Success of Infrastructure Projects Hinges on Accurate Utility Locates

Success of Infrastructure Projects Hinges on Accurate Utility Locates

The city skyline in Los Angeles, California.
Los Angeles County in California is set to receive tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements over the next several years.

An influx of infrastructure funds is set to transform Los Angeles County, California – and highlight the need for accurate utility locating on construction projects.

Los Angeles region infrastructure executives recently highlighted plans for tens of billions of dollars in construction projects designed to modernize transportation infrastructure, create more sustainable water and wastewater systems, and help the county reach its goal of 80% renewable energy by 2030.

“Our infrastructure systems are under extraordinary pressure, and that’s important because infrastructure shapes the future of our society, our economy and our way of life,” L.A. County Director of Public Works, Mark Pestrella, said at Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) inaugural Los Angeles Infrastructure Forum in October.  

This large-scale investment – LAX alone will undergo a two-phased upgrade program with an estimated total price tag of $30 billion – comes as greater L.A. prepares to host the 2028 Summer Olympic Games. And it’s buoyed by both state and federal infrastructure dollars, including funds from the bi-partisan Infrastructure Jobs and Investment Act signed into law by President Biden in 2021.

The inflow of federal infrastructure dollars from the Infrastructure Jobs and Investment Act has led to a significant increase in excavation projects across the country.  

It’s vital that accurate utility locating occurs before excavation begins on these projects to ensure they can be completed successfully AND safely.  

Ensuring a successful and safe construction project begins by contacting your state’s 811 One Call service to obtain the approximate locations of any buried public utilities on your job site before breaking ground.  

The One Call system became law in 2002, requiring contractors and excavators to contact 811 before excavation. It’s important to note, however, that 811 does not locate private utilities, which are any utilities owned by individuals or businesses. Since over 60% of all buried utility lines are private, you’ll need to hire a private underground utility locator company in addition to contacting 811 to ensure you have a complete understanding of the built world under your feet.

“But all I’ve ever done is contact 811, and I’ve never had a utility strike on a job before. Why should I bother hiring a private utility locator?”

If you’ve never had a hit when you didn’t hire a private utility locator in the past, you’ve gotten very lucky.

According to the Common Ground Alliance’s 2022 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report, there were 213,792 unique reported instances of subsurface damage in 2022 alone. That’s 213,792 instances where a construction project’s success, the contractor’s bottom line, and the lives of everyone in the vicinity were put at risk.

According to research conducted for GPRS in 2021 by Finch, the average cost of each one of those 213,792 utility strikes is approximately $56,000.

The 2022 DIRT Report lists telecommunications and natural gas as the facilities most frequently damaged in that year. A severed telecommunication line most likely just means a few hours or days of service interruptions. A severed gas line, however, could have fatal consequences.

Three construction workers perform utility locating services.
GPRS utility locating services mitigate the risks associated with subsurface damage.

There is a Better Way

GPRS utility locating services mitigate the risks associated with subsurface damage.  

Using ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanning and electromagnetic (EM) locating technologies, our Project Managers will locate and map all buried utilities on your project site to ensure you don’t hit anything when excavating.  

We keep your project on time and on budget, and your people safe with our industry-leading 99.8% accuracy on utility locating projects. All that information is instantly uploaded into SiteMap® (patent pending), our cloud-based utility mapping & infrastructure platform that gives you access to your data wherever you are, whenever you need it, with the ability to see only what you require for a specific project.

As Area Manager Alfredo Espinal explains, GPRS is very familiar with the infrastructure needs of large metropolitan areas like LA County, having completed hundreds of projects in the area including utility locates, precision concrete scanning & imaging, 3D laser scanning, video pipe inspection, and leak detection.

"The Los Angeles Market has many intricacies, including aging infrastructure, utility lines running over each other, and unidentified targets, which GPRS has been able to provide assistance identifying," Espinal said. "Our Project Managers, with the assistance of our innovative equipment including GPR, EM locators, and VPI crawler cameras, are able to safely clear areas and ensure that our clients' needs our met."

By combining GPRS private utility locating and mapping with 811 One Call services, you eliminate the unwanted surprises wrought by a utility strike during your next construction project, be it a large-scale infrastructure job or a single utility installation.

GPRS Utility Locating Explained

A GPRS utility locate begins with ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanning.  

A GPR scanner sends radio waves into the ground, and those waves interact with any subsurface objects they encounter. This data is then displayed as hyperbolas on a readout that GPRS Project Managers interpret to determine what types of objects were located.

GPR can detect both metallic and non-metallic objects, giving it a wide variety of uses.

EM locating is a complimentary technology to GPR for conducting a utility locate. It involves using a transmitter to emit a selected frequency through a known utility. The receiver then detects that frequency, allowing the GPRS Project Manager to determine the precise location of the utility and the direction in which it runs underground.

When utilized by a GPRS Project Manager, GPR and EM locating work together to find electrical conduit, steam pipes, telecommunication lines, gas & oil lines, water lines, sewer & storm pipes, and more.

The GPRS Difference

The state-of-the art technology utilized by GPRS Project Managers is only one half of the equation to how we conduct utility locates at such a high level of accuracy.

The other half is our training, which is built around the industry-leading Subsurface Investigation Methodology (SIM).

The SIM standard specifies that a professional locating contractor must utilize multiple locating technologies, including GPR and EM locating, to create a redundant confirmation when evaluating subsurface infrastructure.  

To be SIM-certified – a requirement for all GPRS Project Managers – one must complete a minimum of 320 hours of field training and 80 hours of classroom training where they encounter real-world scenarios that prepare them for even the most unique concrete scanning, utility locating, and video pipe inspection scenarios they may encounter. This far exceeds the national standard for certification (ASNT SNT-TC-1A) of a minimum of 8 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of practical application coaching for NDT Level 1.

SIM addresses a step-by-step approach to collecting subsurface data to ensure that the results are repeatable and accurate. SIM practitioners must follow a checklist to ensure optimal results for every situation encountered in the field.

Whether it’s a large-scale infrastructure project in Los Angeles, California, a single utility locate in Boston, Massachusetts, or anything in between, GPRS has the people, the knowledge, and the technology to help you Intelligently Visualize The Built World®.

What can we help you visualize? Click the links below to schedule a service or request a quote today!


Frequently Asked Questions

Does GPRS offer same day private utility locating?

Yes, in many cases, our professional Project Managers can respond rapidly to emergency same-day private utility locating service calls on your job site. With over 500 Project Managers strategically stationed across every major market in the U.S., GPRS always offers our industry-leading utility locating services near you.

What are the benefits of underground utility mapping?

Mapping your subsurface infrastructure saves you time and money during construction, repair, and regular maintenance projects. By knowing exactly where every utility is located, you avoid having to waste time on excessive potholing. And of course, accurate subsurface infrastructure information helps mitigate subsurface damage during groundbreaking activities.

What type of information does GPRS provide when performing a utility locate?

Our Project Managers will flag and/or paint our findings directly on the surface, depending on your specific needs. This method of communication is the most accurate form of marking when excavation is expected to commence within a few days of service.  

GPRS also uses a global positioning system (GPS) to collect data points of findings. We use this data to generate a plan, KMZ file, satellite overlay, or CAD file to permanently preserve results for future use.

Finally, you receive a Personal SiteMap® subscription with every GPRS utility locate. SiteMap® is GPRS’ industry-leading, cloud-based facility management platform powered by our 99.8% accurate utility locating and concrete scanning data, our millimeter-accurate 3D laser scans, interactive NASSCO-certified video pipe inspection reports, pinpoint leak detection information, and our unique ability to layer, map, and incorporate ALL that data to give you comprehensive plan views, CAD drawings, or fully integrated above and below ground 3D BIM models and walkthroughs of any part of your site, campus, or facility.  

Click here to learn more.

Can you find PVC piping and other non-conductive utilities?

There are times when PVC pipes do not provide an adequate signal to GPR equipment and can’t be properly located with this technology. In this scenario, GPRS Project Managers use complimentary technology such as electromagnetic (EM) locating to locate the pipes.

Can GPR be used to verify known measurements?

Yes, we can use GPR to cross-check the measured depth and location of a located utility with existing as-built plans to verify the accuracy of plans.

Does GPRS offer utility locating services near me?

Yes, we have a nationwide team of over 500 Project Managers strategically stationed across every major market in the U.S. So, we can rapidly respond to your site, no matter where it’s located.

But we’re more than just an underground utility locator company. GPRS provides a comprehensive suite of infrastructure visualization services to ensure your projects stay on time, on budget, and safe.

Click here to schedule a service or request a quote today!