The Importance of SUE - Part V

Water is one of the most important substances on earth. Yet, many of us take for granted how the water we drink and use daily actually reaches us. While water and wastewater projects are typically performed within roadways full of crossing utilities, the design of potentially new water pipelines may involve rural locations with many property owners and right of way impacts, all of which pose potential challenges during design and construction. Wastewater systems designed for gravity flow rely heavily on a continuous, downward sloped pipe to maintain flow. Existing utilities will play a major role in the design of gravity flow systems, especially if the design is through a heavily congested area. Are you factoring in the potential impact of the existing utilities into your design or project?

The Problem

How do you properly design a gravity flow system to weave through a maze of crossing and parallel underground utilities, all at different elevations? What if you are 95% complete with construction and encounter a 48” Reinforced Concrete Cylinder Pipe waterline that, according to records, was “supposed” to be at a different elevation? Or more likely, what if you encounter a massive fiber duct during construction of a waterline that you had no records on at all?

Existing utilities are often an afterthought, and the responsibility is often dumped on the contractor to “deal” with them during construction, which will undoubtedly lead to change orders and construction delays. Not fully accounting for existing utilities during design is both inefficient and highly expensive, so utilities often cost more by not performing SUE during the design phase.

The Solution

Luckily, there is a proven solution to help mitigate these unforeseen conflicts with utilities. Having knowledge of the existing utilities, both horizontally and vertically, during the design phase of waterlines and especially gravity flow wastewater systems can help eliminate conflicts and reduce change orders during construction due to utility conflicts. TRG recently provided SUE services on the Beck Branch Wastewater Interceptor Improvements project for the North Texas Municipal Water District. After QL “B” SUE field work was completed, and a conflict analysis was performed, TRG excavated over 30 test holes. This work confirmed that there were several major storm lines in direct conflict with the proposed interceptor. Based on TRG’s findings, the entire alignment of the interceptor was adjusted to avoid those conflicts. Our SUE services were used by the City of Austin to help choose an alignment of a proposed 24 inch Onion Creek Reclaimed Water Line. The proposed alignment traversed the Roy Kizer Golf Course, the Onion Creek Soccer Complex and several adjacent residential subdivisions. TRG provided QL “B” services within 25 feet on each side of the project.

Applying SUE

TRG recommends that the proper steps are taken, according to ASCE publication CI/ASCE 38-02 Standards, to ensure that both Quality Level “B” and Quality Level “A” SUE are completed during the design phase and incorporated into the design decisions. Once QL “B” SUE (the horizontal designating of utilities) has been completed in the field, a full conflict analysis will be conducted and potential conflicts will be identified. QL “A” SUE test holes (the uncovering of utilities that provides precise vertical and horizontal data) will confirm the utility elevations of the potential conflicts so the existing utilities can be factored into the design.

Let The Rios Group provide responsive, reliable, results on your next project before it is too late. We are happy to host a Lunch and Learn on SUE and Utility Coordination for you and your team. Feel free to contact us in North Texas at 817.345.7500 or in Central Texas at 512.580.5440.

The Importance of SUE - Part IV

Subsurface Utility Engineering = More Power

Though usually overhead, electric transmission projects significantly benefit with Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) data incorporated in the design. Whether installing a new transmission line, or rerouting an existing line, power transmission companies must make difficult decisions on where to place overhead tower structures.

Drill shafts for electric transmission towers could damage underground utilities if existing utility information is not known or is inaccurate. SUE, performed in accordance with the recommended practices and procedures described in ASCE publication CI/ASCE 38-02 “Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data,” is the most accurate method to help determine transmission line routing and structure locations.

It’s also not uncommon to expand existing transmission substations to keep up with increased demand of electric services. Design engineers can determine where future expansion is possible with the use of accurate SUE data. TRG recommends performing Quality Level (QL) “B” for substation expansion projects and design of new transmission tower locations. QL “D” utility record information can be utilized when working on preliminary routing for transmission lines, but should not be relied upon for design decisions.

Vacuum excavation and hydro-excavation are also utilized on many electric transmission design projects to perform test holes (QL “A”) on nearby underground utilities to identify potential conflicts. In some cases, L-shaped or X-shaped trenches are excavated at proposed tower drill shafts to ensure that there are no underground utilities crossing through the excavation area.

Applying SUE on Electric Transmission Projects

TRG has performed SUE services for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) on numerous electric transmission projects. In Central Texas between Smithville and Winchester, TRG performed utility records research and designating QL “B” SUE services at 18 proposed tower locations along an existing transmission corridor. TRG designated underground utilities within a 30-foot radius at each of the proposed locations. TRG crews also performed 2-man active sweeps with electromagnetic designating equipment to search for unknown utilities within the project limits. This underground utility data helped the LCRA determined where to place the towers. This project required that TRG crews coordinate with LCRA for property access and provide land owner notifications.    

TRG recently performed SUE for a substation project at the LCRA substation near Evant, Texas. QLB SUE services were performed surrounding the existing substation for a proposed expansion. During the field investigation, TRG crews had to perform due diligence to differentiate between the installed grounding grid and the existing underground utilities. Close coordination with LCRA staff was required for access to certain areas within the substation.

Electric transmission is just one sector where SUE information can help keep projects on budget and on schedule. Keep an eye on this blog for updates. This is the fourth installment in an 8-part series on SUE, in which we will touch on the importance of SUE in several different markets, including transportation, water & wastewater, campuses and facilities design, and more.

Our experts are happy to answer your questions or lead your team in a more in-depth “Lunch & Learn” on SUE. Feel free to contact us at / 817-345-7500 or 512-580-5440.

The Importance of SUE - Blog Series, Part III, Airports

Airports are complex multi-modal transportation facilities that are typically served by a network of underground utilities, some of which might be operated by the airport itself. Unreliable record information for these underground utilities is common, and airport providers, their consulting engineers, and contractors are faced with this risk during airport development projects. The likelihood of a utility damage on an airport improvement project is high for a number of reasons. The first is that airports contain a highly complex civil infrastructure system in a relatively small space, creating a relatively large number of potential utility conflicts. The second is that standards and procedures for management of underground utilities on airport properties varies widely, creating a lot of unknowns and uncertainty.

The FAA has identified this problem and recommends the use of SUE to mitigate this risk, stating in an Advisory Circular that SUE should be performed to reduce conflicts with utilities, reduce delays in construction schedules, and reduce added construction costs due to unexpected utility adjustments.


FAA Advisory Circular

In 2009 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Advisory Circular (AC) titled General Guidance and Specifications for Submission of Aeronautical Surveys to NGS: Field Data Collection and Geographic Information System (GIS) Standards. This AC provides the specifications for collection and submittal of field data in support of airport projects, and it includes a detailed specification for the use of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE).

The AC refers to the ASCE 38-02 Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data, and specifies the four SUE quality levels. The Circular even details the use of utility designating (QL B) and utility test holes (QL A) and recommends their use in specific situations. The FAA highly recommends using the guidelines and standards in this AC, and in fact, the use of these guidelines is mandatory for the collection of geospatial airport and aeronautical data funded under the Federal grant assistance programs.


Applying SUE on Airport Projects

Airport projects can range from major terminal expansions, to runway extensions, to simple drainage or utility installation projects. The size and scope of the individual project really defines the need for SUE and the level of service required. The Rios Group is currently working at multiple airports around the state of Texas, and these experiences provide excellent examples of the application of SUE on airport projects.

At Austin-Bergstrom International Airport TRG is currently providing SUE services in support of design for the TRACON Building site drainage improvements. Services have included QL A test holes on various crossing utilities, and CCTV services of existing storm sewer using a remote crawler camera system.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport TRG is part of an existing on-call engineering contract, and has provided SUE services on numerous work authorizations over the last year. Projects have included a new cell phone lot, end-around taxiways, runway extensions, and a de-icing drain line.

Keep an eye on this blog for updates. This is the third in an 8-part series on SUE, in which we will touch on the importance of SUE in several different markets, including rail, water & wastewater, campuses and facilities design, and more. In the meantime, let us know if you and your team are interested in a more in-depth “Lunch & Learn” on SUE. You may contact us at / 817-345-7500 or 512-580-5440.

The Importance of SUE - Blog Series, Part II, Transportation

The Problem – Existing Utilities

The identification and adjustment of existing utilities is a key component to every roadway project, from major highway expansions to subdivision street reconstruction. Existing underground utilities are prevalent in our public right-of-way. These utilities are owned by various companies, installed at various depths, made of different materials, and vary in size and complexity. This is a major project risk, and lack of attention to these utilities within the limits of your roadway project can be detrimental to the project schedule and budget.

Utility owners are notorious for having poor record maps, no as-built information, and poor responsiveness to data requests. A roadway engineer that uses this substandard information coupled with 811 “One Call” tickets when completing a conflict analysis will make important design decisions based on unreliable utility information. In roadway design, decisions on critical items such as a bridge drill shaft location or storm drain flow line can be very difficult to change if a utility conflict is identified late in the design process.

Utility relocations can also be a major cost and schedule concern on a roadway project. Relocating a high-pressure pipeline or a major telecommunications duct bank is by no means a fun or cheap experience. Failing to plan appropriately for major utility accommodations or relocations could cause potential risks for project delays and contractor claims to go up exponentially.

The Solution – Subsurface Utility Engineering

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) is a proven solution to identifying existing subsurface utilities on roadway projects. By identifying existing utility conflicts early in the design life of a project, the engineer may be able to mitigate or eliminate utility impacts. The use of SUE has been endorsed by numerous industry organizations, including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The ASCE standard that defines SUE practices, CI/ASCE 38-02 “Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data”, has become the industry standard for transportation engineers around the country.
SUE has become a routine requirement on highway projects for numerous State departments of transportation, including the Texas DOT, Florida DOT, Virginia DOT, Pennsylvania DOT and many others. It is important that the roadway design engineer become familiar with the ASCE standard and the SUE quality levels, so he/she can walk into a project scoping meeting with the client and correctly recommend the need for SUE and the level of the investigation needed.   

Applying SUE on Highway/Roadway Projects

Quality Level D (QL “D”) SUE investigation is completed by performing thorough records research and obtaining all existing utility records and as-builts available for the limits of the roadway project. QL “D” SUE is the lowest level of accuracy and is recommended for use during the planning or schematic design phase of the roadway project, but is not recommended for use during detailed PS&E design.
Quality Level C (QL “C”) SUE investigation incorporates surveyed above-ground utility features from topographic survey and reconciles it with QL “D” record information. This level of accuracy is recommended for rural, FM roadway projects with low utility congestion, few utility crossings, and few roadway intersections. The roadway design engineer may even review the QL “C” data and request further investigation in specific areas, such as intersections or areas of drainage improvements.

Quality Level B (QL “B”) SUE investigation is completed by performing a surface geophysical investigation, also known as “designating”, and providing two-dimensional horizontal information for existing utilities. This level of accuracy is recommended for more complex roadway projects in urban and suburban environments, where utility congestion is high, along with the potential risk of utility conflicts. The finished QL “B” product is a 2D file in Microstation or AutoCAD format, with existing utilities owners and types identified by specific level, color and linestyle. The engineer is then able to reference utility data into working roadway design files and an accurate conflict analysis can be completed.
Quality Level A (QL “A”) SUE test holes are completed using non-destructive vacuum excavation equipment and provide highly accurate three-dimensional horizontal and vertical information. It is recommended that the test holes be performed at precise utility conflict locations, based on a detailed conflict analysis with roadway improvements. QL “A” should be completed by 60% roadway design so that the utility elevation data can be used to make design decisions with roadway and drainage profiles.
Keep an eye on this blog for updates. This is the second in an 8-part series on SUE, in which we will touch on the importance of SUE in several different markets, including rail, water & wastewater, campuses and facilities design, and more. In the meantime, let us know if you and your team are interested in a more in-depth “Lunch & Learn” on SUE. You may contact us at / 817-345-7500 or 512-580-5440.

The Importance of SUE - Blog Series, Part I

Nearly every civil infrastructure project is impacted by existing utilities. By using SUE to accurately map existing utility facilities civil engineers can mitigate these impacts, and reduce unnecessary utility relocations and delays. The results are measurable project cost savings, a reduced schedule, and a safer working environment for the contractor. 

There have been several case studies on the impact SUE can have on your project. The studies confirm that SUE can save you 3 to 4 times your investment (or more!) by eliminating conflicts and delays. Please don’t take our word on it, read the case studies for yourself here:

Case Studies:

January 2000 FHWA/Purdue Case Studies

  • A total of 71 projects from Virginia, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio were studied.
  • “The total savings on a typical project may range from 10% to 15% compared with costs from a project not supported by professional SUE.” 

2005 University of Toronto Study

  • $3.41 Return on $1.00 Investment

April 2013: Utility Investigation Study by Texas A&M Transportation Institute

  • Highlights TxDOT’s use of SUE on highway projects
  • Recommends basic SUE training and utility impact analysis training ??

What is SUE? 

Subsurface Utility Engineering, or SUE, is a sub-discipline of civil engineering, that combines technologies and design methodologies to deal with the problems of underground utilities on civil infrastructure projects. 

Professional SUE services should be completed in accordance with the recommended practices and procedures described in ASCE publication CI/ASCE 38-02 “Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data.” As described in the publication, four levels have been established to describe and depict the quality of subsurface utility information. 

The four quality levels are as follows:

  • Quality Level D (QL “D”) – Information obtained from existing utility records.
  • Quality Level C (QL “C”) – Surveyed data depicting visible above-ground features supplemented with QL “D” information.
  • Quality Level B (QL “B”) – Two-dimensional horizontal information obtained through the application and interpretation of non-destructive surface geophysical methods. Also known as “designating,” this level incorporates QL “C” and QL “D” information and provides surveyed horizontal positioning of subsurface utilities.
  • Quality Level A (QL “A”) – Three-dimensional horizontal and vertical information obtained through non-destructive vacuum excavation equipment to expose utilities at critical points. Also known as “locating,” this level incorporates QL “B” information and provides precise horizontal and vertical positioning of subsurface utilities.

The Rios Group are experts in SUE. If you have additional questions about the SUE process, would like to understand how to better utilize SUE on your current or next project, or if you and your team are interested in a more in-depth “Lunch & Learn” presentation on SUE, you may contact us at / 817-345-7500 or 512-580-5440.

Keep an eye on this blog for updates. This is the first in an 8-part monthly blog series in which we will touch on the importance of SUE in several different markets, including: transportation, water & wastewater, campuses and facilities design, and more.

TRG Honored by Oncor as Rising Star Company of the Year

TRG was honored this week by Oncor as the Rising Star Company of the Year for their Supplier Diversity program. The award ceremony, which was scheduled for March 29th, had to be postponed due to storm related power restoration efforts. The award ceremony was worth the wait. We are so honored. Thank you, Oncor!

2017 National Small Business Week is May 1st - 7th

TRG was honored to be featured in the Texas Workforce Commission's video highlighting small business in Texas. President and Owner, Rosa Navejar, was joined by Project Manager Tim Habenicht, PE.  It really is a great time to do business in Texas!

Check out the video here:

TRG announced as Overall Winner at NCTRCA's Annual Awards Dinner

TRG was honored and humbled to be named the recipient of the Overall D/M/WBE Business of the Year at the NCTRCA Awards Gala last night. It's with the support of NCTRCA and their member entities' programs that TRG has been able to flourish. Thank you to NCTRCA for your commitment to D/M/WBE businesses!

Tommy Franke Joins TRG as Senior PM and Lead Over San Antonio

TRG Celebrates Grand Opening of Round Rock Location


Rios Group Launches New Website

TRG launched a new website to kick off 2017, and this year is poised to be the the most exciting year yet. We're planning a Grand Opening celebration for our new office in Round Rock next week, and in July we'll celebrate 5 years of service to our partners. As we continue to be your experts in SUE and UC, we thank you for your confidence in our ability give you responsive, reliable results.  

TRG President Rosa Navejar Honored with Minority Leaders in Business Award

Rosa Navejar, President and Owner of TRG, was honored to recieve the Minorities in Business award from The Fort Worth Business Press. 

Don't let Unknown Utilities Derail Your Next Project!

TRG President on air with PlayMakers Talk Show

Rosa Navejar, President of TRG, sat down with Steve Klien, of the PlayMakers Talk Show, to share her experiences as a CEO.   

Catch Rosa on  Friday, 9/4/15 @ 3 pm and Saturday 9/5/15 @ 2 pm on 770 KAAM.  

Can’t break away to hear the show live? The podcast should appear on the station’s website by Monday 9/7/15 at