Court Again Affirms Municipal Authority to Require Utility Relocation for Public Projects

A state district court has yet again affirmed municipal authority to require private utilities to relocate their facilities for public projects. 

In 2006, the City of Richardson renewed its electric franchise agreement with TXU Electric (now Oncor).   The franchise required the relocation of Oncor’s facilities – at Oncor’s cost – when required for city construction projects.

In 2010, pursuant to franchise terms, the city requested that Oncor relocate its utility poles in 32 alleys for reconstruction and widening.   Oncor refused to do so.

In 2012, the city filed suit in state district court in Dallas to enforce the franchise provisions and – alternatively – to enforce the common law rule on relocation.  The common law rule has come from court opinions over the years that have concluded that the public’s right to use streets is paramount to a private company’s.   (In addition, state law contains a provision that requires relocation for the widening of a “street.”  Part of Oncor’s dispute is that an “alley” isn’t a street.) 

The court recently ordered summary judgment in favor of the city on all issues.  The suit seems to simply be another in a long and storied dispute between cities and some utility providers over right-of-way issues, and the court’s decision may be appealed.


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