Best Practices 30 Day Review

Proposed Updates and Modifications

Best Practices - 30 Day Review

The wording below has been approved for Committee review by the task team responsible. The proposed wording will be voted on during the next Best Practices Meeting.

TR 2021-01 Update to 5-2 White Lining
For Review and Vote at April 5th Meeting
Pothole Working Group Proposal 1 - Definition
For Review and Vote at April 5th Meeting
Pothole Working Group Proposal 2 - Update to Practices
For Review and Vote at April 5th Meeting

TR 2021-01 - Proposed Update to 5-2 White Lining

5.2 Delineate Area of Proposed Excavation

Practice Statement:

The excavator delineates the area of proposed excavation by one or a combination of the following methods:

  • Electronic white lining (where available through the one call center);
  • On-site premarking, also known as white lining, with white paint, flags, stakes, whiskers and/or other locally accepted methods [See Appendix B]; and/or
  • Clear description of the proposed excavation site on the locate ticket

Practice Description:

A clearly delineated proposed work area allows facility owners/operators and locators to avoid unnecessary work created by locating facilities that are not affected by the planned excavation, and ensure that underground facilities within the intended work area are well marked.  Electronic white lining provides a method where excavators may indicate their defined dig area visually by electronic data entry (lines or polygons) without the need for a physical site visit.  Premarking, on-site and/or electronically, allows excavators to accurately communicate to the one call center, facility owners/operators, or their locator where excavation is to occur.


  • Existing state laws, including California, Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, and others
  • Lambert’s Cable Construction, LLC and UtiliQuest, LLC; Verizon Fios drop placement process in VA, MD and DC
  • One Call Concepts; Internet Ticket Processing (ITIC) – excavation polygon feature to define entire proposed excavation areas (see Case Study 1 from 2020 CGA Technology Report)
  • Virginia Pilot Project; Phase I – Electronic White Lining Study
  • National Transportation Safety Board report “Protecting Public Safety through Excavation Damage Prevention” (NTSB SS-97-01)
  • Pennsylvania 811 Excavator Handbook

Pothole Working Group - Proposal 1-Definition Update

Pothole (a.k.a., test hole): Exposure of a facility by safe excavation practices to ascertain the precise horizontal and vertical position of underground lines or facilities. Accepted safe excavation practices vary by state/local jurisdiction, but the preferred techniques include hand digging with extreme caution and/or vacuum excavation. (See Best Practice 5-32). 

Test Hole:  See definition for Pothole.

Pothole Working Group - Proposal 2-Updates to Practices to Reference Potholing

PROPOSALS 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d (Practices included - 5-15, 5-20, 2-3, 2-14) 
Download PDF posted above to view redline edits to current practices.  

PROPOSAL 2a – Updates to 5-15

5.15 Facility Avoidance

Practice Statement:

The excavator uses reasonable care such as potholing and other safe excavation practices to avoid damaging underground facilities. The excavator plans the excavation so as to avoid damage or to minimize interference with the underground facilities in or near the work area.

Practice Description:

Foremost on any construction project is safety. Excavators using caution around underground facilities significantly contribute to safe excavation of existing facilities.


Existing state laws, including Kansas, Ohio, West Virginia, and others

PROPOSAL 2b – Updates to 5-20

5.20 Excavation within Tolerance Zone

Practice Statement:

When excavation is to take place within the specified tolerance zone, the excavator exercises such reasonable care as may be necessary for the protection of any underground facility in or near the excavation area. Methods to consider, based on certain climate or geographical conditions, include pot holing, hand digging when practical, soft digging, vacuum excavation methods, pneumatic hand tools, other mechanical methods with the approval of the facility owner/operator, or other technical methods that may be developed. Hand digging and non-invasive methods are not required for pavement removal.

Practice Description:

Safe, prudent, non-invasive methods that require the excavator to manually determine the actual location of a facility are considered “safe excavation practices” in a majority of state/provincial laws. A majority of states outline safe excavation practices to include hand digging and/or pot holing. Some states specifically allow for the use of power excavating equipment for the removal of pavement. Each state/province must take differing geologic conditions and weather-related factors into consideration when recommending types of excavation within the tolerance zone.


Existing state laws, including Arizona, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and others

PROPOSAL 2c – Updates to 2-3

2.3 Identifying Existing Facilities in Planning and Design

Practice Statement:

Designers indicate existing underground facilities on drawings during planning and design.

Practice Description:

During the planning phase of the project, existing facilities are shown on preliminary design plans. The planning documents include possible routes for the project together with known underground facility information. The various facility owners/operators are then given the opportunity to provide appropriate feedback. During the design phase of the project, underground facility information from the planning phase is shown on the plans. If information was gathered from field-located facilities, potholing, underground facility surveys, or subsurface utility engineering, this is noted on the plans. The designer and the contractor both know the quality of the information included on the plans. If an elevation was determined during information gathering, it is shown on the plan. The facilities shown include active, abandoned, out-of-service, and proposed facilities. The design plans include a summary drawing showing the proposed facility route or excavation, including streets and a locally accepted coordinate system. The plans are then distributed to the various facility owners/ operators to provide the opportunity to furnish additional information, clarify information, and identify conflicts.


Providing complete underground facility information and including this information on design drawings reduces hazards, simplifies coordination, and minimizes the cost to produce the final project.

PROPOSAL 2d – Updates to 2-14

2.14 Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE)

Practice Statement:

When applied properly during the design phase, Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) provides significant cost and damage-avoidance benefits and the opportunity to correct inaccuracies in existing facility records.

Practice Description:

In certain cases and environments, it may be difficult or impossible to determine the locations of all utilities and/or impediments with sufficient accuracy to avoid damage or delay during construction. In these cases, SUE is applied during the design phase to locate, identify, and characterize all existing utility infrastructure (and other relevant non-utility features) found within a given project/area. SUE is applied in a structured manner in accordance with practices and quality levels found in ASCE 38-02 “Standard Guideline for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data.” The project owner dictates the required quality levels (QL) as well as the amount of effort expended by the SUE provider on each. Although the standard is more detailed and comprehensive, the following is a brief summary of the quality levels defined therein:

  • QL-D involves utility records research and interviews with knowledgeable utility personnel.
  • QL-C involves surface survey and identifying and recording aboveground features of subsurface utilities, such as manholes, valves, and hydrants.
  • QL-B involves application of “surface geophysical methods,” such as EM-based locating instruments, GPR, radar tomography, metal detectors, and optical instruments, to gather and record approximate horizontal (and, in some cases, vertical) positional data.
  • QL-A involves physical exposure via potholing and/or other safe excavation practices that provides precise horizontal and vertical positional data.

SUE results are integrated into the design process, in which design engineers use the information to create construction plans that accommodate existing infrastructure, thereby reducing the overall risk of conflicts and/or damage.1


  • S. Department of Transportation—FHWA (12/1999). Cost Savings on projects Utilizing Subsurface Utility Engineering. Pub. No. FHWA-IF-00-014
  • S. Department of Transportation—FHWA (3/2001). Subsurface Utility Engineering: Enhancing Construction Activities. Pub. No. FHWA-IF-01-011
  • ASCE 38-02 Standard Guideline for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data
  • Pennsylvania state law