Categories for Pauls Corner

#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 (





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.

#Subsurface Utility Engineering



My history of Subsurface Utility Engineering continues. Jerry Poston, Jim Overton, and I came back to the office after our initial meeting with So-Deep and began discussing what FHWA could do to prevent accidents such as shown in the picture and help promote Subsurface Utility Engineering.

We agreed that a first effort would be to send a memo to each Regional Administrator for subsequent transmittal to the FHWA Division Administrator in each state asking him (all DAs were men in 1991) to visit his counterpart at the State Department of Transportation and to request consideration of the new engineering practice called Subsurface Utility Engineering. Jerry also wanted to prepare an article for publication in a prominent trade magazine.

Subsequently, I developed a draft memo that Jim and Jerry critiqued and passed on to the Director of the Office of Engineering to sign and send out to the Regions and subsequently to the Divisions.

Jerry wrote a very nice article introducing Subsurface Utility Engineering to the world. I believe it was published in the APWA Reporter. Sadly, this was before we had a computer in our office and there is no copy of the article to be found. It might be in an FHWA file somewhere but I doubt that they even have file cabinets now. I don’t even know the title of the article, probably just Subsurface Utility Engineering by Jerry Poston.

The reason I believe Jerry’s article might have been published in the APWA Reporter is because we were working closely with APWA at the time on completion of the Highway Utility Guide, which APWA was preparing for FHWA with the University of Alabama. This document fulfilled a dream of Jim Carney, who was Jerry Poston’s predecessor, to have a document containing everything known about utilities located on highway rights-of-way.

Within a few years of being published in 1993, the Highway Utility Guide became the basis for a National Highway Institute trailing course that was developed by Drs. Dan Turner and Jay Lindy of the University of Alabama and taught for many years by Dr. Lindly and Ted Williams. Ted was a former Green Beret officer, race car driver, and attorney for BellSouth. The two were highly acclaimed instructors and did much in their courses to promote Subsurface Utility Engineering.

Subsurface Utility Engineering grew a lot during the 1980s and totally exploded during the 1990s. Before we get to that, though, I want to stop next week and look back at some of the major events that took place in the 1980s and early 1990s before FHWA got involved.

As always, your likes and comments are very much appreciated.



After meeting with So-Deep, Jerry Poston, Jim Overton, and I returned to the office. It was all very overwhelming. Jerry Poston said he felt like a small dog in tall grass (a favorite expression of his). Most of what the So-Deep people told us was way over my head. I kind of got the designating and locating part but there was so much more that they were doing. I did get, however, that they had found a way to locate subsurface utilities from above the ground before the backhoe found them.

In our early FHWA days, we had all experienced the trauma caused by delays when unknown utilities were damaged, and projects were delayed. We believed that So-Deep had something that the State DOTs needed to be using on all projects, especially Federal-aid projects.

I hope you are beginning to see that Jerry Poston is an unsung hero of Subsurface Utility Engineering. He was the one that convinced everyone at FHWA that Subsurface Utility Engineering needed to be considered for use on every federally funded project involving excavation. But that is not all. Firstly, as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves in the 1980s, Jerry headed a team that developed a plan of attack that General Norman Schwarzkopf followed early in 1991 to secure one of the most lopsided victories in modern warfare driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait. Secondly, shortly after arriving in Washington, Jerry was assigned to a multi-office team that developed the FHWA’s version of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA, pronounced “Iced Tea”). This legislation was hailed as a turning point in the history of surface transportation in America. Instead of focusing on just highway transportation, ISTEA emphasized intermodalism – the linking of highway, rail, air, and marine transportation. It also created the National Highway System, replacing the outdated Interstate, Primary, and Secondary systems. And thirdly, only a few years after taking the Branch Chief position Jerry was promoted and became Chief of the Federal-aid and Design Division.

So, we came back from our visit with So-Deep and began brainstorming. There was no doubt in our minds that there was a whole world of utilities underground (see picture). If utility facilities had been located aboveground, they would have been surveyed, placed on preliminary design plans, and considered when designing new facilities. We were also aware that utility as-built information was typically not very good and highway designers were reluctant to use it.

So, we started talking about what we could do. Jerry started by telling us that Subsurface Utility Engineering would “revolutionize the way utilities were handled on highway projects” and that we had to start getting the word out.

I’m out of room for this week. Next week we will take an in-depth look at the FHWA plan we came up with.



While we were sleeping at FHWA during the 1980s, so to speak, at least relative to Subsurface Utility Engineering, lots of things were going on with SUE. I have tried to capture the major things and the people making them happen, but I have missed some and we will go back and look at them in future posts.

But for now, it’s 1991 in my history of SUE. Jerry Poston (Chief of the Railroads, Utilities, and Programs Branch) and Jim Overton (Deputy Chief) have approached me at my desk, and they told me there was something going on at the Virginia DOT that was supposedly reducing damage to underground utilities on construction projects and that they wanted me to help them look into it.

Jim Overton had handled utility matters at FHWA throughout most of the 1980s and even though he had moved up in the ranks in 1991, he still had a keen interest in utilities. He actually was the author of the Federal Regulations for utilities and for the FHWA Program Guide. The Regulations he prepared in 1988 are still in use, except so far as I know for three minor changes that I made in accordance with the Federal Register process to accommodate FHWA Division Office and/or State DOT requests. I believe the 2003 version of the Program Guide is also still in use. I first published it in 1992 in booklet form, with author Jim Overton’s permission, and distributed it to FHWA Division offices. I later updated it several times, the last being in 2003, and distributed it to FHWA field offices and at some point to State DOTs per their requests.

But back to SUE, Jim Overton was aware that a company in nearby Manassas Park, Virginia, was doing VDOT’s SUE work and Jerry Poston had made arrangements for us to visit them to find out what they were doing. The three of us drove to the So-Deep office and met with So-Deep leaders Bob Humphreys, Bob Stevens, Bucky Methfessel, Mike Fisher, Jack Ferguson, and Jim Anspach. They gave us a comprehensive update (a) on exactly what SUE was (designating, locating, and data management); (b) on how SUE had evolved throughout the 1980s; and (c) on what they envisioned for the future.

We didn’t understand much of what they told us, at least I didn’t, but we understood enough to know, as Jerry told us, that “SUE was going to revolutionize the way utilities were handled on highway projects.” He was so right. But there was lots of work that needed to be done before SUE evolved to that point.

More next week about FHWA’s plan for promoting Subsurface Utility Engineering in the early 1990s and our first efforts to implement our plan.



My history of the first years of Subsurface Utility Engineering continues:

Last week we looked at events leading up to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) endorsing Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE). Hurricane Hugo had slammed into the Carolinas in September 1989 and the FHWA Office of Engineering’s emergency relief position was vacant. Thus, it fell to Jim Overton, the Acting Chief for the Railroads, Utilities, and Programs Branch, to (a) respond to numerous inquiries; (b) review requests for ER funding; (c) prepare letters approving or denying the requests; and (d) much more. I helped Jim as best I could, but my greatest value to him was filling in for the secretary. I was the only one in the office that knew how to type and use the new typewriter with word processing capabilities and there were lots of memorandums and letters that needed to go out.

We were getting overwhelmed. Fortunately, help arrived. Jerry Poston arrived to take over as Branch Chief. He immediately jumped in to help Jim and to direct our team. Consequently, we got the job done in a timely manner and Jerry recommended Jim and me for an award.

I wish I had a picture of Jerry but so far have been unable to find one. He was always very quiet and unassuming with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye, and he had more than his fair share of what the Army called “command presence.” He would sit in his office most of the day smoking cigarettes and working on various things, but his office door was always open if any of us worker bees with cubbyholes in the big outer room needed help. He would always stop what he was doing, turn away from his work, and give us his full attention. Jim Overton was like that too.
Jerry soon filled the vacant positions and hired a cracker-jack secretary named Cleo Dorsey to replace me. Cleo told me with a mischievous smile that I was never to touch her typewriter again, so I reluctantly went back to my old job. It sure gave me a greater appreciation for the work that Cleo and other secretaries have to do.

Jerry Poston, Jim Overton, and I had become a pretty close team while working on the emergency relief. About a year later Jerry came to my cubbyhole one day and told me he had decided to split the railroad and utilities job into two full-time positions and wanted Bob Winans to keep the railroad position and me to take the utilities position. I hesitated to do so but Jerry convinced me that it was a great opportunity. Not long after that, early in 1991, Jerry and Jim came to me and told me they had something they wanted me to do concerning a new practice being used by the Virginia DOT called Subsurface Utility Engineering.

We will talk about that more in my post next week.



The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) began endorsing Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) in 1991. It all began, however, in 1989 at about the same time as SUE was getting its name. The story begins with a hurricane.

Hurricane Hugo slammed into the United States near Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina at about midnight on September 22, 1989. It was one of the strongest hurricanes in South Carolina’s history, and at the time the costliest hurricane ever in the Atlantic Ocean. Hugo’s destruction wasn’t limited to just South Carolina; it also devastated Guadeloupe, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico, and produced hurricane force winds across portions of North Carolina. The Ben Sawyer Bridge (see picture) connecting Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island, which normally turned from side-to-side to allow the passing of ships, broke from its cables. There was a massive amount of other bridge and roadway damage.

At the time of this event, I was working in the FHWA’s Office of Engineering in its Railroads, Utilities, and Programs Branch. Jim Carney, a much beloved gentleman who used to walk around the office in his sock feet, had just retired and his assistant, Jim Overton, was in charge of the office. Three other positions in the office were vacant due to laterals or promotions – the secretary, the emergency relief engineer, and the special programs engineer (the special programs were pork barrel projects, many of which were ignored by the DOTs depending on politics in the state). That left Jim Overton in charge, Bob Winans to handle railroads and utilities, and me. My job at the time was to keep up with Federal-aid regulations, policies, and eligibility pertaining to the more than 100 Federal-aid funding programs in effect.

Thus, when the hurricane hit, our office had no one in place to handle emergency relief, which became even more of a problem when the Master of Disaster (i.e., the Secretary of Transportation) went to the Carolinas and promised them everything, whether in compliance with Federal laws and regulations or not. He got lots of great publicity and actually did a very good job, but it fell to our emergency relief office to find ways to make it all happen. But, as I said, the emergency relief office was vacant. So, guess who ended up responsible for making all this happen? That’s right, Jim, Bob, and me! Bob handled damage to railroad warning devices and above ground utilities. Jim and I had damage to roads and bridges.

BUT HELP WAS ON THE WAY! More about that next week as Jerry Poston arrives to save the day! And what does this have to do with SUE. Stay tuned; we will get to that next week.