History of the Common Ground Alliance

Common Ground Study

In 1998, the U.S. Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21). In this legislation, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) was instructed to conduct a study of best practices in place nationwide for enhancing worker safety, protecting vital underground infrastructure, and ensuring public safety during excavation activities conducted in the vicinity of existing underground facilities.

The USDOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) convened a meeting of stakeholders from underground utility safety and damage prevention industries. Each major stakeholder group designated representatives to participate in the study.

In all, 162 individuals participated in the study, representing stakeholders from across the nation including oil and gas transmission and distribution, telecommunications, railroads, utilities, electric, water, sewer, cable TV, one call centers, excavators, locators, design engineers, regulators, and government entities at federal, state, and local levels.

One of the most controversial elements of the process for determining a “best practice” was the use of the consensus process. For a practice to become a “best practice,” all stakeholder groups had to agree that they could live with the practice; if one group disagreed, the practice would not become a “best practice.” To this day, consensus is used by CGA committees and in identifying “best practices.”

The Common Ground Study identified and validated over 130 best practices to enhance safety and prevent damages to underground facilities. In July 1999, 11 months after the kick-off meeting, the study was presented to the Secretary of Transportation.


One Call Center One Call Center

Facility Owner Facility Owner

Excavator Excavator

Locator Locator

Project Owner Project Owner

Designer Designer