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39 CHAPTER FIVE CONCLUSIONS This chapter summarizes the findings of this project and draws conclusions on effective utility coordination practices that are in place at state transportation agencies (STAs). The objective of the synthesis was to document how previous research has been incorporated into current utility coordination practice; how STAs and utility stakeholders are scoping, conducting, and managing effective utility coordination; and if there are resources to train and educate on effective utility coordination practices. The synthesis research methodology used surveys of STAs to establish a state of the practice regarding utility coordination and uncovered effective utility coordination practices. Additionally, STAs were surveyed to find what research is being applied and the perceived benefits of said research. The survey was sent to the AASHTO Subcommittee on Right-of- Way, Utilities, and Outdoor Advertising Control. Individualized follow-up bolstered the response rate to 84% (42 states). In addition to the STA survey, a non-STA utilities stakeholder survey was developed and sent to several organizations including the National Utility Locating Contractors Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers Utility Engineering and Sur- veying Institute (ASCE-UESI), members of the Transportation Research Board Standing Committee on Utilities, and others. There were 29 total responses, 16 of which were utility owners. Concurrent with the final stages of the survey questionnaires, other STAs were identified both during the literature review and by initial survey responses for follow-up interviews. Six additional states were interviewed and, contrary to the phone/ web-based methods indicated in the study work plan, the research team conducted face-to-face interviews while attending the annual meeting of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Right-of-Way, Utilities, and Outdoor Advertising Control. The selec- tion of the interviewees was based on sampling those who applied utility coordination research and current practices in an effective manner. The sample was also influenced by achieving a thorough cross section of the U.S. STAs. The states selected were Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, Virginia, Washington State, and Wyoming. The case example interviews were conducted in person and the discussions were very rich in detail. KEY FINDINGS This work produced several key findings: A Framework or Guidance for Effective Utility Coordination and Applied Research â¢ There is a substantial lack of structure and guidance in the field of utility coordination, especially regarding the advance- ments in research; that is, the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP 2) products. This relates to state and federal regulation inconsistencies, varying practices within states, and the state-to-state difference in the organization that holds the responsibility for utility. SHRP 2 provides a source of excitement for advancing and improving utility location technologies and coordination, but there is a lack of standard guidance on how to incorporate these products into a sound utility coordination program. Utility Coordination as Part of the Design Process â¢ Several decades ago, environmental compliance and transportation project development were disjointed processes. The result was misaligned objectives, which led to delayed project delivery. The National Environmental Policy Act pro- vided a rigid process that tied the environmental compliance and transportation delivery processes together. A similar process or mindset may be necessary for utility coordination. The utility coordination process has been relatively stag- nant for decades, while the technology involved in utility facilities has been on a steep curve of advancement. Couple this with competition and the confined resources of utility owners and STAs alike, and the expectation of utility delays on transportation projects will be a dire consequence. Better incorporation of the utility coordination process into the transportation design process is necessary, with early involvement being most critical.
40 Consultant-Led Utility Coordination â¢ Consultant-led utility coordination is often used out of necessity (due to lack of personnel availability or experience), but to be effective it must be used with careful controls in place. Consultants certified/prequalified or at least trained in the utility coordination practices applicable to the specific STA may be of benefit to this approach. An evaluation system may also benefit STAs and they can likely expect consultants to involve them in any nonstandard issues that arise. In addition, legality issues could result from consultants not having the statutory authority in some cases to make utility coordination decisions. Issues can arise if the consultants who are performing the coordination duties have any business relationships with the utilities they are relocating. Effective Utility Coordination Practices â¢ The top practices determined from the survey are seen in Figure 32. For STAs looking to improve the utility coordina- tion processes, this figure may be a starting point to assess the practices they are currently using. Table 8 presents the same information but with cross analysis of non-STA survey responses and utility owners. TABLE 8 STA EFFECTIVE UTILITY COORDINATION PRACTICES Element Percent of STA Respondents Selected (n = 42) Number of Non-STA Respondents Selected (n = 29) Number of Utility Owners Selected (n = 16) Early Utility Involvement in Design (30% or earlier) 88 â¦ 26 â¦ 15 â¦ Utility Preconstruction Meetings 67 â© 20 â¦ 12 â¦ Defined Procedures (i.e., Utility Coordination Guidance Manual) 67 â¦ 17 â¦ 8 â© Consideration of Utilities Relocation Schedules in Relation to Project Schedules 74 â¦ 15 â© 10 â¦ Use of SUE (Subsurface Utility Engineering) 57 â© 13 â© 2 Regularly Scheduled Meetings with Utility Owners 57 â© 12 â© 5 Communication of Short-Range Transportation Plan 21 12 â© 9 â© Use of Utility Corridors 14 12 â© 8 â© Use of Standardized Utility Agreements 60 â© 8 6 Identify and Plan for Long-Lead Items 50 â© 8 0 Utility Mapping System (utility location information entered into a GIS-based system) 26 10 7 â© Communication of Long-Range Transportation Plan 24 10 7 â© â¦ = Top three elements selected by respondents. â© = Top eight elements selected by respondents. Respondents were limited to choosing their top eight. Utility Owner and STA Perceptions â¢ Beyond showing what practices are considered effective, Table 8 also illustrates potential areas to be addressed concern- ing the perception of STAs and utility owners. Table 8 shows that early utility involvement in design is the preferred practice and there are also similar feelings for utility preconstruction meetings, consideration of utility and project schedules, and defined procedures. Of note, a substantial disagreement exists about the effectiveness of Subsurface Utility Engineering between the STAs and utility owners. It additionally appears utility owners would prefer to see more use of utility corridors and the sharing of long-range transportation plans. Legislation, Regulations, and Guidance â¢ The flexibility in federal legislation, regulations, and guidance, while beneficial to STAs adopting policies to meet their specific needs, creates inconsistencies in utility coordination for utility companies working in multiple states. With many utility facilities moving toward national conglomerates, revisiting this practice may need consideration.
41 FIGURE 32 STA effective utility coordination practices (limited to choosing top eight). Training and Education â¢ The lack of education and training for utility personnel and coordination is significant. As knowledge loss owing to turnover escalates both at STAs and with utility owners, the knowledge gap will grow, and improper utility coordination practices will lead to increased project risks. The National Highway Institute and ASCE-UESI have attempted to fill this void. However, because accommodation policies and legislation vary from state to state, STA-specific training should be considered for clientele outside the STA.
42 RESEARCH NEEDS In addition to understanding the use of subsurface utility engineering and advanced utility location technologies, the survey and interview responses indicated that a need exists for standards of practice, guidance, and training for utility coordination. STAs, consultants, and utility owners may benefit from a knowledge management approach such as a guidebook and related training programs for effective utility coordination (Figure 33). FIGURE 33 STA-indicated areas of need for utility coordination research.