The College of Law Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth received a grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation to research legal issues related to right-of-way land acquisition for highway projects crossing navigable waterways. The project was led by Karen Johnston, associate director of the center and professor John Marshall.
They worked for eight months to identify best practices to streamline the right-of-way land acquisition process for highway projects crossing navigable waterways. Right-of-way land acquisition around navigable waterways is complicated, particularly in coastal Georgia because of jurisdiction issues and environmental protection. Coordination with state and federal landholders adds to the complexity of the process.
“The Georgia Department of Transportation is leading the way in seeking to improve this process,” Johnston said. “The findings from this study will serve as a model for other departments of transportation seeking to improve understanding of legal issues impacting such acquisitions, streamline their processes and improve project delivery.”
A group of graduate assistants also worked on the project, including Claire M. Bass, Audrone V. Durham, Maggie K. Garrett and Chanel P. Zeisel. They researched the laws that inform the state’s land acquisition practices, conducted hours of stakeholder interviews, developed and analyzed the results of a multi-state survey, and reviewed policies and procedures for opportunities to improve the right-of-way process.
Garrett said that working on a research team with Johnston and Marshall has proven to be one of her most memorable law school experiences.
“Through our research efforts, I gained insight into federal and state laws regarding navigable waters and property rights, as well as how to successfully work within a six-person team while balancing responsibilities for numerous tasks,” Garrett said. “It was quite a lot of work, but I feel it provided me with invaluable skills–whatever I choose to do after graduation.”
Being able to participate in research projects such as this one is a hallmark of the College of Law’s offerings. Law students have the opportunity to develop legal research skills, advise on best practices and policies, and work with a multidisciplinary professional team. In addition to conducting research, the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth houses an Environmental Law Moot Court team and the interdisciplinary Urban Fellows program. For more information visit their website.
Written by Kelundra Smith