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Purdue University Study

Cost Savings On Highway Projects Utilizing Subsurface Utility Engineering

Prepared by
Purdue University Department of Building Construction Management

December 1999

Prepared for the
Federal Highway Administration
Washington, DC

FHWA Contract Number DTFH61-96-00090

Table Of Contents

Abstract

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been promoting the use of subsurface utility engineering (SUE) since 1987 as a means to save costs on highway construction projects. In 1996, the FHWA commissioned Purdue University to study the cost savings from four states' dots that routinely utilize utility quality levels while producing contract drawings.

A total of seventy-one projects (71) from Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio were studied. The total construction costs of these projects were in excess of one billion dollars. These projects involved a mix of Interstate, Arterial, and Collector Roads in urban, suburban, and rural settings. DOT project managers, utility owners, constructors, and designers were interviewed. Two broad category of savings emerged: quantifiable savings and qualitative savings.

A total of $4.62 in savings for every $1.00 spent on SUE was quantified. Qualitative savings were non-measurable, but it is clear that those savings are also significant and may be many times more valuable than the quantifiable savings. Only three projects returned less in savings than expenditures. This leads to the conclusion that SUE is a viable technologic practice that reduces project costs related to the risks associated with existing subsurface utilities and should be used in a systemic manner.

Keywords: subsurface utility engineering, utility mapping, utility quality levels, Purdue University, construction risk management, value engineering, SUE

Executive Summary

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) commissioned Purdue University to study the effectiveness of subsurface utility engineering (SUE) as a means of reducing costs and delays on highway projects. The effectiveness study was conducted and the results and accompanying recommendations are presented here. The concepts and practice of SUE have been developed and refined over many years, but basically were systematically put into professional practice in the 1980s. Several states have programs whereby the state Department of Transportation (DOT) contracts with SUE providers to map utilities on their projects.

Subsurface utility engineering is the convergence of new site characterization and data processing technologies that allows for the cost-effective collection, depiction, and management of existing utility information. These technologies encompass surface geophysics, surveying techniques, mapping techniques, CADD/GIS systems, etc. Rather than disclaiming responsibility for existing utility information, subsurface utility engineers certify utility information in accordance with a standard classification scheme (utility quality levels) that allows for a clearer allocation of risk between the project owner, project engineer, utility owner, and constructor

Previous studies and statements of cost savings were performed by various state DOTs, providers of SUE services, and the FHWA. Commissioning Purdue University to conduct this study allowed for an independent and impartial review and study of costs savings.

Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio were initially selected to be part of this study. Texas was added due to their rapidly growing SUE program. These four states had a total of 71 projects studied in detail. These projects were selected randomly from a list of projects that utilized SUE. They involved a mixture of Interstate, arterial, and collector roads in urban, suburban, and rural settings. DOT project managers and engineers, utility owners, constructors, designers, and subsurface utility engineers were interviewed.

Wyoming, Puerto Rico, and Oregon were given seed money from the FHWA to try SUE on a select project. These projects are also included in the study (see Appendices), although data from these projects are extremely limited. Finally, several other states have studied their own projects or programs and have supplied information for this study. Overall, approximately one hundred projects were evaluated in some level of detail in order to accomplish the FHWA study mission.

A savings of $4.62 for every $1.00 spent on SUE was quantified from a total of 71 projects. These projects had a combined construction value in excess of $1 billion. The costs of obtaining Quality Level "B" (QL B) and Quality Level "A" (QL A) data on these 71 projects were less than 0.5 percent of the total construction costs, and it resulted in a construction savings of 1.9 percent over traditional Quality Level C (QL C) and/or Quality Level D (QL D) data. Qualitative savings were non-measurable, but it is clear that those savings are also significant and may be many times more valuable than the quantifiable savings.

The figure $4.62 is somewhat less than the $7.00 to $1.00 (Previous Virginia DOT study), $18.00 to $1.00 (previous Maryland DOT study), and $10.00 to $1.00 (Society of American Value Engineers) returns on investment that were previously reported in the literature. However, the quantity of studied projects is much higher; the projects are more random in nature; and no qualitative costs were included in the total. Indeed, one individual project had a $206.00 to $1.00 return on investment (North Carolina DOT). Only 3 of 71 projects had a negative return on investment.

The simple conclusion of this study is that SUE is a viable technologic practice that reduces project costs related to the risks associated with existing subsurface utilities and, when used in a systemic manner, will result in significant quantifiable and qualitative benefits. Using the SUE savings factor data from this study and a national expenditure in 1998 of $51 billion for highway construction that was provided by the FHWA, the use of SUE in a systemic manner should result in a minimum national savings of approximately $1 billion per year.

Report

Scope of Study

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) commissioned Purdue University to study the effectiveness of subsurface utility engineering (SUE) as a means of reducing costs and delays on highway projects. The effectiveness study was conducted and the results and accompanying recommendations are presented here. The concepts and practice of SUE have been developed and refined over many years, but basically were systematically put into professional practice in the 1980s. Several states have programs whereby the state Department of Transportation (DOT) contracts with SUE providers to map utilities on their projects.

Previous studies and statements of cost savings were performed by various state DOTs, providers of SUE services, and the FHWA. Commissioning Purdue University to conduct this study allowed for an independent and impartial review and study of costs savings.

Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio were initially selected to be part of this study. Texas was added due to their rapidly growing SUE program. These four states had a total of 71 projects studied in detail. These projects were selected randomly from a list of projects that utilized SUE. They involved a mixture of Interstate, arterial, and collector roads in urban, suburban, and rural settings. DOT project managers and engineers, utility owners, constructors, designers, and subsurface utility engineers were interviewed.

Wyoming, Puerto Rico, and Oregon were given seed money from the FHWA to try SUE on a select project. These projects are also included in the study (see Appendices), although data from these projects are extremely limited. Finally, several other states have studied their own projects or programs and have supplied information for this study. Overall, approximately one hundred projects were evaluated in some level of detail in order to accomplish the FHWA study mission

Overview

Many design and construction projects are taking place in areas where an abundance of underground utilities already exists such as in cities, process plants, airports, highways, and so forth. These existing utilities create risks for the project owner, designer, and constructor. Although there are many reasons for these risks, one of the fundamental reasons is that accurate data on the location, and even sometimes on the existence of these out-of-sight utilities, are rare. Existing records of underground site conditions are usually incorrect, incomplete, or otherwise inadequate because:

  • They were not accurate in the first place: design drawings are not as-built, or installations were field run and no record was ever made of actual locations;
  • On old sites, there have usually been several utility owners, architects/engineers, and contractors installing facilities and burying objects for decades in the area. Seldom are the records placed in a single file, and often they are lost. There is almost never a composite;
  • References are frequently lost: records show that an object is a certain distance from a building that is no longer there, or an object is a certain distance from the edge of a two-lane road that is now four lanes or is part of a parking lot;
  • Lines, pipes, and tanks are removed from the ground, but aren't removed from the drawings.

Engineers recognize this problem of records with incorrect or incomplete information, and attempt to protect themselves through prominently displayed notes on the drawings. Although these notes may vary in wording, a typical example is as follows:

Utilities depicted on these plans are from utility owner's records. The actual locations of utilities may be different. Utilities may exist that are not shown on these plans. It is the responsibility of the contractor at time of construction to identify, verify, and safely expose the utilities on this project.

Contractors may employ multiple mechanisms to protect themselves. Certainly, the types of excavation equipment used can be important. All states now have a one-call statute in place whereby the contractor must call all known utility owners before construction begins. Utility owners then have the burden of marking their utilities on the ground surface for damage prevention purposes. Many times, the paint marks indicating the location of the utilities do not agree with the utilities depicted on the design plans. Contractors know this will happen and typically increase their bid price to account for this contingency. They will also ask for change orders and claims when necessary. Usually the project owner is obligated to pay these change orders and claims due to utilities being treated as a differing or unknown site condition in the standard contract documents. Some states allow the contractor to seek relief from the designer even though there is no contract between the contractor and the engineer.

Project owners rarely end up with any protection for unknown, unrecorded, or mis-recorded utility data. Savvy project owners are beginning to realize this fact. They are either requiring their engineers to take some responsibility for more accurate utility information or they are hiring specialty engineering firms to obtain more accurate information.

A convergence of new site characterization and data processing technologies now allows for the cost-effective collection and depiction of existing utility information. These technologies encompass surface geophysics, surveying techniques, CADD/GIS systems, etc. This convergence is now known as subsurface utility engineering. Rather than disclaiming responsibility, subsurface utility engineers collect utility data and certify its quality. The accepted definition of subsurface utility engineering is:

A practice of engineering that manages the risks associated with subsurface utilities via: utility mapping at appropriate quality levels, utility coordination, utility relocation design and coordination, utility condition assessment, communication of utility data to concerned parties, utility relocation cost estimates, implementation of utility accommodation policies, and utility design.

In order to understand SUE, it is important to first define the quality levels of utility information that are available to the design engineer, constructor, and project owner. The concept of quality levels was developed from the realization that sometimes more reliable information on the location of underground utilities is known to the engineer, but is not typically presented within any documents for the benefit of others. Examples of the wide range of notations made include a gas line for which there exists a certified reference to recoverable survey control portrayed in the same manner as a water line for which there is only a verbal recollection by a water company representative.

Four separate quality levels of utility information are now generally recognized by various organizations. The Federal Highway Administration has taken the lead in promoting and using this concept. Other organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), Network Reliability Council, various state DOTs, county governments, and so forth have also used this concept.

The generally accepted definitions are as follows.

  • Quality Level D (QL D): Information derived solely from existing records or verbal recollections.
  • Quality Level C (QL C): Information obtained by surveying and plotting visible above-ground utility features and by using professional judgment in correlating this information to Quality Level D information.
  • Quality Level B (QL B): Information obtained through the application of appropriate surface geophysical methods to identify the existence and approximate horizontal position of subsurface utilities. "Quality level B" data are reproducible by surface geophysics at any point of their depiction. This information is surveyed to applicable tolerances and reduced onto plan documents.
  • Quality Level A (QL A): Information obtained by the actual exposure (or verification of previously exposed and surveyed utilities) of subsurface utilities, using (typically) minimally intrusive excavation equipment to determine their precise horizontal and vertical positions, as well as their other utility attributes. This information is surveyed and reduced onto plan documents. Accuracy is typically set at 15mm vertical, and to applicable horizontal survey and mapping standards.

Determining which quality level must be met is an important responsibility of the project owner. In other words, if the owner specifies lower-quality information to the design engineer, the owner must be willing to pay for the associated costs in project delays, bid contingencies, change orders, unnecessary utility relocations, redesign, and perhaps utility damage and other problems. Most projects currently proceed by owner specification at Quality Level C whether or not the owner realizes it. However, engineers should encourage owners to specify higher levels, and inform owners that they may incur liability for lower-quality level depictions.

On projects where owners specify a desire for the highest-quality level of utility information, decisions and judgments must be made by the parties as to costs versus anticipated results. These decisions and judgments will require a thorough knowledge of existing surface geophysical techniques, their costs, and their limitations. Engineers will recommend and apply appropriate techniques based upon owner budgets and expectations. Decisions and judgments must also be made as to where Quality Level A data should be provided. Finished plans may contain utility data with different quality attributes--all four quality levels may be represented.

Benefits

There are numerous benefits obtained when using SUE on highway projects. By using SUE, significant benefits are derived for the DOT, utility companies, SUE consultants, contractors, and the general public. Some of the benefits that have been obtained are as follows:

  • Reduction in unforeseen utility conflicts and relocations;
  • Reduction in project delays due to utility relocates;
  • Reduction in claims and change orders;
  • Reduction in delays due to utility cuts;
  • Reduction in project contingency fees;
  • Lower project bids;
  • Reduction in costs caused by conflict redesign;
  • Reduction in the cost of project design;
  • Reduction in travel delays during construction to the motoring public;
  • Improvement in contractor productivity and quality;
  • Reduction in utility companies' cost to repair damaged facilities;
  • Minimization of utility customers' loss of service;
  • Minimization of damage to existing pavements;
  • Minimization of traffic disruption, increasing DOT public credibility;
  • Improvement in working relationships between DOT and utilities;
  • Increased efficiency of surveying activities by elimination of duplicate surveys;
  • Facilitation of electronic mapping accuracy;
  • Minimization of the chance of environmental damage;
  • Inducement of savings in risk management and insurance;
  • Introduction of the concept of a comprehensive SUE process;
  • Reduction in Right-of-Way acquisition costs.

Types of Costs

The reductions in risk for projects utilizing SUE have been difficult to quantify. There are many variables and scenarios that may occur. Historical data is difficult to come by. Some savings are easily quantified; others may be qualitative or speculative in nature. This study categorizes savings accordingly. These types of costs are:

  • Exact costs that can be quantified in a precise manner. Examples are costs much like the costs for test holes, the cost to eliminate construction and utility conflicts, or any other cost for which exact figures can be obtained.
  • Estimated costs that are difficult to quantify, but can be calculated with a high degree of certainty. These costs were estimated by studying projects in detail, interviewing the personnel involved in the project, and applying historical cost data.
  • Costs that cannot be estimated with any degree of certainty due to a lack of data. These are true qualitative costs and may in fact be significant to the real cost savings. These qualitative costs are not quantified in the evaluation study.

Evaluation Plan

Three primary methods were used to examine, study, and collect data on the application of SUE.

  • Conduct an analysis of the overall program of SUE within each study state. This approach involved a cursory examination of all projects utilizing SUE within a particular state.
  • Select and study individual projects. These projects were selected with input from appropriate Departments of Transportation to obtain, as best possible, a mix of projects ranging from simple to complex. One of the selection criteria was to select projects that the designers, constructors, and users were still available to contact and interview.
  • Use a modified combination of the above approaches to analyze SUE. Application of this approach depends on the states being studied. The methods used were specific project analysis where available, and program analysis for overall conclusions.

Some of the items investigated during the interviews and analysis were old utility records and locations (Quality Level D and C information). They were compared to the new upgraded locations (Quality Level B and A information and the differences were compared to determine the benefits of SUE. The guiding concept utilized with this approach was to obtain data and information on SUE activities from the people who actually were involved in the project.

In addition to conducting interviews and reviewing the available and utilized quality levels and their project impacts, the available paper trail was also investigated. For example, similar projects that used and did not use SUE were examined for existence and quantities of change orders, extra work orders, delay and other claims, time extensions, etc. State and Federal tracking forms for allocation of costs for utility relocations, prior rights, and correspondence were valuable to the study.

Results

Virginia

The Virginia Department of Transportation estimates an annual expenditure of approximately $10 million on SUE in a variety of contracting methods. Virginia has three SUE firms under contract to provide utility mapping (all quality levels) in nine separate districts. Additionally, the DOT's statewide and regional survey contracts require QL B mapping for select projects. There are two regional consultants providing utility coordination services. There are four regional consultants providing utility relocation design. Certain large projects have subsurface utility engineering (utility mapping, utility coordination, and relocation design) built in to the project requirements. All highway projects in Virginia are required to use SUE, and most projects utilize Quality Levels A and B information. SUE information has also proven useful to utility companies in their relocation design.

Virginia started their program in 1984. Virginia has the most comprehensive program in the nation. They utilize every aspect of SUE with a combination of in-house and consultant forces. They estimate a project delivery time savings of 12 percent-15 percent has resulted from their systemic approach to utility risk management. Utility owners have been more cooperative after the DOT SUE program commenced. Quality level B mapping identifies an average of 10 percent - 50 percent more utilities than traditional mapping (QL D and QL C).

North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) began a subsurface utility engineering program in 1991, after studying the successes of Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania's programs. SUE began as a trial program by NCDOT and has gradually evolved into a continuous process. The primary reason for utilizing SUE in North Carolina is to reduce the cost of highway construction. Cost reduction can be obtained through the elimination or reduction of claims, change orders, and construction delays, and through the minimization of disruption to utility services.

SUE began as an aid to in-house-designed projects with an initial contract with one provider valued at approximately $300,000. The program was successful and, as a result, additional SUE consultants were brought under contract. Currently there are four providers; however, the contract values are not equal. For designs performed by outside consultants, i.e., non-state employees, the DOT requires that the outside designers hire one of the four state-DOT-approved SUE consultants for their team. Consequently, the two contracting methods, i.e., state contract for in-house design and project contract for outside-consultant design, result in a total, state, DOT SUE program valued at approximately $3,000,000 per year. This represents a SUE budget of approximately 2 percent of the total state engineering/ construction budget.

When SUE was initially utilized in North Carolina, a formal review procedure was adopted that was used for one or two periods. The use of the procedure was informally abandoned for no given specific reason. SUE is now employed in North Carolina by an informal procedure based on cooperation between design engineers and area engineers. This informal procedure is accomplished by mutual agreement and judgment between design and area engineers on an as needed project basis due to amount of utilities, potential impact, and engineering judgment. Now that many of the design and area engineers have become familiar with the concepts of SUE, the informal process is working well.

NCDOT only utilizes the utility mapping components of SUE. So far, the NCDOT handles utility coordination and utility relocation design with in-house forces. There has been some discussion to attempt a trial project where all aspects of SUE are performed by a SUE consultant. This would include utility mapping, utility coordination (with utility owners), and perhaps some utility relocation design for publicly owned utilities.

The evaluation study has computed a cost savings of $6.63 for every dollar spent for SUE in North Carolina. The total amount of expenditures to date for SUE in North Carolina is $8,725,371.97. This represents a projected savings of $57,849,211.39 since the SUE process was started in North Carolina. The SUE savings computed in this study are related to the in-house projects designed and constructed by the NCDOT.

NCDOT appears to have figured out how to use SUE effectively in their state and are doing so for the benefit of the taxpayer and ratepayer. NCDOT has utilized SUE for eight years, with a progressive amount of contract value. They are currently funding SUE at levels in excess of $3 million per year. It is difficult to estimate non-quantifiable savings resulting from decreased utility damages, bid prices, construction delays, and so forth; however, quantifiable savings (after studying about 7 percent of NCDOT's in-house projects on both a cost and project basis, indicating a return in excess of $6.60 for every dollar spent) were obtained. Therefore, a quantifiable savings per year for NCDOT projects is approximately $19.8 million. The majority of projects utilizing SUE showed no delays due to utility conflicts, an improvement over past engineering practices.

Ohio

The development of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) in Ohio was started in 1992 with a trial project in the city of Columbus. In May 1995, after evaluation of that project's success, the FHWA funded SUE through a demonstration-projects mechanism for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

The primary reason for utilizing SUE in Ohio is to reduce the cost of highway construction. Cost reduction is obtained through the elimination or reduction of claims, change orders, and construction delays, and through the minimization of disruption of utility services. SUE was initially used to solve field utility conflict questions; subsequently it has evolved into some design processes.

Ten of the twelve Districts in Ohio have used SUE on at least one project. Due to successes in the urban districts of Cleveland and Akron/Canton, these two Ohio districts have their own SUE contracts, while the other ten districts share a statewide contract. In Cleveland and Akron/Canton Districts, the Production Department (essentially design and construction) selects projects for SUE. This has evolved today to include virtually every project. In the other districts employing SUE, the District Utility Coordinator selects projects for the use of SUE with input from construction departments. The District Utility Coordinator informs the Central Office who administers the SUE contract and assigns a SUE provider to the District's project on an alternating basis. The provider then sends the district an estimate for SUE services, based on the scope specified by the District Utility Coordinator. The Central Office then formally assigns the project to the SUE provider.

One advantage of this system is that the districts do not have to allocate funds for SUE before the use of SUE. The Central Office supplies the funds, and then back-charges the districts only for those actual SUE expenditures. When using Central Office Funds, the districts do not need to be concerned about losing funds if they are not used. The disadvantages of this system include less local control of SUE services, no choice in SUE providers, and (typically) a less timely procurement of SUE services in the design phase of projects.

Overall, the savings analysis for Ohio was determined to be $5.21 for every dollar expended for SUE. The fourteen projects included in this Ohio SUE evaluation total $284,349,202.07 in construction costs. The net SUE savings (SUE savings less the cost of SUE) is $3,418,069.47.

Applying the ratio of net SUE savings to the construction cost of the SUE evaluation projects yields an annual projects savings of $12,080,000 based on the total highway construction amount.

Texas

In 1994, the FHWA sponsored a series of informational briefings on Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE). These one-day briefings were held in the five largest TXDOT Districts. The briefing team was comprised of Paul Scott (FHWA Headquarters), Lee Gibbons (FHWA Division), Joe Bissett (MDSHA), and Jim Anspach (So-Deep).

As a result of these briefings, TXDOT began the process of developing a SUE program. The Right-of-Way Division was the spearhead for this program after hearing about SUE from the briefings and the conferences. The Right-of-Way Division was able to initiate SUE knowing that the design benefits would result in SUE becoming a part of the total project process.

In 1995, a Request-for-Proposals (RFP) was published. In 1997, four SUE providers were selected to provide Quality Level B (QL B) and Quality Level A (QL A) mapping services on a state-wide basis. Initial, combined contract values of $4,000,000 over two years were increased to $9,000,000 over 28 months due to good results and the subsequent internal demand.

In 1999, six new contracts totaling $9,000,000 were let for a 3-year term. The SUE program in Texas depends on the district involved and is limited to Interstate (On-System) projects with no municipal or local projects involved. SUE in Texas may be used on any construction project on the state highway system. It is TXDOT's intent to encourage their engineering design consultant community to begin using Subsurface Utility Engineering on these Off-System projects that are more urban in nature, and therefore potentially more utility-complex. TXDOT is now firmly committed to SUE and plans to encourage its use in all districts.

When SUE was initially utilized in Texas in 1997, the Right-of-Way Division began to develop an informal review procedure. This informal procedure is accomplished by mutual agreement and judgment among the Right-of-Way Division, design, and area engineers on an as needed project basis regarding the extent of underground utilities, potential impact, and engineering judgment. After the need for SUE is scoped by the Right-of-Way Division, the particular district working with the Right-of-Way Division in a team effort decides on the need for SUE. The SUE contract is then administrated from the Right-of-Way Division who manages the contracts with the 6 SUE providers (6 as of August 1999).

As of October 14, 1999, 146 SUE projects have been accomplished in Texas. Now that many of the design and area engineers have become familiar with the concepts of SUE, the informal process is working well.

Twenty-seven (27) projects were studied in detail to collect data and information on time, cost, user, and risk management savings. The evaluation study was then able to compute a cost savings of $4.27 for every dollar expended for SUE. In this study, SUE is considered to be the use of Quality Level A and Quality Level B Utility Data, as opposed to the traditional Quality Level C and Quality Level D Utility Data. Based on the SUE savings analysis, a projected savings of $108,308,000 is the potential savings to the Texas DOT statewide, if all projects utilize Quality Level B and Quality Level A data, based on the amount of highway construction typically under contract. Based on Fiscal Year 99 construction contract amounts and current performance levels from SUE providers, the potential current annual savings is projected to be $66,092,000.

Conclusions

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) commissioned Purdue University to study the effectiveness of subsurface utility engineering (SUE) as a means of reducing costs and delays on highway projects. From a study of 71 projects with a combined construction value in excess of $1 billion, the results indicated the effectiveness of the study was a total of $4.62 in savings for every $1.00 spent on SUE. The costs of obtaining QL B and QL A data on these 71 projects were 0.5 percent of the total construction costs, resulting in a construction savings of 1.9 percent by using SUE. Qualitative savings were non-measurable, but it is clear that those savings are also significant and may be many times more valuable than the quantifiable savings.

This is somewhat less than the $7.00 to $1.00 (previous VDOT study), $18.00 to $1.00 (previous MDSHA study), and $10.00 to $1.00 (Society of American Value Engineers) returns on investment that were previously reported in literature. However, the quantity of studied projects is much higher; the projects are more random in nature; and no qualitative costs were included in the total. Indeed, one individual project had a $206.00 to $1.00 return on investment (NCDOT). Only three of 71 projects had a negative return on investment. This leads to the conclusion that SUE is a viable technologic practice that reduces project costs related to the risks associated with existing subsurface utilities and should be used in a systemic manner. Using the SUE savings factor data from this study and a national expenditure in 1998 of $51 billion for highway construction that was provided by the FHWA, the use of SUE in a systemic manner should result in a minimum national savings of approximately $1 billion per year.

Recommendations

There are several recommendations on state DOT subsurface utility engineering programs that can be justified based upon the following factors.

  • A review of many state DOT subsurface utility engineering programs.
  • Conversations with state and private practice engineers.
  • A review of available literature.
  • Personal attendance at many national, regional, and local functions pertaining at least in part to subsurface utility engineering over the past three years.

Some state DOT programs already incorporate these recommendations as common practices. Other states should consider implementing them in whole or part in order to keep up with the evolving field of subsurface utility engineering, the proven cost savings that result from such practices, and the changing liabilities created from existing subsurface utilities.

These recommendations are in no particular order:

  • Establish subsurface utility engineering as a pre-qualification category for engineering services. Use appropriate criteria as a basis for pre-qualification. Remember that the FHWA, AASHTO, and the ASCE among others all consider this a professional engineering service with multi-disciplinary aspects.
  • Develop statewide, regional, and/or District subsurface utility engineering contracts for DOT in-house and/or consultant-designed projects.
  • Consider including subsurface utility engineering as a prequalification category in consultant RFPs.
  • Administer or make components of subsurface utility engineering available within the appropriate DOT organizational sections. For example, utility mapping and utility avoidance consulting is best performed within the Design section; utility coordination and utility relocation design may be more appropriate within the Right-of-Way/Utility sections. Preliminary utility cost estimates may be appropriate in the Project Planning section. Utility as-builting, utility damage prevention assistance, pre-bid utility data communication, and claims assistance may be appropriate in the Construction section.
  • Consider upgrading all projects to QL B and QL A data as a project self-insurance mechanism. This study shows that the benefits far exceed the costs on average. Trying to select only those projects that may end up with significant utility problems is risky at best.
  • Consider unit pricing for utility mapping functions as a contract mechanism. It is easy to administer, easy to audit for billing accuracy, and easy to budget estimated project costs.
  • Develop a program of continuing education for DOT design personnel and constructors on subsurface utility engineering and its benefits.
  • Consider utilizing all aspects of subsurface utility engineering rather than only the utility mapping component (see Virginia DOT's program).
  • Remain abreast of new developments in the field, e.g., American Society of Civil Engineers' pending national standards, AASHTO's Best Utility Practices Guide, etc.
  • Encourage Local/Municipal Planning Organizations to use subsurface utility engineering. Their projects are usually more urban in nature and can accrue generally higher benefits than rural projects.
  • On plans, place a general note that spells out that subsurface utility engineering utility mapping Quality Levels B and A were utilized on this project. The type and existence of utility quality levels should also be indicated in the legend.

More Information

Free copies of the entire report may be obtained from the contact above.

More Information

Contact

Ken Leuderalbert
Office of Program Administration
317-226-5351
E-mail Ken

 
 
Updated: 04/07/2011
 

FHWA
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration