While permitting installation of utility infrastructure in roadway right-of-way (ROW) has systemic benefits, the practice has contributed to utility-related issues being one of the leading causes of delays for transportation projects, per the National Utility Program Review (FHWA, 2018). These delays are often attributed to unknown or inaccurate utility locations. Utility investigations, inclusive of subsurface utility engineering (SUE), are procedures state departments of transportation (DOTs) can implement to locate utilities and help their project development teams avoid these issues. However, few guidelines exist for aligning the timelines for implementing utility investigation (UI) procedures with the timelines of the project delivery process. Many factors influence the optimal approach of UIs for a specific project, and UI needs vary based on the timing of design elements within the project delivery process.
Inappropriate UIs contribute to significant funding losses due to lack of utility and highway coordination and underlie utility impacts as one of the top three causes of project delays. The proper investigation of utility locations would help project teams eliminate substantial risk from state DOT projects. Research is therefore needed to support state DOTs strategically aligning UIs to project development phases and preventing unnecessary delays.
The objective of this research is to develop guidelines and tools for state DOTs to identify and align UIs and related efforts to project characteristics and development phases, with the overall goal of avoiding or minimizing utility impacts that lead to increased project costs and delays.
The guidelines and tools developed should, at minimum help (a) determine the need for UIs; (b) select and implement UIs; (c) model UI findings; and (d) communicate UI information.
STATUS: Research is in progress.