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.

Paul Scott