March 2024 Vol. 79 No. 3

Editor's Log

UIC: Back to our roots

by Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief 

As we wrap up the 2024 edition of the Underground Infrastructure Conference (UIC, formerly Underground Construction Technology Conference), we’re pleased to announce a return to our origins in 2025. 

The 31st annual UIC will travel back to our hometown of Houston. As the nation’s fourth-largest city (expected to move up to No. 3 soon, possibly by next year), Houston has held many highly successful UICs, and will again be the nexus of all things underground March 4-6, 2025. The massive George R. Brown Convention Center, adjacent to downtown Houston, will resurrect its role as the focal point for the exhibition and renowned UIC Educational Program. 

The magnificent Marriott Marquis (newly constructed since the last time the show was in Houston) will be the headquarters hotel. While located just across the street from the convention center, the Marriott is also connected directly by a convenient, enclosed skybridge. 

UIC was last in the Bayou City (as Houston is commonly called) in 2015. Over the past 10 years, the event embarked on a sojourn to bring the most relevant and beneficial educational information to various parts of the country including Fort Worth, Nashville, Orlando, Atlanta and New Orleans.  

Now, it’s time to return to our roots and launch an even broader, impactful and beneficial program for all in the underground utility industries. Several innovative programs are already in the works that will boost greatly the education, information and networking afforded by UIC. 

Ironically, like the first show in Houston, the city is again in the midst of a major EPA consent decree due to sewer overflows. In 1995, Houston was midway through its obligation to spend roughly $1.2 billion over a five-year period while in 2021, the city agreed to a second program estimated to cost $2 billion over a 15-year period.  

But even without the consent decree, Houston’s booming population growth requires non-stop maintenance, rehabilitation, new installation and major spending to keep up with demand. 

In fact, the entire Houston metro area continues to experience significant annual growth. The area’s 2025 population is estimated to be around 7.5 million. All suburbs, bedroom communities and surrounding cities in Southeast Texas are steadily striving to keep up with ever-increasing infrastructure demands. Further, high growth and heavy infrastructure demands cover the entire state which, with a population of more than 30.5 million (trailing only California), the Texas economy and voracious appetite for utility services keep owners, engineers and contractors extremely busy. 

That growth is spread across all sectors of underground infrastructure. With a booming housing and commercial building market, sewer and water needs are tremendous, not only in terms of new construction but for replacement and rehabilitation as well. Parts of the state adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico experience high annual rainfall, not to mention the occasional tropical storm and even hurricanes, therefore making stormwater systems paramount to the drainage health of the region. Stormwater pipes are being rehabilitated, replaced and added, but also stormwater storage via massive new tunnel construction is ongoing within city limits. 

Like the rest of the country, fiber installation is on fire in Texas. The high population concentrations make Southeast Texas and the entire state a build-out target for numerous fiber providers. Plus, Texas’ large rural areas are receiving many BEAD grants to provide fiber service.  

Additionally, the ramp up for growth and strengthening of the electric grid, combined with the hardening of power lines (i.e. moving power lines underground is the top solution) financed by the Infrastructure Act, have provided financial motivation to place or move electric lines underground. 

These days, installation of fiber and power lines frequently means horizontal directional drilling. Indeed, you cannot drive around anywhere in Texas without seeing small HDD rigs or small trenchers at work. 

And how could we forget the energy pipeline industry? Houston has become the capital of the worldwide energy market and that includes newer ventures into hydrogen. In-state pipeline construction and system maintenance continue at a strong pace. 

All this adds up to a tremendous opportunity for manufacturers and vendors to connect with extremely high concentrations of consumers who are in a frenzied state of asset management, leading to rapid-fire construction and rehabilitation projects of all sizes. It will be an excellent location to learn, network, discover the latest technology and simply be entertained. 

Plan now on returning to Houston March 4 – 6, 2025, for next-level innovation and education. 

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