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How ADKAR helped to improve Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) Implementation at CDOT

By Neil Lacey and Shalice Reilly
Posted: October 16, 2018

neil lacey.PNGNeil Lacey

Project Development Branch Manager

Neil Lacey, P.E. is the Project Development Branch Manager for CDOT and has been with CDOT for 26 years.  Prior to that, he worked for FHWA for six years. Neil graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering in 1985.

The following article relates to applying the Prosci ADKAR® model to the implementation of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) here at CDOT.  This was a change in how not only CDOT approached SUE, but how contractors and Utility companies approached SUE too.  

*Note- ADKAR is an acronym that stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement® and is the cornerstone for the Prosci Methodology.


In January 2016, Neil Lacey realized that utility company were stakeholders, but not responsible for the issues being raised by contractors about utility delays on CDOT construction projects. CDOT was actually responsible for a large share of the problem since they control the quality of the information included in the plans for which contractors bid. More specifically, CDOT was utilizing an ineffective methodology for gathering and representing existing utility information for their projects. Lacey’s ADKAR journey began when he gained the awareness that CDOT needed to improve its processes in order to be successful in implementing subsurface utility engineering1(SUE).  


Lacey had a strong desire to ensure that CDOT elevated the importance of having accurate utility information, and effectively communicating that information through the bidding package. in March 2017, CDOT brought in retired Indiana DOT (INDOT) Utility Engineer, Kenny Franklin, to help other CDOT employees develop awareness and desire as well. Franklin held a Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) workshop with CDOT’s Utility personnel to share how INDOT had implemented ‘Quality Level B’ SUE on construction projects. [See inset below with the list of Action items from March 29, 2017 Workshop].

action item at workshop

During the workshop, participants began to understand the issues surrounding SUE and became inspired to improve.  Soon after the workshop, regular group teleconferences were organized between Chris Williams from Region 3 and the SUE team. These teleconferences were used to discuss progress on action items from the workshop, and to share Region 3’s experiences implementing SUE on their projects (e.g. Grand Ave Bridge and I-70 Vail Underpass). 

Making sure that everyone on the team reached awareness and desire helped to bring about improvement planning and helped ensure that everyone was on board to make the changes necessary to help CDOT deliver an improved product to contractors -- and to do so in a more timely manner.


In the Fall of 2017, members of the SUE team worked with the Colorado Contractors Association (CCA) and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) to plan meetings around the State. At these meetings, they would discuss improving the 811 Utility Locating process. The primary focus of this Statewide effort was to collectively increase safety to contractors by reducing utility strikes during construction.

Legislation in other states requires a more structured process for reporting utility information, that focuses on increasing the accuracy of information to improve safety. As a result of these meetings, the collective team became aware of this legislation and in the Fall of 2017, began using it as a model for drafting their own regulations.

At the 2018 Legislative Session for Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), this group suggested new policies that both improved the quality of utility information in CDOT plans and began a standard practice of archiving this information for future use. A bill was introduced into the legislature in February of 2018, and SB 18- 167 was passed in May of 2018, which incorporated the suggested policy changes. This new legislation created a board to oversee utilities, and to ensure that upcoming public entity construction projects meet their required quality levels from ASCE 38. This new legislation went into effect on August 8th, 2018.


In August of 2018, CDOT entered into the early stages of understanding and implementing the requirements brought on by the new legislation, by transitioning their previous project process. The professionals in charge of CDOT’s engineering plans are now required to achieve Quality Level B for projects meeting the criteria for SB 18- 167. In addition, if for some reason they cannot achieve Quality Level B, then they must document the reasons why.


CDOT is currently working on a Subsurface Utility Engineering Surveying CADD manual to help in standardizing the new requirements for collection and depiction of utility data on CDOT plans. The standardized format will align with  ASCE 38 Quality Level standards, and will also provide more complete and accurate utility data within project plans.

There is more to come in the future of Statewide implementation of SUE’s quality improvements for utility information on CDOT projects.

Heroes of change 

All of the persons listed below have gone above and beyond in their comradery in implementing SUE within CDOT and through working on the transition to the new legislation (SB18-167) that was recently passed into Colorado's state laws. Thank you for your efforts, and for inspiring us to be better.

  • Rob Martindale, CDOT HQ Project Support Unit
  • Chris Williams, CDOT Region 3
  • Joe Carter, CDOT Region 3
  • Kevin Walters, CDOT Region 5
  • Marie Nakagawa, Office of Policy and Government Relations
  • Mary Frances Nevans, Office of Policy and Government Relations
  • Ron Dickey retired CDOT Region Utility Engineer/Statewide Railroad Coordinator 
  • Donna Haight, Central I-70 Utility Engineer


  1. To learn more about SUE, please visit
  2. Standard Guideline for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data
    CI/ASCE 38-02, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003.
  3. “The Many Benefits of Subsurface Utility Engineering,” C. Paul Scott, P.E., and Clyde B. Johnson, Sr., Right of Way Magazine, July/August 2006.
  4. For more information on ADKAR see the following link:

Want to learn more about Change Management at CDOT?
Check out our improvement efforts at the Office of Process Improvement’s website! Or, for CDOT employees, stop by the Change Hub on our Intranet!