Updates to South Carolina utility coordination practices

Posted in: Bridges, Construction, Highways


A grant to research better strategies and to identify and manage utility conflicts in transportation design was recently awarded to the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The department is using these funds from the Federal Highway Administration Strategic Highway Research Program to develop a utility coordination training program.

In preparation for this program, I was invited to attend a national training module developed by Texas A&M. The training focused on managing utility conflicts within the project development and delivery process, developing and maintaining a utility conflict matrix, and establishing utility conflict resolution strategies.

The UCM was an important part of this training’s process. It provides concepts and procedures that DOTs and utility providers can both use to improve the utility coordination process. By incorporating the UCM into SCDOT’s project development and delivery process, utility conflicts can be identified and managed throughout the design process to find the best and most cost-effective solutions.

My colleagues and I provided the department with insight and feedback on how the training and information should be adapted for SCDOT use. The UCM provided was very broad in scope, so we suggested ways to revise the UCM to best fit South Carolina’s needs. It was important to create a UCM that was specific to the needs of SCDOT projects that also supported various project sizes and conditions.

The department intends to offer a specific training program this fall for its staff, consultants and utility providers involved with the utility coordination process. In addition to training utility professionals, the department is proposing changes to the SCDOT Utility Accommodations Policy Manual. The new additions aren’t finalized, but the mission to provide stronger guidance on utility coordination is well underway.

As a big believer in starting the utility coordination process early, turning these practices into departmental standards will benefit SCDOT projects across the board. I, along with other utility coordination professionals, will be working with the department to develop new strategies that reduce both costs and risks. Creating systems that foster communication and proactively identify utility conflicts will surely lead to increased project success across the state.

In my 10+ years working in South Carolina with providers to resolve utility conflicts during the design process, identifying underground utilities and starting the coordination process with providers immediately has resulted in fewer construction delays and lower costs. Sharing the process and integrating the new material from this training is an opportunity that I’m eager to explore, and I can’t wait to see our hard work pay off on future projects.

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About the Author

Kevin Barnes, PE, LEED AP has nearly 25 years of project management, infrastructure design and utility coordination experience. Having led dozens of utility coordination and conversion projects involving above- and below-ground utilities, he has built a reputation as being reliable, productive and effective throughout the utility coordination process.

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