Post-22 – Presentations in Texas & Louisiana

The FHWA SUE Promotion Team wound up its tour of State DOTs with stops in Texas and Louisiana. We arrived at the TxDOT headquarters in Dallas on Monday morning. Getting tired I guess; we had combined the morning and afternoon sessions into just one. We made our usual presentations and visited some with the attendees. After lunch we headed on to Baton Rouge for our last presentation on Tuesday morning at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (Louisiana DOTD).

We were well received at both places. The Texas attendees already knew about SUE and were very enthusiastic about it. The Louisiana attendees were not as familiar with SUE but were very attentive and interested. 
It was nice to meet DOT people I had talked to on the telephone but had never met before. There were three in particular that would make SUE happen in Texas — John Campbell (State Utilities Engineer); Randy Anderson (John’s top assistant); and John Breed (State Toll Operations Utilities Engineer). Ditto for two individuals in Louisiana who ran the utilities program, which didn’t really have a home but was being handled out of the right-of-way office – Billy Moore (Consultant) and Jim Dousay (a former LSU football standout). Also possibly in the rooms were Jesse Cooper at TxDOT who replaced John Campbell when John was promoted to Director of the Right-of-Way Division, and Trey Jesclard at LDOTD, both of whom would help push SUE to great heights in their states.

My favorite story from the trips to region 6 took place in Louisiana. Jim Anspach was presenting, and we noticed an older gentleman in the room who was sleeping soundly. As Jim was winding up his presentation, the sleeper woke up, raised his hand, and said, “We won’t be using your SUE in Louisiana because we don’t have any utility problems.” With that, bedlam broke out in the room. It seems there were three young construction guys sitting in the back and they began laughing, stomping their feet, and even pounding on the tables. Soon others in the room joined them. It must have been very embarrassing to our sleeper being contradicted in such a manner. Soon thereafter Trey Jesclard became the State Utilities Engineer and Louisiana began using SUE.

We ended our trip in New Orleans. We had a few hours to kills before our flight out that evening, so Jim Anspach drove Joe and me to the French Quarter. He told us he was leaving us there because he had a time share in the French Quarter and was going to spend the rest of the week there. Before leaving us though, he put us in a buggy (similar to the one in the picture), paid the driver, and told us he hoped we would enjoy the ride through “his city.” We did. We flew home that night, Joe to BWI, and me to DCA.  




Post-21 – Presentations in the FHWA Region 6 States

The FHWA SUE Promotion Team took a few months off after making presentations promoting SUE to state DOTs in the FHWA’s Region 5 and then hit the road again, this time going to FHWA’s Region 6. The team consisted of Joe Bissett (State Utilities Engineer, Maryland State Highway Administration), Jim Anspach (So-Deep, Inc.), and Paul Scott (FHWA-HQ). FHWA Region 6 states to we visited were Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas,

We flew to Memphis, Tennessee on a Monday morning, met up, rented a car, and drove across the Mississippi River on Interstate 40 to Little Rock, Arkansas, to prepare for our first presentations the next day at the Arkansas DOT (ArDOT).

On Tuesday morning we addressed upper management personnel at the ArDOT headquarters office. We introduced ourselves and I kicked off the meeting with an overview of the purpose of the meeting, Jim Anspach followed with a description of how SUE worked and how it would benefit the ArDOT to use it, and Joe Bissett explained how SUE had benefited the Maryland SHA. Joe, being the DOT guy, was the star of the show. The ArDOT people really liked him and asked a lot of questions.

After lunch we met for a few hours with the ArDOT utilities and surveying people and people from other offices that interacted with utilities. We essentially followed the morning format, but much more casually, and had lots of individual discussions with those that were most interested in SUE.

On Wednesday morning we headed west on I-40 to Oklahoma to visit ODOT; spent the night in Oklahoma City; and made our presentations. Then on Thursday morning we travelled west again across the Texas panhandle to New Mexico; spent the night in Sante Fe; and then visited the NMDOT on Friday.

We were well received everywhere we went and had some nice visits with all the people we met. For me, it was nice to add some faces to the voices of those I had talked with over the telephone. As best I remember, that would have been Ralph Williams Assistant State Utilities Engineer) in Arkansas, Kurt Harms (Director of Right-of-Way) in Oklahoma, and Lester Cisneros (State Utilities Engineer) in New Mexico. I worked with all of them for many years afterwards on utilities and committee matters, learned a lot from them, and always felt privileged to be in their company.

We drove back to Texas on Saturday morning, talking about SUE and utilities all the way, and spent the weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where our next presentations were scheduled to begin on Monday morning.

We will continue the story next week with our visits to the Texas and Louisiana DOTs. We met some outstanding people and had some interesting experiences that I will share with you.



Post-20 – Presentations in the FHWA Region 5 States

The FHWA SUE Promotion Team was off to promote SUE.  The team consisted of Bernie Levin (Maryland SHA), Jim Anspach (So-Deep, Inc.), Paul Scott (FHWA-HQ), and Clair Hendrickson (FHWA-R5). FHWA Region 5 states to be visited were Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

We flew to Chicago O’Hare on a Monday morning, met up, rented a car, and drove south to Springfield, Illinois, to prepare for our first presentations the next day. Springfield is the capital of the State of Illinois and headquarters for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

On Tuesday morning we walked confidently into the Illinois DOT (IDOT) offices and were directed to a conference room where upper management personnel awaited us. We introduced ourselves and I kicked off the meeting with an overview of the purpose of the meeting. Jim Anspach followed with a description of how SUE worked and how it would benefit the Illinois DOT to use it. Bernie Levin then explained how SUE had benefited the Maryland SHA.  Bernie, by the way, was not a utility person. He was assigned to the construction office and had witnessed many utility conflicts. He was the star of the show, though, as the IDOT people really took to him.

The meeting ended quickly after the Chief Engineer declared that SUE sounded like a good thing, but IDOT would never use it in Illinois unless the utilities paid for it because they were required to provide information about the location of their facilities.

We talked about it over lunch and someone at the table suggested that it was IDOT’s project, and they had more to lose from utility delays than the utilities did. As a side note, almost a year after our meeting, IDOT moved a new engineer, Cheryl Cathey, into the utilities position and she went on for many years representing IDOT exceptionally well within the state and on national highway/utility committees. I always thought she was responsible for IDOT beginning to use SUE on its projects and paying for it.

After lunch we met for a few hours with the IDOT utilities people and people from other offices that interacted with utilities. We essentially followed the morning format, but much more casually, and had lots of individual discussions with those that were most interested in SUE.

We then packed our bags and headed down the road to the next state. And so, it went in the other states. By 1999, maybe somewhat because of our meetings, all the State DOTs in Region 5 were using SUE. Providers working in those states, to name few that I remember, were So-Deep, TBE Group, Geotrack, and a few new local firms. SUE is expanding exponentially.

Next week, the team goes to Region 6.


#Subsurface Utility Engineering

Post 19 – Presentations in Region 5 & 6

It was 1993 and none of the State DOTs in the FHWA’s Regions 5 and 6 had used SUE. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin DOTs were in Region 5. Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas DOTs were in Region 6. I don’t remember exactly how it all came about, but it was decided that I would lead a team consisting of FHWA, State DOT, and Provider representatives. We would visit each DOT, meet with upper management representatives in the morning, and with technical staff after lunch in the afternoons. We allotted two weeks for each region. We would do Region 5 first, take a few months off, and then visit Region 6. FHWA would reimburse the State and Provider representatives for all expenses if their organizations would give them time off with full pay.

The cost of this venture would greatly exceed the budget for my office, the Railroads, Utilities, and Programs Branch in the Office of Engineering. However, two other offices with money for implementation stepped up and helped us out. They were the State and Local Programs Branch of the Office of Technical Applications, headed by Janet Coleman, and the Experimental Projects Branch of the Office of Highway Operations, headed by Mike Burk. A good friend, Vinnie Nowakowski, worked for Mike and helped out. Vinnie, Mike, and I worked together in the Office of Highway Safety in the early 1980s. Subsurface Utility Engineering helped all of us reach our mission goals. It was truly a team effort.

The next step in the plan was to put together the team. We asked Jim Anspach from So-Deep to fill the Provider role and he readily agreed. We also asked Joe Bissett and Bernie Levin of the Maryland State Highway Administration to fill the State DOT role and they were readily given approval for Joe to join us on the Region 5 trips and Bernie to join us on the Region 6 trips. Regional Office staff helped us set the dates for the visits and we were all set to go.

Next week I will highlight some of the events that occurred on these trips.



Post-18 – They Didn’t Think Subsurface Utility Engineering Would Work

I hope your holidays were nice and you are already working to make 2023 the best year ever. I had a nice holiday break and am ready to move on with the history of SU E.

When I left a few weeks ago, we were in the early 1990s in SUE’s history. SUE, as you know, started in 1981 with Garon Stutzman and Jim Anspach leading the way.

By the last decade of the 20th Century:

(a) So-Deep had set the bar for all competitors by providing designating, locating, data management, and surveying services; by carrying liability insurance; and by professionally signing and sealing all deliverables. Soon they would add utility quality levels, CADD, and utility coordination to their SUE inventory).

(b) So-Deep, Geotrack, SoftDig, Accurate, TBE Group, and half a dozen or so other companies were providing SUE services in one or more states.

(c) Several hundred people were involved in providing SUE to the Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Departments of Transportation (DOTs), and a few other State and local DOTs.

(d) Great success was evident based upon several individual case studies of SUE projects.

But the naysayers were rampant, not only in 1992, but throughout the remainder of the 1990s and beyond. We in the FHWA HQ office with the responsibility for promoting SUE were concerned that many stakeholders (state and local DOTs, other federal agencies, and even some of our own FHWA offices were not sold on SUE. Jerry Poston and I and/or State DOTs and SUE providers had made all of them aware of SUE, but they just were not convinced.

So, we decided to intensify our efforts, beginning with our traditional partners, the State DOTs. You may already know that the FHWA collects Federal gas taxes in the Highway Trust Fund and using an extremely complicated legislated formula makes them available to the State DOTs, who then choose their own highway projects, ask the FHWA to set aside funds for them, build the projects using their own funds, and ask the FHWA to reimburse them at a pre-determined pro rata amount.

Unknown to most, FHWA Division Administrators and/or State DOT Commissioners, at least in the 1990s, had determined that no Federal funds would be used for utilities. Thus, State DOTs, the project owners, had to pay for SUE when used on their projects. This is the reason that even though FHWA had ruled that SUE was eligible for Federal reimbursement, the State DOTs would not be requesting reimbursement for it even when used on Federally funded projects.

Despite this unexpected roadblock and others, we expected would come, we pushed forward and decided to turn from individual efforts to promote SUE to combined “FHWA–State DOT-Provider” efforts involving visits to non-participating State DOTs in an effort to convince them to at least try SUE.

More about that next week.


#Subsurface Utility Engineering


Post 17 — Geotrack, Inc.



So far as we knew at FHWA, there were four providers of SUE services in 1992. Three of these providers – So-Deep, Geotrack, and TBE Group — stopped by our office in Washington, DC to introduce themselves and came back frequently. We met a few other providers at conferences and got to know their representatives. Today I want to introduce Geotrack.

The following is the Geotrack story as told to me by John Krause and Jonathan Tan (see picture):

JOHN KRAUSE: “Geotrack was founded in 1989 Rick Quickle, David Quickle, and Barbara Torterelli and was based in Beltsville, MD. Its first SUE contract was with the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). Soon thereafter, Dr. Galo Tan, a Chicago Neurologist, invested in and eventually acquired all ownership of Geotrack. His son, Jonathan was made CEO and President of Geotrack.

Offices were established in 10 states between 1990 and 2005 and Geotrack provided SUE services at various times to (a) 15 state DOTs (primarily MD, NY, NC, AZ, VA, TX, NM, NV, and IL); (b) around 30 municipalities, and (c) several large private utility companies.

Geotrack was a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firm. This helped them to grow the company and improve products and services and helped clients meet federal and state small business goals. The goal was to always follow its technical and professional process. They did this by not only locating utilities but consulting on mapping and utility site engineering solutions for plants, rail, airports, seaports, or site improvement and remediation or about anything.

Dave Husher PLS (AZ); Samir Moody PE (NJ); John Krause PLS (US); and Robert Mullin (East Coast) all served in key senior leadership and technical roles in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Other associates that contributed significantly to Geotrack’s success were Seamus Lowry (VA, DC, MD), Mark Krause, (NY, NJ and VP of East Coast), Bob Mullin PE (TX), Gordon Hans LS & PE (TX), Marty Cawley PE (IL), Paul Cravotta (SUE manager and VP in NJ and NY), Carlton Sellars (Chief SUE manager, national), and last but certainly not least, Faith Welling our marketing director.”

JONATHAN TAN: “We always tried to do high quality work and exceed our client’s expectations. I believe we did that. During the 23 years that Geotrack was providing SUE services, no utilities were ever hit as a result of information we provided or failed to provide. Consequently, no claims were ever filed against our professional liability insurance. I am very proud of that and of all the members of the Geotrack team during those days.”

After the Geotrack days ended in 2012, Jonathan Tan went on to become a consultant to many companies on real time analytics, GIS, CPO, and C-Level Technical digital product management. John Krause caught on with the Florida DOT and became a leader of their surveying, mapping, and civil integrated management efforts.


#Subsurface Utility Engineering



I have been telling the SUE story from my FHWA perspective. All SUE practitioners have stories to tell. The following three stories probably tell more about the growth of SUE than all the words I could put together.

DAVE COLE has promoted SUE for almost 30 years. This is what he has to say: “It’s interesting how the Ohio DOT came to adopt SUE some 27 years ago. There was a project in Mentor on the Lake called Lost Nation Road where a contractor kept hitting utilities. It became a big item with the Cleveland press. Anyway, I understand So-Deep was contacted, and mobilized to Ohio with a crew using vacuum excavation only 50 to 100 feet ahead of construction clearing utilities. From there, ODOT put out an RFP for SUE and we won a contract. ODOT insisted we must have an office in Ohio. That’s when I came onboard opening an office in Tallmadge.”

MARK WARDEN has promoted SUE for more than 30 years. He remembers: “In 1987, Delaware DOT became S0-Deep’s second state DOT to contract for SUE services and has used SUE continuously to this day. Chuck Workman, Neil Moore, and Mike Stayton of DelDOT’s Utility Section were instrumental in getting this contract started and keeping it going. Bill Pickering, Right-of-Way and Utilities Chief, and Lynn Schell, State Utilities Director, of the Pennsylvania DOT introduced SUE services to the eleven PennDOT Districts in the early 1990’s. PennDOT Districts 6 (Philadelphia), 5 (Allentown), and 11 (Pittsburgh) were the test grounds for SUE in the Commonwealth.”

NICK ZEMBILLAS tells a fascinating story about a true SUE pioneer working in an area that I have overlooked to date in my posts. Nick says:  “Let me tell you a SUE STORY of a true Pioneer of SUE whose career started as a locator for CLS, locating for Sunshine One Call locate tickets. This young person, became a regional manager for CLS and was responsible for training his team of locators in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. In the late 80’s this young person, would attend our FDOT D7 Utility Coordination events to learn about our district proposed work program and new Utility coordination and emerging new best practices. At one D7 Utility event, I had a presentation on SUE and showed the FHWA SUE video with follow up Q&A. This young man sat in the front row, eye’s wide open and ears, attentive. On that day, he drank the SUE coolaide. This young man was GARY FRAZHO, who was a talented Locator, who became the most AMAZING TRUE SUE Pioneer, GLOBALLY. Gary, far exceed ALL expectations, I could ever imagine.”

Dave, Mark, and Nick made numerous cold calls, knocks on doors, presentations and more. Gary has had a hall-of-fame career teaching field personnel the proper way to use the SUE locating and designating equipment. All three are still working at it today.


More stories next week!


#Subsurface Utility Engineering



Last week I asked for information from anyone that worked for a provider or knew of a provider that offered Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) services during the 1990s. We will begin looking at responses to that request in a few weeks.

We’re now moved in the history of SUE from 1981 to 1991. Lots of things happened in 1991. For example:

(1) Jerry Poston (Chief of FHWA’s Railroad, Utilities, and Programs Branch in the Office of Engineering) visited the Florida DOT and several conferences and made presentations.

(2) Janet Coleman (Chief of FHWA’s State and Local Programs Branch in the Office of Technical Applications) began helping us look for opportunities to promote SUE.

(3) FHWA became aware of four providers other than So-Deep:

(A) Geotrack was begun by Jonathan Tan in 1987. John Krause, Faith Welling, Bob Mullin, Paul Cravotta, and others were important members of the team.

(B) Accurate (now InfraMap) was begun by Paul Hayes in 1987. John Midyette was an important part of the early team.

(C) Underground Services (SoftDig), was begun in 1959 as a company that installed anodes on pipelines with vacuum equipment. In 1986 SoftDig began providing test holes and later full SUE. Ed Hilbush, Bob Milliken and others were important members of the team.

(D) Tampa Bay Engineering (later TBE Group), begun by Nick Zembillas in 1991. Gary Frazho (see picture) was the first of many important hires.

(4) FHWA also became aware of several State DOTs using or considering using SUE. These DOT efforts were led by:

(A) Stuart Waymack and Richard Bennett in Virginia.

(B) Chuck Workman, Neil Moore and Mike Stayton in Delaware.

(C) Bill Pickering, Bob Limbaugh, and Lynn Schell in Pennsylvania.

(D) Adrian Flowers and Robert Memory in North Carolina.

(E) Nick Zembillas in Florida.

(F) Dudley Ellis in Georgia.

(G) John Campbell, Randy Anderson, and John Breed in Texas.

 The above providers, State DOTs, and individuals are all true SUE pioneers. Without their efforts SUE would never have become what it is today. There will be lots more about all of them in future posts.

This is just what I remember now some 31 years later. I know I have missed some providers, State DOTs, and especially some of the important people leading the charge.  If you are aware of companies, DOTs, and/or individuals than I can add, please let me know. There will be lots more about this in future posts, beginning next week with a look at Jonathan Tan and Geotrack and their contributions.





Last week I recalled some of the early history of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE). This week I want to begin talking about the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and its role in the history of SUE.

I mentioned in a previous post that we prepared a memo for FHWA Division Administrators asking them to meet with their State DOT counterparts to discuss SUE. We knew that some of them would do this, and some would not. So, one morning Jerry Poston called me into his office and said, “Paul, you remember when you took the utilities job, I told you that unlike most FHWA activities, you will be working directly with State DOT utilities engineers rather than with FHWA Division Office engineers with utilities responsibilities. That is because utilities are just a collateral duty in the Division offices and a very low priority.  You are therefore going to have to do that now and visit as many of the states as you can over the next few years.”

Jerry continued, “I don’t know how to prioritize the states for you to visit or to get the money to pay for one of two visits each month over the next four or five years, but we will take it a day at a time and see what happens. You also need to identify other stakeholders, such as SUE providers, SUE clients, manufacturers of SUE equipment, leaders in the industry, and more.”

Well, as fate would have it, two things happened. One, Jim Anspach was planning to visit lots of states to promote SUE and he asked me if I would be interested in joining him. Two, Janet Coleman, Chief of the State and Local Programs Branch in the Office of Technical Applications, came to my cubbyhole office and offered to help with funding. Future posts will contain more information about both of these opportunities.


When FHWA began promoting SUE in 1991, I was only aware of five SUE providers – So-Deep, Geotrack, SoftDig, Accurate (InfraMap), and Tampa Bay Engineering (TBE Group). Jonathan Tan and John Krause have contacted me recently about Geotrack. They are presently in the process of telling me when they began, who the early leaders were, what services they provided in the late 1980s and early 1990s, difficulties they had to overcome, what they added to the growth of SUE, and more. I will be doing an entire post about Geotrack in a few weeks.

DO YOU KNOW OF ANY OTHER SUE PROVIDERS THAT EMERGED IN THE LATE 1980S AND EARLY 1990s? If so, please contact me through LinkedIn or at my email address (cpscott532@aol.com).






Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) grew so much during the 1980s, much more than I anticipated when I began writing down my memories. To truly understand what SUE is today, I believe it is important to understand what it was in the beginning. So, this week, I would like to slow down, look back, and recall some of the important concepts.  o begin, it was all about So-Deep in the 1980s. Garon Stutzman “invented” SUE and was the prime force behind the ideas and concepts of it. With the financial backing of a Washington area contractor, W.R. Owens, Garon formed So-Deep, Inc. He then began building his team. In 1983 he hired James H. (Jim) Anspach, a Penn State geophysicist, the “Father of SUE” to provide surface geophysics and lots more.So-Deep wasn’t all Garon Stutzman and Jim Anspach. They were leaders of the SUE movement, no doubt about it, but there were many more people at So-Deep in support roles. So-Deep and all its success was, without a doubt in my mind, a team effort. Garon continued to hire outstanding people including: Mike Fisher to provide in-house surveying; Lou Ostendorff to professionally sign and seal plans; and Bucky Methfessel to handle legal matters and help obtain professional liability insurance. Others hired for specific purposes were Bob Humphreys, Jack Ferguson, Bob Stevens, Jeff Oakley, Cary Skahn, Mark Warden, and David Cole. There were others I can’t remember, but they were all pioneers and in whatever ways, they gave SUE the foundation to prosper and grow as it has today.


The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) played an important role. Garon Stutzman approached VDOT in late 1983 and proposed designating all of the utilities on a highway project during the design stage so that designers could avoid them on paper when possible. J.C. Carr, the State Utility Engineer for VDOT, saw the potential and allocated $10,000 for a trial project, a massive road reconstruction in Crystal City traversing the Pentagon and Washington National Airport areas. The realized savings obtained by using SUE were substantial.

By the end of the 1980s So-Deep’s services included designating, locating, surveying, mapping, utility quality levels, signing and sealing deliverables, professional liability insurance, and more. In addition, So-Deep acquired lots of new and better designating equipment as it became available, as demonstrated by Jim Anspach in the picture. The Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania DOTs had begun using SUE in the late 1980s. And, several new providers emerged, particularly Geotrack (owned by Jonathan Tan and represented by John Krause), and others that I didn’t know of at the time. These DOTs and providers will be discussed in more detail starting next week as we get into SUE in the 1990s. And so, in 1991, the FHWA came into the picture and began putting lots of time and money into promoting SUE. We will look at some of these early FHWA activities next week.