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How DOTs can address utility crossings in projects

When planning new transportation projects or improvements to existing infrastructure, the state department of transportation (DOT) not only must focus on the project at ground level, but also the impacts below and above ground.

That is because this is where existing utilities are located. Proper inventory and tracking of these utility crossings is essential to the success of the transportation project, maintenance of utility infrastructure and the continuation of utility service. It also is necessary to receive full reimbursement of funds that the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) deems the state agency is eligible for the project.

Utility conflict matrix

Unless the transportation project is in a remote location, state DOTs typically must account for the presence of utilities, such as gas, sewer, storm sewer, electric, cable television, phone, oil, natural gas, irrigation and water. The project will undoubtedly include a utility conflict matrix, which describes the issues and challenges faced at each utility crossing. Tracking all of these utilities requires close coordination with each respective utility provider. Each utility crossing is treated separately, although the same utility provider is involved, because of differences in issues at each crossing.

GIS mapping for utility crossings

Thorough and accurate record-keeping is paramount. Paper records, trips to the utility provider and prolonged research at the county courthouse only delays completion of the project and wastes taxpayers’ money. A more efficient approach is to utilize GIS mapping and upload utility information into a central Web database that can be updated as needed and accessed in perpetuity. The Web platform’s dashboard-focused software interface gives users in the office or, through mobile devices, in the field easy and secure access to information on the transportation project and existing utilities.

Sharing information between organizations

Equally important is accurate records and tracking of right of way at each utility crossing and, indeed, throughout all transportation projects. Utilities oftentimes are installed within the transportation right of way. The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recommends that DOTs and the utility provider share this information. That sharing process can be streamlined if each agency maintains a centralized database.

Managing relocation of utilities

In some cases, relocation of utilities will be necessary for completion of the transportation project. Proper record-keeping and engineering is important for the relocation to benefit the completion of the road project and the continuation of utility service.

In addition, the cost of utility relocation is eligible for reimbursement by the FHA. Understandably, the federal agency requires accurate and complete project and relocation information before it authorizes payment.

Streamlining utility crossings management

Transportation projects typically take weeks, months, or even years to complete, which is indicative of the myriad of complexities involved. Dealing properly with utility crossings is just one of those challenges.

For more information on how geoAMPS' centralized Web-based software can help your DOT streamline utility crossings management and other right of way processes, schedule a demo or call 614-389-4871.

Dan Liggett is Communications and Public Relations Consultant at geoAMPS, a technology company in the Columbus, OH area that specializes in software solutions to manage land rights and infrastructure assets.

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