Post-47 – Utility Coordination (Part 5)

In the previous three LinkedIn Posts, Jim Anspach provided an excellent introduction to the SUE Utility Coordination service. The next few LinkedIn Posts will include some thoughts from practitioners that were involved in this service in the late 1990’s and early 2000s. Last week we heard from Jonathan Tan (Geotrack, Inc.) and Bob Clemens (Florida DOT, TBE Group, and KCI Technologies). This week we will hear from a true SUE pioneer that has promoted SUE in many ways over the past 50 years.

AL FIELD, CEO, Al Field & Associates

“Back in the 60s I was a draftsman for a local utility. When I got caught up with drawing, I was allowed to take a locater to the field, I have no idea what brand it was but it consisted of two boxes snapped together, one with a transmitter you attached to the utility ground or pipe and the other half used as a “wand” to find the utility. Using this I was able to map my area more accurately than the drawings submitted by the installation crews which sometimes looked like they had been drawn with a carpenter’s pencil.” 

“Building on that experience, I was promoted to the Design department and was allowed to attend a conference in St. Louis. Someone, probably Paul Scott, presented SUE among other things like breakaway utility poles. I was so impressed by the SUE presentation that I carried a stack of material back to Phoenix hoping to persuade my leaders that SUE was the way to go. For all I know the material ended up in a trash can. Nothing was done.” 

“Several years later following early retirement and being employed as a consultant by the Arizona DOT as a Utility Coordinator, I was able to utilize SUE during the design and construction of the majority of freeways constructed in the Valley of the Sun, an experience I still treasure today! “ 

“Following that experience I started my own company and was able to join APWA and get involved with their Utility & Public Rights-of-Way (UPROW) committee. This allowed me to attend most of the APWA conferences and the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) conferences where I continued to learn about SUE.” 

Al doesn’t mention that in about 2005 he asked Jim Anspach and Paul Scott to update Jim Thorne’s 1997 SUE Manual entitled, “Subsurface Utility Engineering: Applications in Public Works,” which they did and it was distributed widely to APWA members. Again, in about 2015, Al asked Jim and Paul to update it again, they did, and it was subsequently published by ASCE and entitled, “Subsurface Utility Engineering for Municipalities: Prequalification Criteria and Scope of Work Guide.” These documents instigated by Al Field contributed significantly to the growth of SUE. 

More unsung SUE heroes will be featured next week.