HISTORY OF SUBSURFACE UTILITY ENGINEERING Post-57 – Looking Back (1995-1999)

Last week’s picture of Gary Frazho received twice as many “likes” as usual and four times as many comments. Over the years Gary learned how to use all the designating and locating equipment that came along and learned it so well he has probably trained thousands of young technicians how to use it. That was a major differentiator for the company he was working for and for the industry as a whole.

Today we will finish my summary of major SUE events in the 1980s and 1990s and move on next week to the 2000s. 

SUE History from1995 thru 1999 

(1) In 1997, the American Public Works Association (APWA) published Subsurface Utility Engineering: Applications in Public Works. The purpose of this publication was to increase the awareness and use of SUE as a practice that can improve designs, reduce time and costs, and improve safety for public works projects that involve underground utility locations. 

(2) In 1998 the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Highway Subcommittee on Right-of-Way brought Utilities into their subcommittee as equal partners. This effort was championed by two Directors of Right-of-Way – Stuart Waymack of the Virginia DOT and Bill Pickering of the Pennsylvania DOT and was endorsed by the FHWA. 

(3) In 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) authorized a study of damage prevention practices. The USDOT’s Research and Special Programs Administration established the Common Ground Study. A Steering Team and Linking Team were populated to oversee nine task teams. SUE was included in the Planning and Design team. In July 1999, the Common Ground Study was presented to the Secretary of Transportation. It identified and validated over 130 “best practices” to enhance safety and prevent damage to underground facilities. Subsurface Utility Engineering was one of the best practices.   

Well, this will do it for my history of SUE from its beginning in 1981 to the end of the 1990s. I hope you understand that the history I have presented the past five weeks is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that if it were known, a book would not hold all of it. I would therefore like to dedicate my remembrances of the history of SUE to the many unknown heroes from SUE firms, FHWA division, region, and HQ offices, State and local DOT utilities offices, private sector design and construction firms, and any other sources I never knew about. There were many leaders and many, many more followers that “got it” and worked hard at their jobs to create the SUE industry that exists today.

The 2000s were maybe “just the beginning.” We’ll see, starting next week.