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Utility Construction in the right of way

right of way utilities

Please note that the above graphic is not an exact representation of every right of way and is meant to illustrate the different elements of the right of way and the presence of utilities within them.

The right of way (ROW) contains underground infrastructure from multiple utilities. The utilities found in the right of way include the following:

  • Electrical
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Sewer
  • Stormwater
  • Telecommunications infrastructure

These are buried at various depths and locations in the ground. Third party utilities including electricity, gas and telecommunication utilities have legislative rights to install their infrastructure within the City’s right of way.

All utilities perform required maintenance, repairs and upgrades to their infrastructure found within the right of way and have the authority and obligation to do so.

Question: Doesn’t my property extend to the end of my front lawn or to the sidewalk edge?

The edge of a sidewalk or end of a front lawn usually does not demarcate private property boundaries. The City’s right of way usually extends onto front lawns and this area is typically used to install utility infrastructure. Construction and telecommunication boxes will be on the City of Ottawa’s right of way or on existing easements on private property. To see your property boundaries, and the location of the right of way on it, visit geoOttawa and input a property address.

Approvals and Permits

Utility work within the Right-of-way is coordinated by the City and the location approved to ensure new installations do not conflict with existing infrastructure. Once a location is approved, the City issues Municipal Consent, and to ensure that its impact both below ground and above ground is minimized to the greatest extent possible.

Any excavation into any part of the City’s right of way, whether within the asphalt roadway, sidewalk or grass boulevard requires a Road Cut Permit. This permit ensures that those working within the City’s right of way are held to the requirements of the Road Activity By-law as well as any specific conditions needed to ensure they are held liable for their work, that the right of way is restored to the satisfaction of the City, that the work is coordinated to minimize impacts to mobility, and that residents are notified. Work that occurs within the Right-of-way requires coordination. Additionally, the City must take steps to ensure that the right of way is not damaged as a result of this work and is restored to an acceptable standard.

In addition to the required permits, contractors working in the City’s right of way are subject to all other applicable Federal, Provincial and Municipal laws, including Provincial health and safety regulations, as well as the City of Ottawa Noise By-law.

Notification process

Before work can begin the Road Activity By-Law requires all Road Cut Permit holders to provide notification to affected residents and businesses beside and near the work. Permit holders may provide a notification letter and / or door knocker to inform residents of the upcoming work. For larger utility projects, the proponent may provide multiple notifications in advance of the work occurring.

Pursuant to the By-law, notification must include general details of the work and its location, the anticipated start date, the duration of the work, the name of the permit holder and contractor, as well as a name and contact number for further information about the work. Dates and locations noted on the notification letter are approximate.

If you have any questions about the work for which you have received notice, please contact the number on the notice.

Locate flags and markings

As per the Province, all persons undertaking excavation within the City’s right of way must first obtain locates. These locates are administered by Ontario One Call, a not-for-profit organization that acts as a communications link between buried infrastructure owners and individuals who are planning to dig in the province of Ontario.

Locates are ground markings identifying the position of existing utility lines based on records or electronic locating equipment, and the associated necessary documentation such as a locate sheet. Ground markings consist of different colours of paint and/or flags that are used to reflect each type of infrastructure (gas, hydro, cable, etc.).

Drapeaux et marques de localisation

t is the responsibility of each utility to locate their infrastructure when a locate request is received by Ontario One Call. Pursuant to the Province, locate flags may not be removed. The City of Ottawa does not complete and / or regulate locates for third party infrastructure.

For more information on locates please visit Ontario One Call.





  • Must follow conditions of permit and approvals.
  • Must follow all applicable provincial health and safety requirements.

During construction, if you have questions about the work, please use first the contact information on the notice provided by the appropriate utility. If you have concerns about whether the work is in compliance with the City’s by-laws, please contact 3-1-1.


The Road Activity By-law generally requires that a permit holder working in the right of way must restore/replace what was in place prior to the construction. Many contractors take note of the pre-existing conditions and residents are welcome to do so as well. For restoration-related questions, please use first the contact information on the notice provided by the appropriate utility.

There are warranties required of the permit holders to ensure restorations are completed to by-law requirements, specifications, and standards.

There are two types of restorations.

Hard Surface includes:

  • Driveway
  • Sidewalk
  • Curb
  • Roads

Soft surfaces include:

  • Grass.

Once complete, the work is inspected by City staff to ensure that it is satisfactory.

Temporary restoration - this may occur during construction but does not reflect the condition of the final restoration. For example, daylighting holes (which are a test hole that is dug to expose underground facilities) may be backfilled, but no soil or seed used. Driveway cuts may be filled with gravel and topped with cold patch temporary asphalt. These temporary restorations are completed for safety and or to allow the various aspect of construction to continue.

Permanent restoration – This occurs near the end of the project and is what the Right-of-way Inspection staff will be inspecting. Permanent restoration should be completed as noted above. Typically restorations are staged over time, street by street. If any materials are left on your property, please contact the number located on your notification letter or the job sign in your neighborhood to bring the matter to the attention of the contractor. Materials are normally placed on the City of Ottawa Right-of-way, and not private property. Materials stored within the Right-of-way during construction must be properly secured to ensure public safety. Materials stored on private property must be done with the consent of the owner.


Hard Surfaces – 2 years from date of City of Ottawa acceptance

Please contact the number located on the notice received from the utility if you have questions about the restoration work. If after speaking with a representative of the utility you continue to have concerns regarding the work, please contact 3-1-1.

Question: Can I cover the new infrastructure installed on the right of way in front of my house?

In general, you cannot directly cover in ground infrastructure. If you would like to put landscaping around in-ground infrastructure, you need to discuss this directly with the utility company to determine what is acceptable.

Question: The contractor filled the holes in the grass boulevard with gravel/sand, how will grass/plants, flowers, etc. grow in this medium?

The contractor may excavate small holes called daylighting holes in order to expose the location of existing underground infrastructure. Once work is completed, these are filled with material that will not settle and provides good drainage. The areas are then top dressed with a minimum of 6 inches of clean top soil and seeded.

Question: The grass seeds the contractor put down is not growing/ is full of weeds / is growing faster or slower than the rest of my lawn / is a different colour than my existing lawn, what can I do?

Some of these issues are common and will correct themselves over time. Grass seed is sold with a mix of various types of seed, known as a mix. Typically, there is an early seed which sprouts fast and requires less water and protects a second seed which is heartier and slower to germinate. There is also a third slower growing seed that will normally sprout the following growing season. The initial grass will be more noticeable but will die off and be replaced by the second. In time the restorations will blend in and thicken. If you would prefer to install and use your own grass seed (at your expense), please contact the number on the notification you received to discuss.

The City of Ottawa has no authority or jurisdiction to enforce restorations or repair damages to private property. For damage to any of the following: your home, vehicle, or private property; or for concerns about the condition of the restoration work, and for general questions about the work taking place please contact the contact number on your notification or the number on the job sign in your neighborhood. 


Work occurring in the right of way is monitored and inspected by the City at various stages. There is a pre-construction meeting and inspection where areas of concern are discussed with the contractors. There are progress inspections throughout the construction phases and a final inspection. This inspection involves reviewing all works completed during the project, and ensuring all restorations are complete and meet by-law requirements and specifications. It is only after this inspection is completed and approved that all warranties start.

For all additional inquiries, please call 3-1-1.