Skip Top Navigation

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 (WSDOT) the authority to issue Permits and Franchises for the occupancy of state-owned highway right of way to 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. Accommodation Permits are issued for the installations of crossings or longitudinal runs no greater than 300 feet and Utility Franchises for those installations greater than 300 feet or to address when several crossings are on the same highway.

Other Permits and Franchise maybe be issued for installations within a close proximity to previously installed facilities. The law does not allow for WSDOT to issue exclusive documents.

Before You Get Started
The location of the proposed installation needs to be presented in reference to the nearest highway milepost. To determine the location of the proposed installation several tools are provided:

snagmp – an interactive map

SRWeb - an application that allows users to view digital images of the Washington State Highway System via their web browser

Geoportal - an application that allows users to view WSDOT spatial data (like Functional Class, Interchange Drawings, City Limits and State Routes) via a web browser.

For state highways that run through other permitting jurisdictions WSDOT standards are to be applied for any trenching, pavement restoration or traffic control as stated in RCW 47.24.020. All traffic control plans and/or pavement restoration plans will need to be approved through the Region Utilities Office. For highway sections that are in other permitting jurisdiction, WSDOT may request an “Informational Only” Permit. Even though WSDOT is not legally able to grant permission to occupy the right of way in another entity’s jurisdictional and there are no fees for an Informational Only Permit, charges may apply for inspection and reviews from other WSDOT offices for approval of trenching, restoration and traffic control.

Required parts of a Utility Permit Application
Your submittal must include the following (if applicable):

  • A complete "Accommodation Application". 
  • 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 the plans and details. 
  • Expected start date and project duration 
  • An acceptable individual, blanket bond or other. See section below on Bond Requirements.
  • Third Party insurance
  • Traffic Control Plan
  • Environmental permits
  • Joint use agreement
  • Attachments to a Bridge
    Stamped Bridge plans-
    Security plan
    Bridge safety Plan
  • Safety Plan

Written justification for proposed installations that are a variance to WSDOT policy:
Utilities installation must adhere to WSDOT’s Utility Accommodation Policy (Policy), inclusive are WSDOT’s Utility Manual Chapters 1 and Chapter 9. When a Utility proposes an installation that does not comply with WSDOT’s Policy (variance) the applicant must provide a written evidence (justification) as to why the facility cannot be installed according to WSDOT requirements.

Variance Justifications must be reasonable and valid. It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide sufficient documentation for review and consideration. When a Variance Justification is received at the Region Utilities Office it will undergo review by several offices to determine if the variance can be allowed. Be advised the variance review process may extend the time it takes to process an Accommodation Application. An incomplete (missing pertinent documents and information) Variance Justification will add to review and processing time.

Variances to Policy include but are not limited to: 

  • Longitudinal installations or maintenance within limited access highways. 
  • Aerial installations along highways within Scenic Class A or B . 
  • Open cuts or trenches in the traveled lanes or roadway prism of the highway. 
  • Installations within the median of a highway. 
  • Uncased Crossings 
  • Shallow depth installations that do not meet the requirements of the WSDOT Utilities Manual (M22-87) Longitudinal and Crossing Coverage (Chapter 1, Page 1-45, Figure 120-3) and WAC 468-34-200.

Variance Request forms can be downloaded from the WSDOT - Utilities, Railroads, and Agreements Web page.

Bond Requirements
If required, an individual or blanket bond must be in place before construction begins. Bond requirements are addressed in WAC Chapter 468-34-020.

A blanket bond is valid Statewide and provides coverage of multiple Permits or Franchises under a single owner. Blanket bonds are typically $10,000.

Individual bonds are one-time sureties attached to a single utility installation project. The bond is released upon satisfactory completion of that utility installation. Individual bond amounts will be determined based on the risk to the highway right of way and shall be a minimum of $1,000 (actual amount is determined case by case.)

Third Party Insurance
The Utility may need to provide proof of insurance coverage prior to performing any work within state-owned highway right of way. The limits must meet or exceed:

(a) Commercial General Liability covering the risks of bodily injury (including death), property damage, and personal injury, including coverage for contractual liability, with a limit of not less than $3 million per occurrence and in the aggregate;
(b) Business Automobile Liability (owned, hired, or non-owned) covering the risks of bodily injury (including death) and property damage, including coverage for contractual liability, with a limit of not less than $1 million per accident;
(c) Employers Liability covering the risks of Utility’s employees’ bodily injury by accident or disease, with limits of not less than $1 million per accident for bodily injury by accident and $1 million per employee for bodily injury by disease.

Insurance policies or related certificates of insurance shall name the Washington State Department of Transportation as an additional insured on all general liability, automobile liability, employers’ liability, and excess policies. Forty-five (45) calendar day written notice will be required prior to termination of or any material change to the policy in relation to the Permit or Franchise.

Other Responsibilities
The applicant is responsible for ensuring the proposed installation does not violate any other laws or regulations of the State Of Washington. The most common issues are working in the proximity of wetlands, sensitive cultural areas and potential disturbances of existing survey monumentation.

The permits required from other agencies may include: The Department of Ecology, The Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Untied States Forest Services, railroads, or other Federal, State, Local regulatory, and tribal agencies.

WSDOT may be able to provide guidance with respect to these issues. Ultimately, the responsibility for compliance will be that of the applicant.