for Approval

The Regional Utilities Engineer reviews the Application materials, project plan and surety bond for approval. The Regional Utilities may need to conduct a field inspection to determine that the proposed utility facility conforms with TDOT rules and regulations. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(2).


3-TN-c.19 to 3-TN-c.20 – Assess Application Material for Approval

The Regional Engineering Director assesses the Application for approval once the Regional Utilities Engineer approves the Application. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(3).

If the project requires open cutting of pavement, the Regional Engineering Director must decide whether to allow open cutting when assessing the Application for approval. The Regional Utilities Engineer will make a recommendation to the Regional Engineering Director about whether to allow open cutting of pavement. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(3).

Once the Regional Utilities Director obtains the Regional Engineering Director’s approval, the Regional Utilities Director sends the Application and the project plan to State Utilities Engineer for additional review. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(4).

3-TN-c.21 to 3-TN-c.22 – Assess Application Material for Approval

The State Utilities Engineer reviews the Application and decides whether to approve the Application. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(4).

3-TN- c.23 to 3-TN-c.24 – Execute the Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement

If the State Utilities Engineer approves the Application, the State Transportation Engineer signs and executes the Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement. The State Utilities Engineer returns three copies of the executed Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement to the Regional Utilities Engineer. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(4). The developer must comply with the terms of the Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement.

3-TN-c.25 – Notify the Developer

The Regional Utilities Engineer sends one copy of the executed Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement and approved project plan to the developer and retains the second copy. Along with a copy of the executed Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement, the Regional Utilities Engineer sends the developer the name, address and telephone number of the appropriate District Maintenance Engineer.

3-TN-c.26 – Send Copy of the Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement to the District Maintenance Engineer

The Regional Utilities Engineer sends the third copy of the approved agreement and project plan – along with the information sent to the developer – to the District Maintenance Engineer. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(5).

3-TN-c.27 – Contact District Maintenance Engineer

The developer must contact the District Maintenance Engineer before “beginning any work on the right-of-way.” Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(5).

3-TN-c.28 to 3-TN-c.29 – Inspect for Compliance

The District Maintenance Engineer will have an inspector ensure that the installation “is made in accordance with the Utility Use and Occupancy Agreement.” Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(6).

3-TN-c.30 – Notify State Utilities Engineer that Installation is Acceptable

If the installation conforms with the approved Agreement and project plan, the District Maintenance Engineer notifies the State Utilities Engineer that the “installation is acceptable and [that] the surety can be released.” Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(6).

3-TN-c.31 – Notify Surety of Release of Surety Bond

The State Utilities Engineer notifies the surety company of the release. The State Utilities Engineer also notifies the Regional Utilities Engineer and the District Maintenance Engineer of the release. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1680-6-1-.08(7).


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Edit Tennessee Department of Transportation
State Utilities Coordinator (615) 741-6802 MichaelabbazabbaHorlacher@tnabbazabbagov Visit Website