Before moving on to the 2000s, let’s continue looking back to some of the early history of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE).  Last week we looked at the SUE History from 1981 thru 1984.  This week we will look at the 1985-1989 years. This week’s picture, depicting So-Deep’s early training manuals, and much of the following text was provided by Jim Anspach.

SUE History from1985 thru 1989

Several important events took place during the 1985-1989 timeframe that became basic components of Subsurface Utility Engineering.

(1) The scope of services used for the first VDOT project has not changed substantially over the years and remains the basis for every state DOT contract for SUE, largely due to the promotion of So-Deep’s scope by the FHWA. During this first project, questions arose on what to do about utilities of record that could not be designated, which ultimately led to the concept of Utility Quality Levels.

(2) At the request of VDOT, So-Deep hired an experienced land surveyor to develop its own survey capability and to manage the first VDOT contract.  Having its own in-house survey unit provided So-Deep with better control over the quality of the work.  

(3) Maryland statutes dictated that any information depicted on plans through survey work associated with SUE services, when used by a public agency, must be “sealed” by a registered professional. This was the first time any portion of the designating and locating work was required to be endorsed by a registered professional and set the stage for future development of the designating and locating work as a professional service rather than a contractor service.

(4)  A significant step forward for designating and locating services was realized in 1988 when the CNA insurance company issued a professional liability policy to So-Deep that covered all aspects of its operation, not just the survey aspects. This was the culmination of years of effort by So-Deep’s General Counsel, Harley A.J. “Bucky” Methfessel.

(5)  In 1989, the first recognition came by a court of competent jurisdiction that SUE services are professional services rather than contractor services. This came about when So-Deep challenged a state agency that had decided to procure these services on the basis of price rather than qualifications. It became obvious to the courts that information placed on plans and relied upon by the public clearly fell into the professional services category.

(6)  So-Deep’s senior management team realized that their creation needed a distinctive name. After much debate, they decided that “Subsurface Utility Engineering” was apt and descriptive.  This name was presented in October 1989 at the first National Highway/Utility Conference in Cleveland, Ohio.  The FHWA accepted this new name and began promoting its use in 1991.  

Next Week – Looking Back (1990-1994).