Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Problems. Topic 47-14. Effective Utility Investigations to Optimize Safety and Savings

Utility issues are one of the top reasons that highway and other capital improvement projects are delayed and/or have cost overruns. In an ideal world, the study team would know with great certainty the location and character of every utility within their project. In the meantime, there is a need to deal with uncertainty in the best possible manner. Although the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)/CI 38-02 standard guideline provides information on how to collect and depict utility data for engineering applications, there is much confusion and lack of standard of care or best practice guidance on how to scope, procure, manage, and conduct & produce utility investigations. This is particularly true with respect to (a) best practices for the reduction of uncertainty; (b) risk management of the remaining uncertainty of existing or unknown utilities as they pertain to projects; and (c) misinterpreting ASCE 38 standard language. A simplistic approach is to attempt to achieve high quality level utility location data throughout the project at the planning stage, and use these data to inform decisions on avoidance, protection, relocation, cost, and other impacts throughout the remaining project development process. However, one size does not fit all situations. There has been research into new technologies (Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) 2 R01A/B/C); synthesis studies on how utilities are considered by engineers, designers, and other stakeholders (National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 405, Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) 34) and how they are managed (NCHRP 462); cost studies on the effectiveness of subsurface utility engineering (SUE); and other studies on how to interface with utility owners (SHRP 2 R15) and document conflicts (SHRP2 R15B/C). However, no guidance documents have been developed on how to integrate all this previous research into an effective utility investigation standard of care. As a result, there are a wide range of processes in use. As with any rapidly evolving discipline, there exist inherent problems in keeping current with practices, technology, and standards. Rapid market growth and a national aging infrastructure forces demand on existing providers who have not prepared to meet market demand, new providers enter into the industry, new providers who rely upon project owners for scopes of service; project owners rely upon previous literature that may not be up to date with the growth of the profession. There is a hodge-podge of practices, scopes of work, misapplication or ignorance of standards, misinformation, and legacy processes that now comprise the practice of utility investigations. The objective of this synthesis is to conduct a literature and limited field review of existing and ongoing research and guidance information relative to scoping; procuring; managing; phasing; and conducting & delivering utility investigations. This will include (a) looking at current practices regarding prequalification of consultants; (b) reviewing different investigation deliverables and their formatting; (c) looking at gaps, overlaps, and contradictions between Common Ground Alliance (CGA), ASCE, state One-Call statutes and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) regarding utility investigations; (d) identifying core practices that might be necessary for an effective program; and (e) looking at prequalification requirements for assessing compliance or noncompliance by SUE consultants. The product of this study will be a synthesis report that (a) provides an overview of the current state of the practice relative to scoping, procuring, managing, phasing, and conducting utility investigations; (b) identifies gaps in practice and knowledge; (c) identifies core elements of an effective utility investigation program, and (d) identifies barriers to utility investigations, and (d) suggests research needed for the development of a comprehensive manual and subsequent training on conducting effective utility investigations.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $45000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-05, Topic

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Zwhalen, Tanya

  • Start Date: 20150701
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 39649

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01562856
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-05, Topic
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: May 13 2015 1:00AM