The National Academies

SHRP 2 R01 [Active]

Encouraging Innovation in Locating and Characterizing Underground Utilities

  Project Data
Funds: $407,761
Staff Responsibility: James Bryant
Research Agency: Louisiana Tech University
Principal Investigator: Ray Sterling
Effective Date: 2/12/2007
Completion Date: 12/31/2014

Project snapshot. More details below.

(Project Number)
Impact on Practice
Product Status

Web-based software tool helps select site-specific technologies for locating underground facilities. The reference report documents state-of-the-art location methods and underground utility marking technology as well as successful practice.
This tool helps practitioners select the most appropriate location technology for project site conditions and utility characteristics.

Project delays, redesign costs, and safety risks can all be reduced when transportation agencies know the location and characteristics of underground utilities within the project right-of-way early in the project design phase.
Two reports and the SAULT web-based selection tool are available at www.trb.org/Publications/Blurbs/165879.aspx.

Throughout the years, underground utilities have proliferated within highway rights-of-way. The location and nature of many such utility lines have not always been properly documented. Moreover, the presence of underground utilities within the highway right-of-way and the lack of pedigree information about some utility lines present unique challenges for highway renewal activities, which often require relocation of underground utilities to ensure public safety. The untimely discovery of an unknown underground utility needing relocation is one of the major causes of delay during highway renewal projects and, as such, one of the major contributors to traffic disruptions and budget overruns.
This project had two objectives: (1) document today’s technologies for locating and characterize various types of underground utilities; and (2) identify new, emerging, or potential technologies and develop a research plan that will encourage the advancement of these technologies into useful tools for transportation agencies, consultants, utility owners, and construction personnel.
The first phase of the research focused on data-gathering activities to identify current problems related to locating underground utilities, identify current and emerging technologies that could effectively locate underground utilities, and document case histories. During the second phase of the project, the research team developed an R&D plan. Detailed scopes of work for nine different research topics are included in the plan, which resulted in three follow-on projects: R01A (Technologies to Support Storage, Retrieval, and Utilization of 3-D Utility Location Data), R01B (Utility Locating Technology Development Utilizing Multi-Sensor Platforms), and R01C (Innovation in Location of Deep Utility Pipes and Tunnels). While the R&D plan was aimed to inform SHRP 2 leadership on specific recommendations for future research, the final report provides a roadmap and specific recommendations that may be useful to other research and/or funding organizations. The third phase developed a web tool to serve as a technology selection tool for identifying effective utility locating methods for particular site and/or project environments. 
Project Status: This project is active.
Product Availability: SHRP 2 Report S2-R01-RW: Encouraging Innovation in Locating and Characterizing Underground Utilities is available as a web-only document. SHRP 2 Report S2-R01-RW-2: Development of the Selection Assistant for Utility Locating Technologies is also available as a web-only document; this report and the accompanying web tool, SAULT, are available on the following page.

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