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South Central Introduction to the Permit and Franchise Application Process

South Central Introduction to the Permit and Franchise Application Process

Washington State law, RCW 47.44 and WAC 468-34, grants the Washington State Department of Transportation the authority to issue Permits and Franchises for the occupancy of state-owned highway right of way to the persons, associations, private or municipal corporations, the US Government, or any agency for the purpose of construction and maintenance of lines for water, gas, electricity, telephone, telecommunications, etc. Washington State Department of Transportation uses Utility Permits for the installations of crossings or longitudinal runs no greater than 300 feet and Utility Franchises for the installations of longitudinal runs greater than 300 feet or for several crossings on the same highway.
Permits and Franchises are not exclusive. Other individuals may be permitted to install within a close proximity to yours or others facilities. Other typical provisions of the accommodation are shown in further sections of the Guidance package.

Before You Get Started

One of the first steps will be to determine the highway milepost of the proposed installation. The location can be determined by reference to the nearest highway milepost sign. The utility office can assist you in determining the milepost for your location if you cannot find a milepost sign nearby. The application State Route Viewer may also be helpful in determining your proposed location.

Next you will need to determine whether or not Washington State Department of Transportation is the permitting authority for your proposal. Please review South Central Region Route Information and the column labeled "Permit/Franch. Auth." for your location. Washington State Department of Transportation can only grant Permits in those sections noted with a "Yes".

The sections noted "No" or "Info Only" are areas where you will need to obtain approval from other entities. Washington State Department of Transportation may put together an “Informational Only” Permit, but we are not legally able to grant permission to occupy the right of way. We are, however, responsible for any pavement restoration or traffic control necessary and will require traffic control plans and pavement restoration plans which will need to be approved by the Region Utilities Office. There is no fee for required for an Informational Only Permit, however, there may be charges for things like inspection, reviews from other offices, etc.

Required parts of a Utility Permit Application

Your application for Utility Permit must include the following:

  • A complete "Application for Permit or Franchise".
  • A complete "Utility Facility Description".
  • Plans, cross-sections, diagrams, details, etc., to scale, showing your proposed work.
  • A cover letter or narrative describing any additional construction information not addressed in by the plans and details.
  • An approved individual or blanket bond as required by the WSDOT must be in place before construction can begin. See section below on Bond Requirements.

Written justification for proposed installation in the following areas:

There are times when someone may want to install a utility in such a way that is contrary to the Utilities Accommodation Policy. In that circumstance the applicant must request a variance in which we will ask for written justification giving more information as to why your utility cannot be installed according to Washington State Department of Transportation requirements.

A proposal for a variance request must be reasonable, valid, and justifiable. It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide sufficient proof for the Department.

The following are examples of when a variance will be needed:

  • Longitudinal installations within limited access highways.
  • Aerial installations across Scenic Class "A" or "B" highways.
  • Open cuts or trenches in the traveled lanes or shoulders of the highway.
  • Installations along the median of a highway.
  • Shallow depth installations that do not meet the requirements of WAC 468-34-200.
  • Any utility installation that would involve routine maintenance inside full access control right of way.

Variance Request forms can be downloaded from the "Resources, Forms, and Documents" section of the HQ Utility Web page.

When your written justification is received by the Utilities Office it will need to be reviewed by several offices to determine if the variance request will be allowed. This process may extend the time it takes to process your application.

Bond Requirements

Bonds, also known as sureties, provide Washington State Department of Transportation with a means of recovering costs in the event the utility does not meet its obligations with the Department. Bonds are required for all utility installations to offset the cost of repair to the highway operating right of way caused by faulty, unsafe, negligent, or other impacts caused by a utility installation.

Bond requirements are contained in WAC Chapter 468-34-020.

Before construction can begin, an individual surety bond, or a blanket bond must be in place.

Individual bonds shall be a minimum of $1000. This minimum amount is established by law. In most cases, the bond amount requested is greater than that. Individual bonds are one-time sureties attached to a single utility installation project. The bond is released upon satisfactory completion of that utility installation.

The applicant may hold a blanket surety bond for coverage of multiple Permits or Franchises under a single owner. Blanket bonds shall be in an amount of not less than $10,000. A blanket bond is valid throughout the State as long as the surety remains in effect.

Other Responsibilities

As the applicant, be aware that you are responsible to ensure that your proposal will not violate any other laws or regulations of the state. The most common issues that come up deal with working in the proximity of wetlands and sensitive cultural areas as well as potential disturbances of existing survey monumentation. It is the responsibility of the applicant to obtain any environmental permits necessary.

In some cases, Washington State Department of Transportation may be able to provide guidance with respect to these issues. Ultimately, the responsibility for compliance will be that of the applicant.

Permits may be required from other agencies as well, such as, The Dept. of Ecology, The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, railroads, and other Federal, State, Local regulatory, and tribal agencies.