Is ASCE 38-02 Being Updated?

Time goes by so fast. Things change so fast.

Think back 100 years to 1917. Automobiles, paved roads, telephones, electricity, clean water,
and indoor plumbing were relatively new conveniences and very few people had access to them. Now we have all of them in abundance, plus airplanes, television, computers, air conditioning, refrigeration, spacecraft, internet, fiber optics, household appliances,
healthcare and so much more.

Damage prevention has also progressed. In 1917, there were relatively few underground utility facilities. Today, there are so many they can’t be counted. Some researchers have
estimated there may be as much as 20 million miles of them. Consequently, One Call, 811,
Common Ground Alliance, SUE, ASCE 38-02, and UESI are just a few of the things that
have emerged.

ASCE 38-02 was discussed in the last issue of Damage Prevention Professional. To briefly
recap, it is a consensus standard, Standard Guideline for the Collection and Depiction of
Existing Subsurface Utility Data, and it was published by the American Society of Civil
Engineers in 2003. It defines the roles of project owners, engineers, constructors, and utility
owners in collecting and depicting existing subsurface utility data, and it presents a system of classifying the quality of existing subsurface utility data.

ASCE 38-02 and utility quality levels have been widely accepted in the United States. Both have been models for standards in other English-speaking countries. But it has been a long time since 2003 and a lot of things have happened since then. Hence, ASCE 38-02 needed to be, and is being, updated. It should be available later this year.

What will be in the updated version that is not currently in ASCE 38-02? A few new things include:

• Definitions have been added for new terms, such as utility engineering, utility  investigation, utility segment, utility feature, and utility report. Definitions have been clarified and enhanced for existing terms, such as subsurface utility engineering, all the quality levels, and others.

• Information has been added on more broadly populating the “z” component of locational data. This addition is in response to requests from many project owners for three dimensional data suitable for use in developing models.

• A sealed utility report is recommended to accompany mapping deliverables. The utility report is particularly important when notes and/or metadata are
not included within the mapping deliverables.

• An appendix has been added on cost benefits to reflect several new academic and organizational studies.

• A new section on utility attributes has been added.
• The most significant cange is the removal of “incidental commentary” that  was embedded in the standard language; it has been enhanced and moved to a separate commentary section.

You may have noticed use of the term UESI earlier in this article. UESI may be the biggest thing that has happened to the transportation/utilities industry since One Call and SUE.  what is UESI ? That will be the topic for the fall edition of Damage Prevention Professional.


C. Paul Scott is Cardno’s National Utilities Liaison. He is retired from the Federal Highway Administration and now promotes Cardno’s utility coordination and subsurface utility engineering activities with state DOTs and other public and private clients.

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