The College of Law Center for Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth has received a grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation to research legal issues related to acquiring rights of way 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 process of land acquisition of right of way for highway projects crossing navigable waterways. Acquiring right of way around navigable waterways, especially in coastal Georgia, is complicated due to jurisdiction and environmental issues. Coordination with state and state owners adds to the complexity of the process.

“The Georgia Department of Transportation is leading the way in improving this process,” said Johnston. “The results of this study will serve as a model for other transportation departments looking to improve their understanding of legal issues affecting such acquisitions, streamline their processes, and improve project delivery.”

A group of assistants also worked on the project, including Claire M. Bass, Audrone V. Durham, Maggie K. Garrett, and Chanel P. Zeisel. They examined the laws affecting land acquisition practices in the state, conducted hour-long stakeholder interviews, developed and analyzed the results of a survey in multiple states, and reviewed policies and procedures for ways to improve the right of way process.

Garrett said that working on a research team with Johnston and Marshall turned out to be one of her most memorable experiences in law school.

“Our research gave me insight into federal and state laws regarding navigable waters and property rights, and how I worked successfully on a team of six while balancing responsibilities for numerous assignments,” said Garrett. “It was a lot of work, but I feel like it gave me invaluable skills – whatever I want to do after graduation.”

Participation in research projects like this one is a hallmark of what the College of Law has to offer. Law students have the opportunity to develop legal research skills, advise on best practices and guidelines, and work with a multidisciplinary professional team. In addition to carrying out research work, the center for the comparative study of the growth of metropolises houses a moot court team for environmental law and the interdisciplinary Urban Fellows program. Please visit the website for more information.

Written by Kelundra Smith