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3 Open, continuous lines of communication; Escalation procedures to resolve conflicts; Common, consistent, and empowered points of contact in both agencies who can make decisions and remove bottlenecks; Regular process-review meetings, where both sides identify issues and strategies to address them; Standard, streamlined agreements to address recurring issues such as insurance, rights-of- entry, liability, easements, safe construction practices, and ongoing maintenance; Commonly understood design standards and construction practices agreeable to both parties; Training for designers, construction personnel, and maintenance personnel who interact with railroads; and Standard process manuals to follow in developing projects or conducting maintenance activ- ities near railways. Both Sides Identify Some Common Problems The highway agencies and railroads independently cite some common problems that they believe need to be addressed to everyone's mutual interest. Some of these are the following: Inability to reimburse engineering review costs early in the life cycle of a project, even before the project is programmed or under development; The cost and availability of insurance; and Right-of-way appraisal processes for railroad easements, which can be restrictive or contentious. Partnering: A Strategic Opportunity Another strategy that could be helpful to the agreement process is "partnering." This process was first articulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in addressing its large civil works projects. It also has been encouraged by the Federal Highway Administration, some state departments of transportation, and their associated contracting companies. In partnering, both parties Define what a successful outcome would be; Formally agree that each wants to assist the other in achieving this common success; Develop a level of service agreement that spells out what each expects from the other in terms of service and timeliness; Identify escalation paths for when problems cannot be resolved at the lowest level; Agree to remain in constant communication to ensure that problems are identified early and to monitor whether milestones have been achieved; and Periodically analyze what went right, what went wrong, and what can be learned for the future. Recommendations In this report, state and local highway agencies and railroads can review best practices, model processes, and model agreements. Then, they can self-assess whether any of the following recommendations can assist them in streamlining the agreement process: Negotiate a memorandum of understanding between the highway agency and the railroad as to how they desire to conduct the review process, including periodic process-improvement efforts. Develop draft model agreements and streamlined permitting language. Adopt a "continuous improvement" framework to the agreement process so that both the highway agency and the railroad are tracking performance and regularly conferring on ways to improve it.