NJ Underground Utility Information During Design

For years, owners, contractors, utility companies and design professionals, in the State of New Jersey, have wrestled with the problem of conflicting underground utilities. When excavators uncover a pipe or cable in an unanticipated location costs usually rise – either due to underground utility damage or a need to redesign the project.

Knowing the size and location of existing piping, conduits and cables is essential for the design of all types of building and public works projects. Unfortunately, accurate data is often unavailable until a project has commenced.

The NJ One Call system requires contractors to obtain mark outs  three days prior to excavating.  The service does not permit engineers, architects and land surveyors to request a field mark out of utilities while projects are in the design phase.

In 2007 the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers (NJSME) entered into a pilot program with the New Jersey Utilities Association (NJUA) that enabled members of NJSME to obtain underground utility location information from the members of NJUA in three different ways. The utilities were given the option of:

Providing a field mark out;

Marking up a base map provided by the engineer, or;

Providing the engineer with the record plan maintained by the utility.

NJUA compiled a list of utility personnel who had been assigned by each of its member organizations to provide Municipal Engineers with utility information during the design phase of a project. NJSME members found that finding the right contact person was often the biggest step in obtaining the information they needed.

I’m happy to report that NJUA has now posted the contact information on its website: www.njua.com for all design professionals to use. Check it out for your next project.

NJUA is also hosting a group called the New Jersey Utilities Coordinating Council – a working group whose mission is to improve the communication among the different groups concerned with the utility infrastructure in the State of New Jersey, including government agencies, utilities, engineers, contractors and the general public. Ultimately the group hopes to suggest policies and procedures that will result in more cost effective, efficient and safer public improvement projects.

Unfortunately, NJUA does not represent all utility companies in the State of New Jersey. There are many privately held and municipal utilities that are not yet participating in this program.

I’d like to hear about problems that you have encountered with utility conflicts on your projects and your thoughts about ways to improve coordination among municipalities, utility companies, engineers and contractors.


The author, Carl E. Peters is one of fewer than 10 people licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Planner, Construction Official, Building Subcode Official and Plumbing Subcode Official. He is also a Certified Municipal Engineer and Mediator and founder of Carl E. Peters, LLC