The National Academies

NCHRP 15-69 [Pending]

Utility Conflict Impacts During Highway Construction

  Project Data
Funds: $600,000
Contract Time: 36 months
Staff Responsibility: Camille Crichton-Sumners



Utility conflicts occur at the intersection of highway projects and above and below ground utilities (e.g., electric, fiber optics, water, natural gas, sewer, and cable television). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and state transportation agencies are implementing several projects that emerged from the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2). The focus of these projects was the identification and resolution of utility conflicts and more effective management of utility data, primarily during the pre-construction phase. Lessons learned are beginning to emerge from the implementation of these products at close to 20 state transportation agencies. A recent report from FHWA also highlighted specific strategies to address inefficiencies during utility coordination planning in the pre-construction phase.


A substantial gap in this research and implementation effort has been determining how to manage the impact of utility conflicts during the construction phase. Utility coordination inefficiencies can result in multiple problems, such as unexpectedly encountered utility installation disruptions during construction, damage to utility installations, delays that can extend the period of project delivery and increase total project costs, frustration for travelers, unnecessary utility relocations, and negative public perception about the project. Several utility risk areas have not been addressed, such as:

  • Uncertainties during construction associated with accurately locating existing utility locations (e.g., X, Y, and Z coordinates);
  • Structural characteristics and performance (e.g., soil and bedding characteristics, material properties, strength, resilience);
  • Interaction among utilities that occupy a common, confined footprint;
  • Coordination of infrastructure project phasing with utility work schedules;
  • Constructability, traffic control, damage prevention, worker safety, and other construction factors; and
  • Field inspection, verification, and production of as-built records.




The objectives of this research are to (1) develop a way to identify and quantify the impact of utility conflicts during construction; (2)  prepare a catalog of best practices for managing utility conflicts during the project delivery process, primarily during the construction phase; (3) identify procedure(s) and tools for utility inspections during adjustments and/or installation (e.g., in-place inspections and location data capturing in ways that maximize real-time data collection and processing); (4) evaluate the implementation and management of tools such as Utility Impact Analysis (UIA), Utility Conflict Management (UCM), and Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE); (5) develop a list of functional requirements for future development of a decision support tool; and (6) develop training materials.




Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research. The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective.


The research plan should (1) include a kick-off teleconference with the research team and NCHRP convened within 1 month of the contract’s execution; (2) address how the proposer intends to satisfy the project objectives; (3) include appropriate milestones and interim deliverables; and (4) incorporate opportunities for the project panel to review, comment on, and approve milestone deliverables.


Accomplishment of the project objective(s) will require at least the following tasks.




Task 1.  Conduct a critical review of relevant literature.


Task 2.  Identify utility coordination programs within state transportation agencies, municipalities, and other jurisdictions conducting performance evaluation and data collection that enables quantitative risk analysis. Identify examples of innovative and successful practices and critical improvement areas.


Task 3. Compile and quantify utility conflict impacts during construction stemming from change orders, claims, work orders, time extensions, and related causes.


Task 4. Identify 3–5 completed projects with utility relocations or adjustments for potential case studies and document lessons learned and successful approaches to applying SUE, UIA, and UCM information during construction.


Task 5. Prepare an interim report that documents the work completed in Tasks 1 through 4. 


Task 6. Prepare a Phase II work plan that include development of the case studies identified in Task 4.


Note: NCHRP approval of the proposed Phase II work plan is required prior to initiation. A face-to-face meeting will be convened at a TRB facility. TRB will cover the costs associated with meetings at TRB facilities, teleconference services, and any approved NCHRP panel travel.




Task 7. Conduct 2–3 case studies for approved projects to explore lessons learned and successful practices for managing project delivery, with emphasis on construction that entails utility relocation and adjustments.


Task 8. Identify procedure(s) and tools for utility inspections during adjustments and/or installation (e.g., in-place inspections and location data capturing in ways that maximize real-time data collection and processing).


Task 9. Develop a list of functional requirements for the future development of a decision support tool that will improve and expand the collection of risk analysis data to minimize utility delays.


Task 10. Develop the final deliverables, which will include at a minimum: (1) a final report documenting the entire research effort; (2) a practitioner’s guide that provides guidance on minimizing utility delays; (3) a list of functional requirements suitable for further decision support system development; (4) prioritized recommendations for future research; (5) a PowerPoint-style presentation describing the background, objectives, research approach, findings, and conclusions; (6) a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see Special Note D for additional information); and (7) a draft article suitable for publication in TR News (Information regarding TR News publication may be found on the TRB webpage http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/trnews/info4contributors.pdf).


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