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The Benefits of a Rigorous Utility Investigation
By Steven M. Rienks, P.E., PMP & James H. Anspach, P.G.(r)
for Project Development
Here are several risks that might prevent a project from being completed in a safe manner, on time and within the construction budget. These risks typically include permits, right- of-way acquisitions, unsecured construction easements, un-expected or changing site conditions, and utility conflicts and protection. This article will emphasize a way to mitigate the risks associated with utility conflicts and protection.
Proper utility identification during design and inclusion as part of the bid package can facilitate projects being constructed safely, on time, within the construction budget and with minimal disruptions to the services provided by the utility companies. ASCE has published two separate standards regarding utilities to assist in project delivery. ASCE/CI/UESI 38-22 Standard Guideline for Investigating and Documenting Existing Utilities is
an update to the 38-02 standard reflecting the updated changes in practice, technologies, and re-search for detecting/documenting the uncertainties of locations of underground utilities and other infra-structure. ASCE/CI/ UESI 75 Standard Guideline for Recording and Exchanging Utility Infrastructure Data establishes minimum, optional, and conditional elements of spatial and non-spatial attribute data associated with utility infrastructure. The standard guideline also provides recommendations for effective practices to facilitate data ex-change among project stakeholders. It is essentially a “how to specify
the creation of a utility certified record drawing” so that individual utility owners’ facilities and project utilities have standardization rather than literally hundreds of differing formats and accuracies and amounts of details about the new or relocated utilities within a project’s limits. The guideline is critical to capture, document, and exchange utility data for project scoping, planning, design, construction, operation, and long-term management of utility systems as well as the management of public right- of-way and properties throughout which utility infra- structure are installed. It is also beneficial to facilitate the interaction among stakeholders for managing utility and other civil infrastructure.
Although each project is different and warrants its
own procedures, there are some common practices that lead to an efficient useful investigation that provides
data in time for the designers to use it effectively. The
first practice is to collect utility information as early as possible in project development. Early decisions such as line and grade, deep versus shallow drain-age systems, siting of bridge foundations or structure footings, right- of-way requirements, and more are expensive to redo or change if a utility requiring a long lead time or high cost for relocation is discovered late in the process. Since it
is well established that utility records are many times incorrect, difficult to obtain, or unavailable, comprehensive geophysics are typically applied within the project footprint, and the results of the geophysics synthesized with existing records and visual evidence. Communicating
 18 • Alabama 811
2023, Issue 2

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