Encouraging Innovation in Locating and Characterizing Underground Utilities

It is commonly held among transportation officials that the accurate location and characterization of underground utilities and other similar facilities, especially deeply buried ones, and their timely protection or relocation is a major, if not the major, cause of delay in highway renewal projects. Such delays can extend the period of project development and impede construction initiation. Inaccurate location of utilities contributes to traffic and community disruption when service lines are encountered unexpectedly or access by utility repair crews is blocked by construction activities. Inadvertent damage to underground utilities can lead to environmental damage or even put the health and safety of construction workers and the public at risk. Because of the frequency with which utilities are co-located on highway rights of way, renewal projects are vulnerable to utility-related delay and disruption. New and/or improved tools are needed to better locate and identify underground utilities during the preliminary engineering phase of a project, well before construction activities commence. These tools will make it possible to develop accurate plans that fully consider underground utilities and, by knowing this information early in the project development process, develop effective and cost efficient strategies to protect or relocate the utility or provide alternative service to utility customers if service must be interrupted temporarily. Currently, many underground utilities that are difficult to locate and characterize might impede progress of transportation projects. Utilities can become "lost" as construction alters the landscape and pre-existing benchmarks are removed. In the worst cases, no information exists until the utility is encountered during construction. That often results in significant delays to construction progress because work is suspended while utilities are relocated or the facility is redesigned. Unplanned service interruptions have even wider impact on communities served by the utility. The importance of this topic has led to an increased focus by project and utility owners in recent years as the current capabilities are taxed by renewal projects of increasing complexity. This project will develop a research plan to identify technologies and facilitate their development to more effectively and accurately locate and characterize underground utility locations.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project R01

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Strategic Highway Research Program 2

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

    Starnes, Monica

  • Performing Organizations:

    Louisiana Tech University, Ruston

    Ruston, LA  USA  71272
  • Principal Investigators:

    Sterling, Ray

  • Start Date: 20070212
  • Actual Completion Date: 20111012
  • Source Data: RiP Project 17292

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01462628
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project R01
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:07PM