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Pavement Utility Cuts

5. Conclusions and Recommendations

As demand for access to the public ROW increases, many effects have been and continue to be observed. As this demand continues and is largely satisfied with traditional trenching methods, not only have existing facilities beneath the public rights-of-way become congested, but pavement structures have become deteriorated more quickly than under normal operation, and other effects related to trenching methods have become critical.

Implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has created many challenges for local, county and state jurisdictions as they attempt to manage developed ROW usage policies and compensation methodologies effectively. Lack of such management could result in excessive excavation activity that potentially might impact public safety, value of ROW, local businesses, cost assessed taxpayers, and deterioration of infrastructure. The execution of franchise, license, ROW, shared resource and other agreements have yielded positive results for jurisdictions that are enforcing provisions governing permit issuance, construction, inspection, repair, and maintenance activities by utility and other companies that have been permitted to utilize the public rights-of-way.

This manual has presented some alternative construction methods to trenching and some policies that can be promoted and implemented by cities, counties, and states throughout the United States. Two major recommendations can be made as a result of the development of this manual. First is that the policies presented herein be evaluated and their implementation attempted. Not all policies presented in this manual will be appropriate for every agency, however. Many of these policies can be modified and tailored to the specific needs of many agencies throughout the Nation.

Three types of policies were identified that are designed to encourage alternative behavior with respect to utility cuts. These are incentive-based, fee-based and requirement-based policies. Each type of policy can affect the frequency of pavement utility cuts by placing explicit requirements on those cutting the pavement (requirement-based), by making pavement utility cuts more expensive by imposing appropriate fees in order to recover the true cost of the cuts (fee-based) or by providing an incentive to use new technologies where appropriate (incentive-based). Overall, these policy recommendations can help public agencies reduce the frequency of pavement utility cuts, and thereby reduce the rate at which the local and national infrastructure deteriorates due to such cuts.

The recommended policies include:

  • Incentive-Based.
    Incentives to Encourage Use of Trenchless Technology.
    Incentives to Encourage Less Damaging Types of Cuts.
    Encourage Coordination - Shared Trenching.
    Encourage Coordination - Shared Resources.
    Assess Appropriate Rights-of-Way Fees.
    Assess Appropriate Pavement Degradation Fees.
    Assess Appropriate Permit Fees.
    Assess Lane-Rental Fees.
    Require Deposits to Protect Against Poor Repairs.
    Assess Penalties for Non-Compliance or Failed Repairs.
  • Requirements-Based.
    Require Agency-Owned Utilities to Meet Repair Quality Standards.
    Require Justification for Not Using Trenchless Technology.
    Establish Moratorium Periods for New Pavement.
    Require Repaving Area Larger than Cut to Mitigate Pavement Damage.
    Enhance Inspection and Enforcement of Specification Requirements.

The second recommendation is that the methods of trenchless technologies be encouraged where possible and practical. Again, not all methods are suited for all situations, and some situations may not be suited for any type of trenchless technology. However, most agencies and geographic locations can successfully encourage the use of some of these methods to improve their control over, and to try to reduce the frequency of, pavement utility cuts in the public ROW. Trenchless technologies have become more popular in recent years as the cost and probability of encountering existing facilities have decreased and the probability of success has increased. Many city and state agencies are using or specifying the technology, and have had great success. Some have had bad experiences, but the industry is constantly trying to improve the chances for success, and it is hoped that the bad experiences will diminish over time as the industry improves. The trenchless technology and other methods that were discussed in this report include the following:

  • Trenchless Technology Methods.
    Horizontal Directional Drilling (or Guided Boring)
    Auger and Slurry Boring
    Pipe Jacking and Microtunneling
    Impact Moling and Ramming (or Thrust Boring)
    Pipe Bursting
  • Other Components.
    Selecting the Appropriate Methods
    Advantages and Limitations of Each Method
    Cost Analysis
    Project Planning
    Subsurface Utility Engineering
    Other Technologies and Methods

Users of this manual are encouraged to evaluate the policies and technologies presented, and to use the samples in the appendices to begin to develop policies, ordinances, regulations, and specifications of their own. The samples in the appendices are actual documents that have been used successfully by various city and state agencies. Beginning with these examples, any city, county, or state right-of-way, public works, or highway agency can develop a program for both controlling pavement utility cuts within their jurisdiction and reducing their frequency.

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Updated: 04/19/2018
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000