In the list of most stressful situations in life, moving is third only to the death of a loved one and divorce. During highway projects, individuals and families must sometimes move their residences or businesses, or both. As a result, it is not surprising that the right of way acquisition process can be stressful for many people.
Having been a right-of-way agent since 1998, I understand that people are naturally defensive and reluctant when asked to sell all or a portion of their property. I empathize with them and I believe that I should treat them as I would want to be treated, if I were in their shoes.
I recognize that everyone has a different set of circumstances, and I enjoy working with people to help resolve conflict and ensure that they are treated fairly throughout the acquisition and relocation process. This helps to ensure that the property owner understands that their concerns are heard and acknowledged. Making people feel understood goes a long way toward helping engineering projects succeed with less expense and risk to schedule.
That said, I enjoy my job most when people ultimately end up in a better situation. I once assisted a young single mother transition from a dilapidated rental home to a replacement home that she was able to own instead renting. Since she did not drive and had a limited education, I drove her to weekly first time homebuyer classes and worked with her and the lender to ensure that she understood the financing and home buying process. After the acquisition and relocation process was complete, she had a nicer and safer home for her six year old child. What’s more, her monthly mortgage payment ended up being less than her previous monthly rent.
I don’t consider what I did to be beyond what is required of the job. When right of way agents are at their best, we understand the stressfulness of life changing events that often happen on highways projects. While we can’t prevent moving from being near the top of the list (it remains ahead of job loss and major illness in stressfulness), we can treat people well as they move forward. In so doing, we also help important highway projects move forward.