Call before you dig

Sean Donelan SEAN at SDG.DRA.COM
Sat Apr 17 21:10:11 UTC 1999

woody at zocalo.NET (Bill Woodcock) writes:
>Okay, so basically the deal was that there were a zillion (like 200)
>different "call before you dig" hotlines for different areas, and you had
>to track down the correct one, and there weren't a lot of penalties for
>not having one for an area, et cetera.  Then in 1997, there was a federal
>house bill to unify it all, it carried over to 1998, and then actually
>passed around May or June sometime, as part of the Omnibus Federal
>Transportation act.  The upshot of that is that there's one 888 number for
>the whole country now, and states lose a portion of their federal highway
>funds if they don't get the utilities which their PUCs regulate to
>participate in the program.  

Its still a bit early to tell if the One-Call legislation made any
difference.  Only two quarters of information has been reported, and
one quarter was down, and the following quarter was up.  However, there
are still a lot of cases where the excavator did call, but the utility
either didn't mark, marked the wrong place, or didn't mark all the lines.

As Bill points out, the Department of Transportation is the federal
agency in charge of One-Call.  States can get a $1M-$5M federal grant
for setting up a One-Call coordinator for their state.  But there is
no national GIS database, nor any truely common way of describing where
everything is.  After getting a call, the One-Call people will forward
the information to the listed contact for all registered utilities in
a particular geographic grid.  It is then up to each of those contacts
to go out and mark their clients' lines.  Sometimes a group of utilties
will hire a common contractor to mark all of their lines, other utilties
send their own people.  Sometimes a utiity will forget they had lines in
a particular area, and fail to register that grid with the One-Call people.
Some companies consider their maps proprietary, and won't allow anyone
else to see or use them.  Other company maps are just plain wrong.

With deregulation, there is no longer just "the phone company" or just "the
water company."  Multiple companies may have the same type of lines in an
area.  The marking contractor for one company won't necessarily mark the
lines for a different company (or even a different subsidary of the same
company), or even alert the excavator he know's there is another company's
lines he didn't mark. Its kinda of like another ISP trying to get the
SPRINT NOC to open a trouble ticket.  There is a bit of tit-for-tat going
on.  Even after you have all the colors marked on the ground, you are
never really sure just what's missing until you start digging.

National Call Before You Dig = 888-258-0808
Sean Donelan, Data Research Associates, Inc, St. Louis, MO
  Affiliation given for identification not representation

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