Not every railroad construction project involves working with utilities. When a project does affect utilities, they usually do not delay the construction schedule. But there are some occasions when utilities deserve more attention and forethought.
Who is responsible?
The utility owner plays a large part in the level of difficulty in addressing utility conflicts. The owner may be the same as the project owner, in which case moving utilities typically goes smoothly and can even be included in the construction project. It may take more effort to find the current owner if the original company has been sold and tracking down the current ownership is difficult. Some situations have a clearly defined agreement that states which party is responsible for moving a utility if a conflict arises. Even if an agreement is clear, it does not mean the responsible party will adhere to the construction project’s time frame.
Know the size
Utilities come in many different sizes. A line on a survey or record drawing can be anything — from a single direct burial telephone cable to a multiconduit duct bank encased in concrete. Knowing these details as soon as possible means that utility coordination can be scheduled appropriately. A gas line servicing a building is different from a major pipeline supplying an entire city. In the same way, a water service line or sewer lateral is different than a water main or force main. Relocating large utilities may require months of planning and weeks of work. The utility may even stay in place with an additional bridge constructed around it to keep additional forces from pressing on the utility.
Time of year
To a project owner, one month may be the same as any other. This is not the case when it comes to moving utilities. Natural gas utilities might be reluctant to modify their systems during times of peak usage, like in the winter. Likewise, a telecommunications company does not want to touch its fiber lines during peak internet shopping season (November and December). For similar reasons, railroads may not want the risk of any construction projects interrupting service in the fourth quarter of the year.
Always something new
Sometimes after the basic utilities are cleared, something unexpected shows up. Utilities that are not marked in typical utility one-calls may still be present. Be sure to pay attention to odd local signs that could lead to interesting finds. A simple sign at a nearby manhole could lead to discovering a 30-foot-diameter stormwater storage tunnel directly under your planned bridge pier!
Are you facing utility work complications with your railroad construction project? Talk about it to Travis Painter at firstname.lastname@example.org.