Locates At The Design Stage Prove Valuable

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | April 2009 Vol. 64 No. 4
Best to locate facilities before reaching this stage

"We cover that much area because we need to develop the most cost effective route through congested areas that have significant surface access restrictions," he explained.

Verification is important because utilities often are not present in available records or they are not in the locations indicated on records.

"Urban utilities in particular often are not at locations indicated on available records," Dorwart said. "Additionally, older cities often include abandoned and removed utilities on locate plans that occupy otherwise free space, and there often is no reliable procedure for their removal because of liability issues. Engineering around these ‘phantom' utilities and redesigning during construction because of mislocated utilities can result in significant cost to new projects for unnecessary, new right of way acquisition, or planning locations that could have been avoided."

In addition, municipal utilities such as sewers often have no build restrictions above the utility to permit access for repairs.

"I know of one project where a sewer owner required that a significant segment of a newly installed utility be removed and reinstalled because it had been built over an existing sewer," Dorwart said.

Time sensitivity

Some project planners may not make utility locations early because of the time it requires.

Many state one call agencies process requests for member organizations to locate and mark their buried facilities before construction begins. Depending on where the project is, facility owners and operators may not respond to requests for locates far in advance of construction.

"If the goal is efficiency in damage prevention, one call design tickets for locating and marking during the project planning make sense," said Walt Kelly, excavation damage prevention consultant.

"If the immediate goal is taking calls prior to excavation, then design tickets are not appropriate, and a separate, parallel system should be established. In the past, New Jersey and Virginia actually fined designers and excavators who tried to use one call for assisting in design. But that is no longer the case."

In Kelly's home state of Minnesota, Gopher State One Call (GSOC) has non excavation tickets and, in fact, requires that GSOC be contacted in many circumstances involving contract and bid proposals.

However, even though many one call centers do process engineering and design requests from facility owners and operators, many utilities are not owned by one call members.