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Utility Pole Safety and Hazard Evaluation Approaches (2020)

Chapter: Chapter 10 - Utility Owner Case Examples

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Page 68
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 10 - Utility Owner Case Examples." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Utility Pole Safety and Hazard Evaluation Approaches. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25923.
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Page 68
Page 69
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 10 - Utility Owner Case Examples." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Utility Pole Safety and Hazard Evaluation Approaches. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25923.
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Page 69

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68 Efforts to contact or interview UOs by U.S. mail, email, or telephone were for the most part ineffectual. Of the UOs contacted, four (designated UO1 through UO4) reported various approaches to the roadside safety problem, but one of these no longer considered its roadside safety program (RSP) as active. The case examples below summarize activities being conducted by four UOs. These case examples are intended to represent the wide variation in UO approaches (and non-approaches) to the roadside safety problem. Utility Owner Case Example 1 UO1 covers the major portion of a state in the Great Lakes region. Representatives of UO1 responded comprehensively to our initial survey and provided considerable additional information by telephone. UO1’s 1.8 million customers are distributed over 65,000 miles of roadway and include an estimated 1.6 million utility poles within roadway rights-of-way. UO1 representatives are well informed on the overall problem of roadside safety and use several approaches to determine where changes are indicated in their system. Working with the state DOT and applying, in general, its guidelines for accomplishing appropriate clear zones on rights-of- way, UO1 employs state-compiled heat maps to visualize the relative need for relocating existing facilities or for engineering initial facility locations during new construction. These maps are color coded, with accident histories signified by green (low number of crashes), yellow (medium number), and red (high number). The red areas are accorded special consideration. UO1 also uses the car pole code method, which continually documents where pole colli- sions are causing service outages. This maintenance record documentation would in general identify the types of collisions that are sufficiently severe to disrupt service, which presumably would also be those collisions most likely to cause serious passenger injuries. These data illus- trate the clear relationship between atypically exposed poles and loss of revenue due to system downtime. UO1 does not normally install concrete barriers, crash cushions, energy-absorbing deformable poles, or steel-reinforced safety poles (breakaway designs) although UO1 is aware of small cushions for low-speed collisions. Utility Owner Case Example 2 UO2 representatives indicated that in 2017, a new state utility accommodation manual was published with guidelines for the placement of poles during new construction and during periods of major facility modification. The state manual before that included less rigorous guidelines, including placement of poles as “close as practicable to the ROW line.” C H A P T E R 1 0 Utility Owner Case Examples

Utility Owner Case Examples 69 UO2 is, on rare occasions, contacted by the state DOT about modification of facilities that are determined to be atypically exposed to vehicle collisions. In the past, in special cases, guardrails or curbs were recommended. UO2 has never considered crash cushions, concrete barriers, or energy-absorbing poles or breakaway devices. In a recent example of alternatives for meeting the setback guidelines, an installation of rumble strips on a narrow asphalt concrete- surfaced pavement shoulder was approved and paid for by UO2. In the general case of UO2 requesting a “design alternative,” the UO must meet comprehensive requirements, including alternative routing of the electric service transmission elements (i.e., the pole line itself). Sometimes the state DOT does not approve design alternative requests; e.g., a recent proposal for new facilities to transmit power to and from a solar plant installation was rejected. Utility Owner Case Example 3 UO3 covers 850 square miles in a southern state with a service area population of about 1 million. UO3 tries to conform, where possible, to state and federal guidelines concerning pole placement, with the usual exceptions generated by roadway widening and installations where roadways were not originally constructed. In 1989, UO3 responded to negative publicity regarding its use of concrete poles after sev- eral severe crashes by implementing an RSP, and independent contractors assigned to that task developed recommendations, as reported by Ivey and Scott (2004). UO3 then used those recommendations to develop its in-house safety program, adopting a management directive that incorporated much of what the contractors recommended. This directive was eventually superseded by an engineering and construction services procedure in 2006 (revised in 2007). During that period, some pole sites were changed, usually because of pole movement or roadway design changes initiated by the STAs. UO3 attempted no installation of crash cushions, guardrails, or breakaway structures, instead opting for pole movement as the preferred solution. At this time, UO3 no longer uses the 2007 procedure, attempts to comply with STA policies for pole placement within rights-of-way, and sees no current need for an in-house RSP. Utility Owner Case Example 4 UO4 services primarily urban customers in a mid-size southern city with a population of 120,000. UO4 encompasses 53 square miles and provides electricity to 67,000 customers. Its facilities are located on the rights-of-way of 1,300 miles of roadway. UO4’s formal RSP began in 2000 with the adoption of a public safety enhancement project. It has been in continual operation since that time and remains operational today. Its accomplish- ments included provision of crash cushions on two major transmission poles on the outside of a parkway curve, movement of some poles with a significant crash history, redesign with the city of several intersections, and delineation of many poles near primary thoroughfares. The two major steel transmission poles suffered two severe collisions in 1999. Since 2000, when the sand inertia crash cushions were installed on these poles, six major collisions have occurred at the two sites, requiring repair or replacement of the crash cushions. However, no severe injuries were associated with the crash cushion events. Although UO4 has implemented selected site improvements, as indicated by maintenance experience, it is now beginning a crash history analysis based on records for the preceding 5 years to identify current candidates for safety-related system modifications. UO4 offers an effective model for other UOs, illustrating the positive relationship between increased public safety and public relations.

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In 2017, the latest year for which data are available, 887 fatal utility pole crashes occurred in the United States, accounting for 914 fatalities. These numbers were about the same as those in recent years but lower than such fatality numbers from a decade or two ago.

The TRB National Cooperative Highway Research Program's NCHRP Synthesis 557: Utility Pole Safety and Hazard Evaluation Approaches summarizes the strategies, policies, and technologies that state transportation agencies (STAs) and utility owners (UOs) employ to address utility pole safety concerns.

Specific areas of interest for this synthesis report include methods to identify problem poles and high-risk locations, pole-placement policies, strategies and countermeasures to reduce the risk of pole-related collisions and resulting injuries and deaths, and available funding sources for implementing countermeasures. Case studies were also developed for exemplary STAs and UOs, highlighting some of their utility pole safety activities.

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