Post-50 – Training (Part 1)

This week we are going to get back to the early History of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE). There are some important things that occurred in the 1990s that we haven’t talked about yet. Training is one of those things.

Many of the firms providing SUE services, maybe all, began providing training for their SUE technicians almost immediately after beginning to offer the service. Some such training was, and continues to be, very intensive and has resulted in better results for the clients. 

Surprisingly, the Federal Highway Administration’s National Highway Institute (NHI) has never provided a course on Subsurface Utility Engineering for the State departments of transportation (DOTs). NHI has, however, provided an excellent training course for Utilities since early 1994, and this course has always devoted a little bit of space to SUE.    

But I’m getting ahead of the story. The NHI training course on Utilities was developed in 1994 as a result of the FHWA’s Highway/Utility Guide (see picture), which is what I want to talk about today and next week too.

In June 1993 the FHWA published the Highway/Utility Guide (Publication No. FHWA-SA-93-049). This publication provided comprehensive, state-of-the-knowledge guidance on highway/utility issues. The FHWA’s Office of Technology Applications (HTA) sponsored the Highway/Utility Guide and set aside the funds (about $200,000) to pay for it. They then awarded a contract to the American Public Works Association (APWA) to perform the research and prepare the report. The APWA subcontracted some of the work to the University of Alabama (UA) Department of Civil Engineering. 

Principal researchers and authors for the Highway/Utility Guide were Jim Thome (APWA), Dr. Dan Turner (UA), and Dr. Jay Lindly (UA). Janet Coleman was the FHWA Contract Manager and Paul Scott was the FHWA Office of Engineering Contact.

The Highway/Utility Guide was dedicated to the memory of Mr. James A Carney, Chief of the FHWA Office of Engineering’s Utilities, Railroads, and Special Projects Branch. Mr. Carney recognized a need, envisioned this publication, and contributed generously of his time and technical expertise towards its completion. 

For many years there had been a need to assemble, under one cover, state-of-the-knowledge guidance on the better practices being employed to address the full array of issues that can arise from highway and utility facilities sharing common highway right-of-way. The Highway/Utility Guide was such a document. It provided useful information relevant to joint use issues, a historical perspective, good current practices, and much more, including a little bit about Subsurface Utility engineering.

A standard distribution of the Highway/Utility Guide was made to FHWA headquarters, regional, division, and Federal lands offices; to State and local highway agencies; to technology transfer centers; and to various utility committees.

What did the Highway/Utility Guide have to say about Subsurface Utility Engineering? Next week we’ll find out.