Do you know what is below?


After a month of emphasizing modern roots, it is time to move into national safe digging month! Throughout March, Aii has been educating on the importance of building intuition about what is below your feet every day. While no one has X-ray vision, everyone can understand that when things are above the surface, they likely have some sort of root below the surface as well.

Any tree you pass by, whether large or small, has a system of roots spanning and sprawling around beneath the surface. When you see bushes and shrubs, grasses and flowers, the roots systems below are obvious, understood concepts.

This same foundational principle applies to modern infrastructure, buildings, and systems all around us. Street lights posted along the road, electronic billboards, and traffic lights all have electrical cables running underground to supply power. These buried power lines connect infrastructure to the electrical grid. Homes, businesses, and restaurants have natural gas distribution pipelines running under their lawns, parking lots, and sidewalks to bring fuel into the building from far away. Internet, water, waste, and more all come in or out of buildings and all pulse through pipes, cables, and wires below the ground.

This system of modern roots is the present-day equivalent of natural root systems that should govern your actions when digging. Excavating near a tree all but guarantees you will strike the roots. Digging near a home should bring about an equal concern about hitting the home’s roots like power, cable, water, and electricity.

But modern roots are far more extensive than natural ones. The network of pipes, cables, and wires is not only concentrated under homes and businesses, but runs and spans thousands of miles across parks, roads, forests, and more. Well beyond 20 million miles of these underground facilities span the country, meaning that any digging project – in fact, every digging project – requires calling 811.

You will know to call 811 once you have built up the intuition that all modern infrastructure has modern roots. No matter where you are, you know there may be something underfoot.

April starts National Safe Digging Month! Now that you are equipped with the knowledge that critical infrastructure is all around – including below ground – you can be sure to dig safely by calling 811 and preparing before any excavation work.

So do you know what is below? Well, you don’t have to know exactly what it is and where it is, but you should know the answer is: Yes, it’s modern roots!



Written by Benjamin Dierker, Director of Public Policy


The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.