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The Path to 50-in-5: 811 Chicago Reduced Damages by 50% Over Five Years

Chicago’s Huge Damage Reduction: Leveraging Collaboration and Mapping

Chicago has cut underground utility damages in half since 2017 through its robust prevention program run by 811 Chicago. This service of the Chicago Department of Transportation (and located within the Division of Infrastructure Management) achieves damage reduction through:

  • Project design reviews ensuring new utilities avoid existing infrastructure. Facility maps aid planning. 
  • Permitting requiring approved designs. Permit documents provide excavators with utility details.
  • Enforcement of damage prevention laws via investigations and sanctions.
  • Mapping tools like dotMaps showing project and ticket data. This enables coordination.

A key factor is that the Office of Underground Coordination (OUC, within the Division of Infrastructure Management) reviews all new utility project designs. OUC members, comprised of utility owners, must approve plans to mitigate conflicts. Facility map visualization access supports effective reviews. Facility owners share maps because it ultimately protects their assets.

 Facility owners share maps because it ultimately protects their assets.

Post-review, approved designs go to the permitting and 811 ticketing stages. Only licensed contractors can get permits/tickets, which include design documentation. Consistent enforcement of the city and state’s damage prevention laws further promotes compliance.

Chicago’s success highlights several adoptable practices:

  • Sharing facility maps for planning purposes provides the data necessary to prevent damages without revealing sensitive details.
  • Open communication on designs gives owners a voice and excavators foresight on potential conflicts.
  • Collaboration from the start fosters stakeholder relationships and buy-in.
  • Empowered excavators have the resources they need to identify buried infrastructure.

Chicago demonstrates that the damage prevention process works best when all parties commit to transparent planning, cooperation and accountability from project outset through excavation.

Damage Prevention in Your State

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CGA Toolkits

CGA has created a suite of toolkits designed to help members generate public awareness about the importance of damage prevention.

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