engineer with hardhat using tablet pc computer inspecting

SUE: What Your City Needs To Avert Disaster

June 17, 2024
By Tony Terrell, Director of Utilities Management, WSB

If your city has an upcoming construction project, using subsurface utility engineering (SUE) can provide numerous benefits, while helping avoid potential catastrophe. In any community, but especially in heavily developed cities, not knowing the exact location of subsurface utilities puts projects at risk and could mean unnecessary delays, unexpected costs, and even harm to communities by temporarily depriving it of water, electricity or gas.

With that in mind, let’s review what SUE is and why your city should think twice about forgoing it.

What Is SUE?

SUE is a service that uses pipe & cable locators, electromagnetic hand-held utility locators, ground penetrating radar, and vacuum excavation to locate and identify utility lines buried beneath the ground. The vacuum excavation process is unique and entails the use of a high-pressure sprayer and a 100-to-200-gallon tank that turns the soil into mud. That mud is then vacuumed out to receive a physical line of sight on utilities buried as much as ten feet below the ground surface. Through vacuum excavation, the exact horizontal and vertical coordinate and the depth of a utility can be measured. The ground penetrating radar is a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. The GPR can identify different material types underground and is used to locate utilities that are difficult to find, and where the electromagnetic locators had issues. What’s more, SUE uses a quality ranking system that helps construction projects have the right data and a clear understanding of how to avoid colliding with utility lines.

Utility Quality Levels

Using SUE equipment as described above, a utility quality level can then be applied which denotes how precise the location data is. These quality levels fall into four levels of A, B, C and D. Through this quality level scale, design teams and construction teams are better equipped to ensure utilities are not impacted by any excavation work.

The Risk of Forgoing SUE

Forgoing the use of SUE creates the risk of damaging or destroying utility lines. This disruption would not only delay the ongoing project but would also create substantial cost of repairing the utility line and potentially cutting off services to the surrounding community. This is especially critical when working in heavily developed cities with large, condensed populations, and where damaging a utility has the potential of cutting off electrical, water or gas utilities to a large population. Additionally, studies have shown that forgoing SUE services can lead to problems and potential utility damage that will incur costs beyond the initial cost of performing SUE services for a project. On average there is a nearly 5 to 1 cost difference between risking utilities and using SUE to prevent these issues from occurring.

Why is SUE important

  • Provides valuable information from which to make valuable decisions for roadway/bridge projects.
  • Unnecessary utility relocations are avoided
  • Eliminate unexpected utility conflicts typically encountered on transportation projects
  • Improved safety
  • Reduce project delays, saving time and money
  • SUE is a viable technological practice that reduces project costs

How WSB Can Help?

To avert potentially damaging or destroying a utility during construction, cities should reach out to the experienced and talented team at WSB to discuss how SUE will keep costs low and protect not only your project, but the surrounding community. By staying at the forefront of technology and techniques, WSB provides the information and peace of mind cities need to complete their project safely.

Tony has over 30 years of roadway design experience including time at the Oklahoma DOT in the Roadway Design Division. He has worked in bridge design, right-of-way plans, railroad plans, and traffic/traffic signal plans. His work in utility relocation work involved with for all phases of the design, writing right-of-way easements, drawing final utility relocation plans, coordinating the utility relocation, verifying that all utility relocation work has been done and finalized.

[email protected] | 405.808.4127

Updated Digital As-Built Requirements: What Energy Companies Need to Know & How They Can Benefit

August 14, 2023
By Nate Osterberg, Director of Strategic Growth and Garrett Deick, Professional Engineer, WSB

When the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) mandated new permitted utility installations meet Digital As-built Requirements (DAC), WSB adopted a workflow that allowed utilities to meet and exceed these new requirements. At the forefront of this change in Colorado, we helped utilities navigate the new law with cutting-edge technologies and mapping.

Now, many other states across the country are looking to implement similar laws, mandates and programs and there are things utilities should know. What are the rules, how can utility companies prepare and how do these new SUE requirements benefit energy companies and other entities in the long-term? 

What are the rules in Colorado?

Essentially, any entity installing utilities in a DOT right of way is required to use a digital as-built. All utility lines will need to be mapped digitally and submitted to CDOT, including plans and existing lines. Utility companies will be required to survey existing utility lines — commonly known as Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) — and submit them to the state using their chosen software. 

Another key factor is ensuring the utility lines are found to the highest accuracy quality levels using geophysical methods to locate and map them.

With more states adopting similar requirements, how can utilities prepare?

Utility companies need to plan SUE investigations for their new facility installations. In the recent Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA), the federal government is providing grants to utility companies to complete the digital as-built mapping needed starting in 2024. These funds can be used for damage prevention and supporting SUE investigations and installation.

Utilities also must ensure that they are prepared to not only gather the data, but store and use the data too. Preparing teams to use SUE data in the design and construction process has many benefits. 

What are the benefits of SUE investigations?

For every dollar spent on a SUE investigation, as much as $22 can be saved in the construction phase. SUE allows utility companies to avoid damage to gas, water, electric and sewer lines that are costly to repair. It also reduces construction down time, which is also costly. In short, SUE helps prevent unexpected changes and expenses during construction. 

Preventing damage also helps avoid environmental consequences. If a gas line is hit, gas leaks into the ground and atmosphere, increasing greenhouse gas emissions. These leaks carry serious public safety concerns. By using SUE investigations, damage can be avoided. 

In the future, electric companies will benefit greatly from SUE investigations as well. In the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, electric companies will have large grants available to move overhead lines underground. With digital maps of utility lines provided by SUE investigations, electric companies will be able to plan and design around existing underground utilities and make the process more efficient and cost effective. 

For many of the same reasons, telecom companies will benefit from SUE investigations. As 5G expands across the country, installation is happening underground to protect lines from natural disasters. With digital maps from SUE investigations, these lines will be easier to install efficiently and prevent damage from future construction.

Lastly, cities will benefit from better mapping data. Much of the nation’s water infrastructure was built more than a century ago and GIS and other modern technologies were not used to comprehensively map water lines. In the next couple decades, many water lines are due to be replaced. With SUE investigations happening now, cities can plan around the current infrastructure when replacing and maintaining their water lines.

How can WSB help?

WSB’s team provides the knowledge and skill to help utilities and governments prepare for and implement new SUE requirements. Utilizing the latest technologies and processes, we helped utilities not only meet, but exceed new state requirements in Colorado. WSB also provides utility companies with all data in GIS/CAD format allowing them to use their data for planning and construction.

WSB’s team can assist with everything from the pre-engineering phase through construction phase. We help with understanding new regulations, securing grant funding, and more for utilities and local governments. 

Nate Osterberg has over 12 years of experience in the utility industry and specializes in utility inspection for WSB’s Pipeline group. Nate’s expertise lies in managing inspection staff technology implementation, scheduling and quality control in addition to CFR 192/195 inspection, damage prevention and GIS-based web mapping.

[email protected] | 612.202.2997

Nate Osterberg

Garrett specializes in utility coordination and has worked on a variety of projects including state aid, federal aid, cooperative agreement, trunk highway, and design build projects. He has extensive experience utilizing Microstation, GEOPAK, and Open Roads Designer for plan development, 3D modelling of utilities, and utility conflict analysis.

[email protected] | 612.289.1175

Q&A | Kyle Klasen

Kyle Klasen is the Director of Survey at WSB. In his role, Kyle oversees our survey staff nationwide, advances a visionary approach to industry practices and improves the efficiency and value of projects. Kyle’s innovative spirit and client-focused approach is admired by partners and staff. In this Q&A, Kyle reflects on his time at WSB and what the future of the surveying industry looks like.


My favorite part of leading the survey team is collaborating with everyone. Our team has a strong work ethic and are extremely dedicated to both WSB and the infrastructure industry. I enjoy being surrounded by motivated individuals who strive for new ideas and have ambition to do more.


I am excited and passionate about the work we do, and I want that excitement to come across to my team. A lot of our staff are motivated by delivering projects. They start a project when there is nothing there, and by the end of the year, they are able to see all that was accomplished by building and surveying. There is a certain satisfaction in seeing a highway, a road, or whatever it might be, from beginning to end.


I’d like people to know about the diversity and scope of the work that our team performs. We may be known for our construction abilities, but we do so much more. We have a large presence in the renewable realm on wind and solar projects, we work in the oil and gas industries, and we also do a lot of large-scale boundary work. We are also larger than our Minnesota staff. We have built a solid survey team in Colorado and are working on adding a survey team in Texas in the near future.


Our surveying team stand out among our competitors because we are incredibly innovative and forward thinking. We focus on utilizing technology and are extremely advanced in our abilities to manage and operate cutting-edge software. We are leading the industry in our use of 3D models and are leading many firsts in our industry when it comes to the tools we use. Our collaboration and partnerships allow us to be more productive and efficient in the field, ultimately saving contractors and owners money.


I like that everybody is always looking for new ways to solve our clients and contractors’ challenges. Creative and out-of-the-box thinking takes collaboration, and all our departments and functional groups work well together. We communicate and are willing to offer experience and solutions, even if it is outside our core functional group. At the end of the day, we have a team where every person is motivated, brings a positive attitude and collectively works together to deliver quality projects for our clients.


A recent strategic hire told me the main reason they joined WSB was because of the longevity of our staff. You can’t make that up. That sells what it means to be part of the WSB team. They’ve seen companies with turnover after turnover, and it’s clear that WSB is different. We really care for our staff, while providing numerous opportunities for leadership and career advancement for those wanting to stay and help grow the company.


We are going to see more and more of our processes become automated. We need to think differently and creatively on how we collaborate with contractors. The future of WSB surveying is about nurturing and preserving the client relationships that make our core market in Minnesota, while also fostering growth for our teams in Colorado, Texas, and around the country.


Early on in my WSB days, a client at Mathiowetz Construction, gave me a shot on a project. Our relationship has grown into an incredible partnership, and it opened my mind and eyes to what contractors are doing, what they need, and how they deliver a solid project. Trust and collaboration are key to achieving success. They changed my mind on how I think about construction. I attribute a lot of my career growth to that partnership and being given a chance to make an impact.


My most memorable moments were early on, as I was growing as a young land surveyor in a private company. I was fortunate to be working at WSB where they foster an environment of learning, problem solving and mentorship. I recall once finding myself in a particularly challenging situation where I couldn’t find a solution. Ron Bray, one of WSB’s founders, took the time to walk me through it and solve the problem. In retrospect, that situation not only taught me how to solve that problem, but also instilled me in me a desire to apply that same philosophy in managing my team. WSB encourages everyone to push boundaries, solve problems and work as a team to reach the end goal.

Engineering Needs More Surveyors

By Brad Oswald, Director of Survey Operations, WSB

Some elements of engineering are bright and shiny. Surveying is not classically considered bright and shiny. The work of a surveyor often goes unnoticed, but it is an important step to delivering a project on time and within budget.

A surveyor measures land, considering the topography of a project site, to delineate where to put infrastructure like pipes, wind turbines, solar arrays and more.

You may need a surveyor if you are:

  • Buying or selling a home or piece of land
  • Dividing a larger piece of land into smaller pieces
  • Installing a fence or pipeline

At WSB, developers, construction companies and their contractors rely on surveyors to perform boundary and land surveying on small and large projects. Boundary surveying is when a surveyor establishes the boundaries of a project site. A surveyor can tell you exactly where the boundaries of your property are, so you know what is and isn’t yours, and what’s developable. Next, a land survey will identify any easements or encroachments on the project site to determine where site improvements can be placed. The surveyor then provides a base map to engineers, who start designing the site. Once the site is designed, a surveyor will stake the design on the ground, so contractors know where to build on the site.

These steps help prevent any legal or monetary liabilities. A new homeowner may want to build a fence on their property. If they build that fence without surveying the property, they could be hit with a lawsuit if the fence encroaches on the neighboring property. Consider it on a much larger scale. A developer may plan to install wind turbines on a site. After paying the thousands of dollars to install the turbine, they could find that the turbine is encroaching on a neighboring property. Surveyors can mitigate these problems long before the wind turbine is in the ground.

Right now, the surveying industry is facing a challenge.

Less people are entering the industry. The engineering industry must come together to underscore the importance of surveying. Opportunities in the space are growing, too, as industries are focusing on increasing renewables projects across the country, even the world. These projects include pipelines, wind turbines, solar arrays, transmission and transportation projects.

Technology is also enhancing the field. With more satellites orbiting the Earth, improved GPS technology makes the job not only more efficient, but more interesting. Drones are also being utilized on larger project sites.

The work of a surveyor is critical to delivering a project, as designs and builds are based on surveys. The workforce must grow with the industry to ensure all projects are successful.

Brad has 23 years of experience in the land surveying industry with the last 18 focused on management, project delivery and mentoring. He has extensive experience in the electric and federal market sectors providing boundary, ALTA/NSPS, topographic surveys and construction staking.

[email protected] | 248.686.4745

WSB Selected to Design TH 169, Rebuilding Gateway to Greater Minnesota

WSB is thrilled to partner with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to provide final roadway and bridge design services for the Highway 169 (TH 169) Reconstruction Project.

TH 169 is a significant north-south highway in Minnesota. It serves rapidly developing communities and is a gateway to exploring recreational areas in Greater Minnesota. The highway is heavily traveled by both vehicles and pedestrians. Expanding the highway is intended to improve safety and reduce the average rate of collisions in the area.

Jody Martinson, vice president of transportation at WSB, anticipates this project will have a lasting impact and looks forward to delivering a safer commute for surrounding communities.

“This project is incredibly important to users of the TH 169 corridor,” said Martinson. “Being able to work side-by-side with MnDOT to improve the safety and mobility for motorists and pedestrians is extremely gratifying. WSB is excited to utilize technology and innovative solutions to improve the efficiency of design and construction.”

The reconstruction will address operational, infrastructure and mobility issues, all important elements considered when the project was selected for the Corridors of Commerce (CoC) program. The project will replace four signalized intersections with interchanges and consolidate access points, drastically improving safety and mobility. Local roadways will be reconstructed to create ADA accessible routes at the interchanges. The TH 169 project is expected to reduce roadway delay by more than 1,000 hours per day, eliminate $1.7 million in annual crash costs, and provide more reliable travel times for the public.

The project is also a CMGC project. As a CMGC (Construction Manager/General Contractor), the process will involve several stakeholders and team members throughout the design and construction process. The project will also require strong coordination and communication with MnDOT. Project manager, Peter Muehlbach formed an expert team to ensure the CMGC process is efficient, effective and economical for reconstruction.

“When fully utilized, the CMGC design process allows for a more collaborative work environment between designer and contractor,” said Muehlbach. “I am excited for the opportunity to make design decisions together with our MnDOT, Sherburne County, city of Elk River and Ames Construction partners.”

Additionally, the project team will leverage state-of-the-art and emerging technologies to provide sustainable solutions during the design phase. By utilizing modeling tools, WSB will streamline construction management, drainage and utility relocation processes.

Planning for the TH 169 Reconstruction Project is underway with final design set to begin this summer. Phased construction will begin in fall 2022 with project completion set for 2024.

Hyatt House-Civic on First Groundbreaking

Community leaders and local residents gathered in downtown Rochester yesterday to break ground on the Hyatt House-Civic on First project. Referred to as the “new gateway to the city”, the $46 million project features a 172-room extended stay hotel.

Formerly the home of the beloved community watering hole, American Legion Post 92, the Hyatt House has a large footprint to fill. The over 30-year-old downtown establishment bid a bittersweet farewell to Civic Center Drive and its loyal patrons, but remained optimistic for future development efforts. The Hyatt House hotel is expected to connect the Rochester community and Mayo Clinic campus and spur economic development growth in the area.

Our Land Development team assisted EKN Development Group, PEG Companies, and HKS as the Planning and Entitlements Lead. We completed the planning and entitlement process, civil engineering, geotechnical, survey, and landscape architecture work. Completion for the Hyatt House project is anticipated for summer 2020.