Staff Spotlight: Mike Lahodny

When we have an appraisal question, small or complex, Mike provides the relevant section of USPAP, Uniform Act, Right of Way Manual, or case law that will guide the appraisal process.  As a fundamental part of BRI’s Appraisal QA/QC Department, Mike works to help us understand the intent of the standard and/or code, and to provide direction that produces a good and consistent appraisal product.  

Mike developed this ability to read and interpret manuals during his service in the army.  It was necessary to stay proficient as a combat engineer in the Vietnam War, so he learned how to interpret complex language, rather than always being reliant on others. Mike further honed his skill of researching information early in his California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Career, when he found himself presenting the appraisal process to the Little Hoover Commission, a California state government watchdog organization, and he wanted to be sure he knew the legal background on appraisals when presenting to such an astute audience.

When it comes to right of way, Mike has experience teaching every aspect but law. His favorite class to teach is Valuations of Partial Acquisitions. In the early days of teaching this class, Mike decided that if he was going to present the appraisal process, then he better know where it came from and why. This appetite for knowledge fits with his passion for researching and applying information. 

This passion is further supported by Mike’s collection of appraisal books, some dating back to the 1920’s. What he has found is that the high-level appraisal theory hasn’t changed a great deal, it’s the processes and application that have changed the most over the years. Before an appraisal class, Mike pulls the roster and then reviews right of way manuals from the states that his students are coming from, so he can properly advise them on the applications and how they apply to their particular state.    

When asked about a memorable project, Mike fondly recalls delving into the intent and application of processes necessary for the State Route (SR) 99 and Pelandale Avenue Interchange Project. Mike found this project to be fun and memorable because the team broke through the barriers of certifying a project with a Right of Way Certification 3 with a work around. The team first analyzed how the construction sequence was going to proceed. The initial construction activities involved building the freeway bridge in the existing right of way, a two year activity. That provided time for the completion of right of way acquisition and relocation activities without a delay in the construction schedule. The new right of way was available to the contractor at the end of the bridge construction for the construction of the ramp approaches. 

In addition to doing quality control on appraisal reports and teaching classes, Mike is also frequently sought after by local agencies to assist with developing right of way estimates including scoping budgets and right of way data sheets. He has completed approximately 120 estimates to date.   

Overall, Mike Lahodny describes his 55-years in right of way, as working at a job that “is the best kept secret” and that he’s had so much fun delivering projects! It has truly been a great career. When not working, Mike enjoys traveling with his wife of 53 years and spending time keeping track of his six grandkids—soon to be seven!

Thank you, Mike, for all you contribute to BRI! 

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