The Cost of Right-of-Way acquisitions for transportation projects : switching models for condemnation versus negotiated settlement

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Xiong, Xiaoxia

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The costs of acquiring parcels by condemnation are usually significantly higher than those for property acquired by negotiation, suggesting that Right-of-Way (R/W) acquisition costs may best be described by two different regression equations. This paper develops a switching regression model of acquisition cost to simultaneously predict the probability of whether a parcel will go to condemnation rather than be acquired via negotiation and the corresponding acquisition costs under these two regimes. The error terms of the selection equation and the two cost equations follow a trivariate normal distribution to reflect correlations across unobserved factors (such as a land owner's tenacity or a site's view value). When this model is calibrated using data on properties acquired across the state of Texas for transportation projects between 2008 and 2011, results suggest that R/W appraisers and staff should pay special attention to commercially used parcels in urban areas involving a partial taking with a relatively small remainder. Comparison of cost estimates between the two regimes (condemnation vs. negotiation) suggests that condemned parcels will have, on average, 78% higher acquisition costs across the 1,710 acquired properties and 51% greater price variation. These results suggest that it is much more costly to acquire a property and more difficult to accurately predict its costs if it cannot be acquired via negotiation. The application of model estimates to an example corridor highlights the value of simulation to capture all modeling uncertainties. This two-regime model is further extended to a three-category multinomial endogenous switching, allowing for differential cost estimates across negotiation-deed, administrative settlement, and condemnation contexts. A model of acquisition time -- from the agency's initial-offer date to its final possession date is also developed, to examine the effects of condemnation on acquisition duration. The results suggest that condemnation proceedings add approximately 7 to 8 months, on average, to parcel acquisitions by the Texas Department of Transportation. Taken together, such switching models for condemnation versus negotiated settlement highlight the benefits of avoiding condemnation proceedings in R/W acquisition. Estimation results illuminate the relative importance of various parcel and owner attributes, impacting the nature and cost of acquisition, and enhancing opportunities for R/W staff to identify more contentious properties and establish more reliable budget estimates.



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