Right of Way Acquisition and Your Property

A Guide for Property Owners prepared by the Massachusetts Right of Way Bureau.

Massachusetts’ transportation system is dependent on an extensive network of highways, bridges, and streets. As our cities and towns grow, it becomes necessary to make changes and improvements to our transportation system.

To serve this broad public interest, it is sometimes necessary to acquire land from private property owners. We offer this information about the process of acquiring land and rights therein for public transportation projects. From your first notice to your final payment, you will be kept informed of all developments concerning the acquisition of your property. We are sincerely interested in offering assistance and understanding. If you have additional questions, please contact us.

Table of Contents

Terms and definitions

Eminent Domain - Eminent domain is the right of the Commonwealth to take private property for public use, including transportation purposes.

Right of Way - A right of way is publicly owned area reserved for transportation purposes. Adjacent land from private owners may be required to construct, or reconstruct, highways or bridges within the right of way.

Easements - An easement is the right of MassDOT to use all or part of a property for a specific transportation purpose. Easements can be permanent or temporary (limited to a stated period of time).
Examples are a permanent easement for drainage and a temporary easement for the reconstruction of sidewalks and driveways. Title to the property remains in the name of the property owner.

Fee Taking - A fee taking means that MassDOT becomes the owner of the property acquired. The title to the acquired property transfers to MassDOT on the date of the recording of the Order of Taking at the Registry of Deeds.

Just Compensation - The compensation provided for property taken by eminent domain.

How are my property rights protected?

To provide uniform and equitable treatment for those whose property is acquired, and for persons displaced by such acquisitions, we are bound by the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, (amended in 1987), and Massachusetts General Laws, primarily Chapter 79. These serve as the foundation for the information discussed in this brochure.

MassDOT respects these fundamental property rights and is committed to treating all property owners with fairness and respect.

How can I comment on a proposed project?

Before altering an existing state highway, or laying out a new one, MassDOT will hold a public hearing.

At the public hearing, representatives of MassDOT will provide you with information about the proposed project. As part of the public hearing process you will have a chance to enter your comments and recommendations into the record.

All comments will be carefully considered before the project is finalized.

Who will contact me about the project?

If your property, or a portion of it, needs to be acquired, you will be contacted by a representative of the MassDOT Right of Way (ROW) Bureau to arrange a meeting. At the meeting, our representative will provide you with a right-of-way plan showing the impacts to your property and offer an overview of the project. They will also explain the acquisition process, review information relative to the property, and document any concerns you may have

How will my property be valued?

The value will be determined by a qualified appraiser. The objective of the appraisal is to determine the estimate of Just Compensation.

The appraiser will contact you and will welcome any information you can provide regarding your property. You will be invited to accompany the appraiser on an inspection of the property. The purpose of the inspection is to determine and document the overall condition and physical features of the property, and to verify information about the property obtained from other sources.

How is the amount of the payment (Award of Damages) determined?

The Award of Damages is comprised of the appraised value and interest from the date the property is acquired to the date on which you are paid. If there is a fee taking, a share of the real estate tax for the current year is also included.

How will I know how much I will be paid?

Approximately 4 to 6 weeks prior to approval by the Highway Administrator, you will receive a letter indicating our offer of Just Compensation.

What if I am not satisfied with the Award of Damages?

The Award of Damages is made without prejudice. This allows you to receive the Award of Damages while still maintaining your right to dispute the amount. This right is reserved for a period of three years from the date of the recording of the Order of Taking. MassDOT provides for dispute resolution through the administrative settlement process. You can initiate this by providing documentation and information relative to the value of your property, including but not limited to, an appraisal for our review. If resolution cannot be reached through the administrative settlement process, you can still bring a claim in court for additional monies at any time during the three-year period.

How can I expedite payment?

Payment cannot be made without receipt of a completed W-9. MassDOT will provide you with a W-9 form (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number). The W-9 form must be completed by the owner or owners whose name(s) appear on the title deed as recorded at the Registry of Deeds.

When will I be paid?

If you have clear title to your property, payment will be issued within 60 days of the recording of the Order of Taking at the Registry of Deeds. The parties in interest to be named on payment checks are as follows:

  • For acquisitions of permanent or temporary rights where the award of damages is less than $20,000.00: MassDOT may make payment directly to the property owner, absent deed deficiencies such as tax liens, or other encumbrances.
  • For acquisitions of permanent or temporary rights where the award of damages is greater than $20,000.00, MassDOT may list all parties in interest on the check, unless discharges or releases are provided.

When will my property be acquired?

A Notice of Taking will be sent to you once the recording is made. The Notice of Taking explains what property was acquired, when it was acquired and how much you will be paid. A link to the registry of deeds and instructions for looking up the recorded plans will be included.

What if the acquisition requires me to relocate?

If the acquisition of your property involves relocation, a MassDOT ROW representative specializing in relocation will meet with you to discuss the available benefits and procedures.

Contact   for Right of Way Acquisition and Your Property


Note: If you are looking for the MBTA ROW Training program. please contact the Subway Training School at 617-222-5377 or MBTAROW@mbta.com. Email MassDOT Right of Way Bureau at MBTAROW@mbta.com


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