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33 CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS OF UTILITY COORDINATION CASE EXAMPLES This chapter describes the STA case examples that were based on the initial survey results. These follow-up interviews will help other STAs develop or enhance their utility coordination procedures. The states selected for these interviews/case examples were Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. The interviews were conducted in person, which allowed for very detailed, rich discussion. The topics of conversation centered on the following points: â¢ Utility Coordination Best Practices and Implemented Research â¢ Consultant-Led Utility Coordination â¢ Availability of Utility Education and Training â¢ Knowledge Gaps Associated with Utility Coordination. The interview candidates were selected according to the following criteria, in order of precedence: 1. The STA indicated they were willing to be interviewed. 2. The STAâs self-rating of their performance (proactive, interactive, reactive); selected to achieve a cross section. 3. The STAâs self-rating of effectiveness on their use of timely utility involvement, utility coordination and communica- tion, utility relocation/alignment is considered with design decisions, minimized utility relocation costs, and timely utility relocations. 4. The STAâs use of SHRP 2 products according to the number of products used. 5. Whether the STA uses consultant-led utility coordination; selected for an even distribution of yes and no responses. 6. Selected to achieve regional diversity. GENERAL FINDINGS It seemed in the best interest of the interviewees to report some findings as generalâyet anonymousâstatements. The points below summarize those items where the feelings of the interviewees came to a consensus. â¢ Utility Coordination as Part of the Design Process: Communication inefficiencies exist between utility coordinators and transportation designers. Utility coordination is not viewed as a valuable part of the transportation design process. This is evident by a lack of early involvement by utility personnel. Optimal results could be realized with the inclusion of utility coordination as a process that occurs throughout the development of a project (from concept inception). â¢ Consultant-Led Utility Coordination: Often consultant-led utility coordination is used out of necessity but it is not an entirely effective process if not used judiciously. Consultants turn to the STA with any unexpected issue or concern, which re-involves the STA in the process they were attempting to outsource. Also, legality issues could arise if consul- tants do not have the statutory authority to make utility coordination decisions. In some cases, the utility owners would rather coordinate with the STA, and although STAs have provided contact points to resolve these concerns, creating multiple contact points of coordination (consultant coordinator and STA coordinator) creates confusion and often incon- sistency. Additionally, issues can arise if consultants who are performing coordination tasks have any previous or new business relationships with the utilities they are relocating. â¢ Buy America Act: The Buy America Act creates cause for concern and confusion within utility coordination and relo- cation. The application of the Buy America Act on utility relocations is cumbersome to control and track, and could
34 be impossible if specialized components are required or quality standards are not met by products made in the United States. FHWA is currently working on guidance and resolution to this issue. Further information can be found at http:// www.fhwa.dot.gov/utilities/buyam.cfm and http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/cqit/buyam.cfm. â¢ Plan, Schedule, and Budget Accuracy: A running theme within the survey was also pointed out during interviews: historically, STAs have provided overly optimistic project schedules, as well as inaccurate budgets and plans. While the intent is to provide information as timely as possible, the risk of changes occurring to schedules, plans, and budgets must also be communicated. Because utility owners must budget and schedule relocations, they must prioritize their work and need a sound understanding of the accuracy of the data they are being provided. The inaccuracy trend has led to a lack of confidence in the information provided to utility owners. Couple this with transportation design professionals typically not understanding the nuances of utility coordination and the result is frustration by all parties. These trends need to change with thorough and accurate communication, the melding of the utility and transportation design process, and education and training. KENTUCKY CASE EXAMPLE â¢ Utility Coordination Best Practices and Implemented Research The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has been making substantial changes to their utility coordination process over the past several years. It initiated a task force to conduct a process review and accumulate tools for improved utility coordination and relocation, sponsored research to streamline the utilities process, became a pilot for SHRP 2 R15B utility conflict matrix (UCM), and entirely revised its policy manual to move toward more consistent practices statewide. All this centers on and is coordinated with its UCMâhoused within the Kentucky Utilities and Rail Tracking System (KURTS). A stand-alone case example exists for KURTS that is available through the SHRP 2 website. In following the layout of the new policy manual, KURTS and its associated training is building consistency statewide and starting a tracking system that will be able to monitor performance. KURTS and associated mobile applications have also incorporated mobile technology into utilities inspection. This infor- mation and the information entered by utility owners is available in multiple forms including KYTCâs geographic information system (GIS) applications. KYTCâs movement is an example of how research and technology adoption may lead to process improvements. â¢ Consultant-Led Utility Coordination KYTC has been using transportation project consultants to lead utility coordination, typically as a result of resource con- straints. Success has varied and KYTC hopes to develop training to improve understanding of the utility coordination process. â¢ Availability of Utility Education and Training KYTC is going to use the NHI training but would like material that is KYTC specific. It is not aware of any available professional curriculum. â¢ Knowledge Gaps Associated with Utility Coordination KYTC personnel would like to see more detailed research into consultant-led utility coordination and its associated costs, benefits, and complexities. Likewise, understanding the costs, benefits, and complexities of incorporating utility construction into roadway construction is of interest. MARYLAND CASE EXAMPLE â¢ Utility Coordination Best Practices and Implemented Research The Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA) begins utility coordination as soon as possible with the start of the design phase. MSHA conducts local utility meetings as needed, regional meetings on a monthly basis, and longer-range meet- ings with executive-level utility personnel less frequently. It attempts to communicate project likelihood within the long-range
35 plan; for example, projects with funding allocated for construction versus those with design-only funding. MSHA does not have formal utility performance metrics but it does evaluate whether it must delay claims because of utility conflicts. MSHA has recently incorporated many changes such as the SHRP 2 R15B utility conflict matrix. It has revamped utility coor- dination to incorporate the UCM throughout the process, all the way back to project concept (5%â15% design). MSHA is now incorporating utility features before beginning road design and formally discussing the UCM with transportation designers and utility owners at the 30% design stageânearly 35% earlier in the process. MSHA is currently trying to automate UCM population, since data entry has been very time-consuming. The UCM is now providing a tracking mechanism to work toward improvements. â¢ Consultant-Led Utility Coordination MSHA has used consultant-led utility coordination on a few projects. It has seen more success with true consultant-led utility coordination as opposed to utilities being incorporated into a design-build project. â¢ Availability of Utility Education and Training MSHA does in-house utility coordination training. The training is rarely offered to consultants. â¢ Knowledge Gaps Associated with Utility Coordination MSHA feels a knowledge gap exists due to the lack of standardization and inconsistencies in regulations, laws, and policies regarding utility coordination. This lack of standardization causes difficulty for utility owners, consultants, and contractors working across state lines. State and federal policies should also be analyzed for alignment as these issues are common for smaller, population-dense states as well as for metropolitan areas that cross state lines. UTAH CASE EXAMPLE â¢ Utility Coordination Best Practices and Implemented Research The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) starts utility coordination as early as possible and depends on its relation- ships with utility owners to add value to the utility coordination process. UDOT starts coordination at the scoping phase to get utility records related to the project. It incorporates SUE on every project, up to Level B for most utilities. Based on risk and conflict analysis, UDOT may go to SUE Level A. UDOT has established partnerships with utility owners that developed over a long period of time and are built on personal relationships. These relationships also help in establishing Master Relocation Agreements. UDOT uses Master Agreements with major utilities and then uses project agreements (supplemental to the Master) for specific project details. This streamlines the development process because it is difficult to renegotiate standard terms in individual agreements. UDOT has not encoun- tered issues with utility owners hesitant to enter Master Agreements, although it does take substantial effort to establish them to the satisfaction of the partiesâ legal teams. Once established, they become easier to maintain. UDOT meets regularly with utility owners at the state level (monthly or biannually depending upon the size of utility). It shares upcoming project information with the utility owners, but often the utility owners do not reciprocate. UDOT supplies the utility owners with the best schedule information available and tries to communicate the level of risk associated with those dates. The schedule information is also available online and is updated daily as changes occur. UDOT uses a two-phased approach to coordinating utilities: design that occurs along with the transportation project design, and construction/relocation coordination during project construction. The rapid pace of project delivery schedules requires this approach. It is beneficial to combine construction operations for greater efficiency. UDOT provides clearing and grubbing, project surveying, maintenance of traffic, traffic control, and site restoration for utility relocations. UDOT sends authorization letters for utility owners to start design at the 30%â40% transportation project design stage and authorization to proceed with construction when relocation agreements are executed. UDOT is also starting to give utilities written notice when the project construction contract is in place, to let them know when the construction/relocation phase will begin. UDOT experiences some difficulty in the transition between the design and construction phase because both UDOT and the utility owners simultaneously go through an internal exchange of project responsibilities. This means that most of the personnel with
36 intimate knowledge of the project are changing. UDOT does not have utility-specific performance measures, but it does track project utility change orders and payment processing times. Recently, UDOT adopted a new administrative rule for enforcement that allows it to recoup delay costs if a utility owner is not performing. This rule has not been used to date and UDOT hopes to avoid its use through successful coordination efforts. UDOT has put procedures in place to ensure that the paperwork needed for recouping costs is tracked. It is currently conducting SHRP 2 R15B implementation. It had been using similar systems but then saw some of the automation Kentucky was implementing and wanted to incorporate that into its system. UDOT is going to attempt to tie in its GIS system so conflict identification can occur from an online platform. As UDOT transitions toward 3D design sets and away from paper plans, it hopes to include a 3D viewer in the package to help better identify conflicts. â¢ Consultant-Led Utility Coordination UDOT uses in-house forces first and then uses consultants when out of capacity. In UDOTâs experience, the utility owners do not like to coordinate with consultants, so UDOT provides a DOT point of contact as part of the consultant coordination. â¢ Availability of Utility Education and Training UDOT uses and encourages the NHI Utility Coordination training courses. It also offers internal training courses that fol- low its manual of instruction according to UDOT demand for the training. â¢ Knowledge Gaps Associated with Utility Coordination The UDOT interviewee would like to see training and methods for increased knowledge/understanding and stronger col- laboration between utility designers and transportation designers. VIRGINIA CASE EXAMPLE â¢ Utility Coordination Best Practices and Implemented Research The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) maintains communication with the utility industry to stay up to date on projects and project needs. It has formalized monthly meetings in each district with the utilities and attempts to be proactive in addressing issues. VDOT makes use of Master Agreements and has 187 such agreements in place with all the utility owners in Virginia. VDOT emphasizes transparency with all of its project schedules available online. It also attempts to work with the utility owners to prioritize relocations and lets them know as soon as possible whether work is reimbursable. VDOT is mov- ing toward relocating the utilities during the construction phase to ease utility owner and public burdens of multiple projects within the same corridor (will allow utility and transportation contractors to collaborate on activities such as clearing). VDOT places a priority on right-of-way needed for utility relocation and will acquire it for the utility owners when possible. VDOT measures performance through reviews of costs and relocation schedules, which are reported quarterly. VDOT recently incorporated structured communication and formalized meetings into utility coordination. It has full-time utility relocation inspection across the state, which it has found helpful to the process. It has plan-reading classes to help utili- ties read transportation plans and tries to streamline the plans and project information given to utilities so they do not receive unnecessary information. VDOT is a pilot state for SHRP 2 R01A and SHRP 2 R01B, and it is also implementing SHRP 2 R15B. â¢ Consultant-Led Utility Coordination VDOT does make use of consultant-led utility coordination and resource-based decisions. Owing to the quality of the consultants it uses, VDOT has had successes. But when issues are encountered, VDOT personnel become involved to find resolutions. Additionally, the utility owners are not always willing to cooperate with consultants. â¢ Availability of Utility Education and Training VDOT does not have formal utility coordination training and it does not believe much is available. VDOT training relative to utilities tends to be internal, though it has participated in the two NHI classes available for utility coordination. VDOT is
37 currently developing training for the utility industry on reading transportation construction plans, developing utility reloca- tion plans, and preparing estimates to be submitted for authorization. â¢ Knowledge Gaps Associated with Utility Coordination There is a legitimate concern about knowledge loss due to turnover not only at VDOT but nationwide. Designer under- standing of the importance of utility avoidance, impacts, and coordination is currently not a trained knowledge base, it is developed on the job. Training for designers and utility personnel alike would be helpful. WYOMING CASE EXAMPLE â¢ Utility Coordination Best Practices and Implemented Research Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) starts utility coordination with the start of the design phase. It pro- vides project schedules to utility owners. WYDOT conducts local utility meetings to update utilities on project schedules and impacts. Its goal is to have the design ready for letting 18 months in advance, but it is difficult to get utilities to acknowledge this schedule. WYDOT does not have a formal utility performance measure but does attempt to qualitatively track schedule performance in meeting a clearance goal 12 to 18 months before letting. WYDOT has recently applied for SHRP 2 Implementation funding for the product bundle of R01A, R01B, and R15B. Additionally, WYDOT is working toward online permitting and using GIS for utility locations. The goal is for utility owners to identify locations online. â¢ Consultant-Led Utility Coordination WYDOT seldom uses consultant-led utility coordination. â¢ Availability of Utility Education and Training WYDOT conducts training in-house for its personnel, utility owners, contractors, and transportation designers. â¢ Knowledge Gaps Associated with Utility Coordination WYDOT personnel feel there is a gap in the availability of information specific to utility coordination, policies, and regula- tions. A useful and readily available national repository would be extremely helpful to STAs and consultants alike. WASHINGTON STATE CASE EXAMPLE â¢ Utility Coordination Best Practices and Implemented Research At Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), utility coordination begins at the 30% design phase by accumulating a list of impacted utilities and reviewing how relocations may fit within the project footprint. WSDOT partici- pates in utility coordinating councils in each county and uses that opportunity to communicate WSDOT and utility owner infrastructure building and/or maintenance plans. WSDOT does not currently use a utility coordinator on each project but is considering it. It recently put in place a list of accommodations to track and indicate utility impacts on projects. WSDOT has recently applied for SHRP 2 Implementation funding for the product bundle of R01A, R01B, and R15B. WSDOT was awarded $150,000 for SHRP 2 R01A and $100,000 for SHRP 2 R15B. Additionally, it just started an online utility permitting database to help identify utilities within a GIS system. Once populated, the system will provide contact information for known utilities. Currently under consideration is the transition of legacy data into the new system. â¢ Consultant-Led Utility Coordination WSDOT used consultant-led utility coordination for one major project within an urban area and with several significant complexities.
38 â¢ Availability of Utility Education and Training WSDOT does not have utility coordination training available and this is a point of concern. â¢ Knowledge Gaps Associated with Utility Coordination WSDOT personnel felt it was important to note that there is not enough understanding of business processes between STAs and utilities. For instance, the importance of communicating budgets and schedules cannot be overestimated. STA personnel should understand that utility resources are not unlimited and, in some cases, STA schedules may not be fiscally possible for the utility. It also is important for communication of project schedules and budgets to occur with the proper personnel within the utility owners (personnel understanding the maintenance, programming, and fiscal constraints of the owner). WSDOT is working toward improvements by increasing consistency in the utility coordination process and early initialization of the utility design phase as part of the transportation project.