Tag Archives: GIS

How GIS Improves Data Quality

Quality Data

Screenshot of UPlan

Screenshot of UPlan Map Center

State routes and associated features, like mile markers, structures, and even fiber optic cable, can be represented by geo-located points or lines. The UPlan Map Center  provides a way to put data sets on a map, which makes the location of projects and features easy to find. A map can highlight errors and aid quality control. GIS also helps facilitate feedback from decision makers and the public by connecting data owners with data users to.

While putting data on a map sounds simple, “going from a non-visual data environment to a visual one is a complete transformative game-changer,” explains Rod McDaniels, Outdoor Inventory Control (OAC) Manager. For decades, the Department’s Outdoor Advertising Control Program struggled to consistently and quickly identify which routes in the state required billboard control and to pinpoint the exact location of permitted billboards on those routes. Records for the program were kept in individual online or hard copy files which had written descriptions of billboard locations.

UDOT recently combined all route and billboard data into the Outdoor Advertising Control Map. GIS has vastly improved the OAC program’s data quality. “GIS allows users to gain a visual understanding the geographic distribution of permitted billboards in the state. It quickly tells a story that cannot be told through endless spreadsheet rows.  It has exponentially improved QC/QA activities, and it has revolutionized service delivery to a broad spectrum of stakeholders.”

A bridge too far

Putting GIS data on a map also highlights location errors. “It’s like shining a light on something that can otherwise get buried,” says Sarah Rigard, UDOT GIS Program Manager. When the UDOT Structures Division data was put on a map, some of the bridges showed up in the wrong location – one was in Nevada. “A slight typo in a lat-long coordinate will cause the point to be in the wrong location.” Checking for errors on a map can be easier and more effective than checking a spread sheet line by line.

Making decisions

The purpose of the annual Utah Transportation Commission Workshop is to develop funding strategies and identify upcoming projects for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). UDOT’s GIS team supports the workshop by developing presentation materials such as PDF maps, tables, and storymaps on UPlan. Developing presentations has spurred discussion of what information from the Electronic Program Management (ePM) database is the most useful and helpful to convey, and how that information should be presented to provide a thorough representation of transportation needs.

GIS tools provide another way review data, which improves the quality. As a result, UDOT has better information for making decisions and better tools for presenting information to stakeholders.

Monte Aldridge Receives Governor’s Award for Excellence

Region Four’s Monte Aldridge received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the category of leadership on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. The following nomination was submitted by Rick Torgerson, Region Four Director.

Photo of Monte Aldridge

Monte Aldridge

Monte Aldridge is leading a cultural shift with long-term business implications by developing relationships of trust and influencing his peers and other stakeholders in the implementation of several key UDOT initiatives. He continually aligns people and processes in the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) tools, implementation of 3D design and advancement of wildlife connectivity/vehicle collision reduction.

The use of GIS tools has been a remarkable breakthrough for UDOT and allows for making better decisions while improving efficiency in delivering projects that address each of UDOT’s Strategic Goals and the governors SUCCESS Framework initiative. While GIS has a sophisticated infrastructure, under Monte’s leadership his team has embraced the new technology to understand and develop its capabilities.

Monte has helped keep UDOT moving into the future with 3D design, which is a national effort within Departments of Transportation and the Federal Highways Administration. This quickly developing technology is revolutionizing the design, construction and communication of roadway projects. Monte’s continuous incorporation of 3D Design into team processes, problem-solving scenarios and public settings has seeded a synergy that is moving his peers to forge ahead developing higher quality products while also achieving significant taxpayer savings.

Region 4's Monte Aldridge stands with Executive Director Carlos Braceras (left) and Governor Herbert with his award.

Region 4’s Monte Aldridge stands with Executive Director Carlos Braceras (left) and Governor Herbert with his award.

Monte’s leadership in connecting state and federal agencies, counties, landowners and sportsmen’s groups to a clear vision and fostering collaborative solutions has led to innovative products, financial partnerships, new agreements and most importantly, trusting relationships resulting in a reduction of nearly 1,050 yearly vehicle/wildlife collisions in Southern Utah.

Congratulations Monte! Thank you for your excellent example and leadership.

Preconstruction honored with regional quality award

UDOT Region Four’s Preconstruction Team has developed GIS tools that support and enable communication and better decisions, and charts a path for other work groups at UDOT to exploit GIS capabilities more fully.

The team won a WASHTO award recently for developing and employing GIS tools. Here’s an overview of some of the team’s efforts. Click here to read the full WASHTO award nomination.

DesignCompareAppScreenShot

This screen shot shows an image of an app that compares the phases of design for the Bluff and Sunset project located in St. George.

GEO-referencing design files

A Design-to-UPlan app displays the design files on a UPLAN map. Multiple design options can be displayed to facilitate discussion among UDOT and stakeholder groups. All three phases of a project, concept, plan-in-hand and PS and E, can be viewed simultaneously on one screen with multiple windows.

Mapping right-of-way survey files

The team has also built tools to convert Right-of-Way (ROW) survey data from CAD to GIS, and graphically display the UDOT ROW lines on a UPLAN map. Certified section corners, complete with tie sheets, are also linked to the map and accessible to the public. A ROW Type Map app displays property in one of three categories, ROW, Limited Access or No Access.

A pilot project, when fully implemented, will pull information from ePM each evening, and display individual parcels within a project area on a UPLAN map. The parcels will be color-coded to show the acquisition status of each parcel. Hosting the maps on UPLAN allows public access with security controls to insure the integrity of the data and to regulate sensitive information.

Mapping utility conflicts

By displaying utility data and infrastructure via UPLAN, project teams can work to quickly resolve potential conflicts with utility companies. Ultimately, Region Four’s vision is to create a database of all utilities within the region and statewide.

Mapping sensitive environmental areas

Region Four Preconstruction has been working with the State Historic Preservation Office to develop protocol to ensure the secure use of sensitive environmental data.  The team also standardized a GPS data dictionary for use in managing mitigation for Utah Prairie Dog surveys.

GIS tool benefits

GIS tools provide value to project teams and stakeholders. Maps help solve communication gaps among disparate groups, including the general public, commercial land surveyors, land owners, policy makers, and contractors. For example, UDOT Project Managers can help local leaders and the general public visualize project options and outcomes, and help facilitate a better decision-making process. And sharing an online map can allow productive work sessions with participants in various remote locations.

GIS maps and apps can support complex environmental processes. Region Four is home to most of Utah’s cultural sites and threatened and endangered species, and GIS tools help UDOT staff reduce or mitigate protected areas and avoid animal habitats.

While GIS has a sophisticated infrastructure, Region Four’s Preconstruction department has embraced the new technology to understand and develop its capabilities and has pioneered GIS tools for the benefit of all of UDOT.

Congratulations to Region 4 Preconstruction!

Team Members: Wendy Nez, Jared Beard, Ted Madden, Riley Lindsay, Bill Mecham, Don Johnson, Kelly Hall, Gernice White, Eric Hansen, Pam Higgins, Jared Barton, Randall Taylor, Cameron Gay, Silvia Barbre, Devin Monroe, Sam Grimshaw, Josh Peterson, Brandon Weight, Jeff Bunker, John Fraidenburg, Paul Damron, Monte Aldridge.

A gallery of maps shed light on STIP process

The STIP Workshop Gallery, now available through UPlan, enhances planning, decision-making and transparency.

The projects on the map are showing UDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, a four-year plan of funded state and local projects for the State of Utah.

The STIP is updated and published annually after a yearlong cycle of events that includes input from other government agencies, fiscal analysis, and public meetings and comments. The STIP serves as UDOT’s official work plan for developing projects from conception, through design, to advertising and construction.

A screen shot of Region One's STIP map gives the public a look the status of projects and how much is being spent.

A screen shot of Region One’s STIP map gives the public a look the status of projects and how much is being spent.

Before UDOT’s GIS team produced maps showing the STIP, the list of projects were published as static hard-copy maps or as a list of projects. The new STIP maps are web-based and dynamic, and change as UDOT makes changes to the program. The data on the maps are obtained from ePM, UDOT’s electric program management system, and are refreshed nightly.

Policy makers, program managers and the public

The maps will be used at the Utah Transportation Commission Workshop in April. “It gives them a view of the planned and recommended projects in the regions they represent,” says William Lawrence, UDOT Director of Program Finance. Lawrence will use the maps to zoom in to see the exact location, scope, planned schedule and budget of each project at the workshop.

The maps help “open a conversation up among groups at UDOT,” says Lawrence. Portfolio and project managers can use the maps to coordinate or combine projects. For example, a bridge program manager and a pavement program manager can coordinate projects to reduce impact to the public.

The maps help UDOT’s goal to be a transparent public agency. “In a nutshell, it basically says here’s the funding we have and here’s where we’ve planned to spend it,” says Lawrence. It lets the public see “exactly what’s coming in their direction.”

To find the maps, start from the UPlan Map Center website, enter STIP in the search field and select “search for apps” in the drop down box.

This post was written by Catherine Higgins of the UDOT Project Development division. It will also appear in the GIS bi-monthly newsletter.

UDOT leader named top young transportation innovator

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Utah Department of Transportation is known for exciting innovations such as accelerated bridge construction and advanced intersection designs. But innovation doesn’t have to be flashy to be valuable.

GIS Manager Becky Hjelm speaks after winning the 2014 Vanguard Award at the AASHTO Annual Conference in Charlotte.

GIS Manager Becky Hjelm speaks after winning the 2014 Vanguard Award at the AASHTO Annual Conference in Charlotte.

Becky Hjelm, GIS Manager at the Utah Department of Transportation, has been integral to some of UDOT’s recent innovations through data-driven projects aimed to Keep Utah Moving.

For her efforts, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is honoring Hjelm as its 2014 Transportation Vanguard Award winner.

The national award is given by AASHTO to recognize an individual aged 40 or younger who is leading the way in doing extraordinary things in the field of transportation by “exemplifying a commitment to excellence and implementation of innovative technologies and processes.” It was created in honor of Jim McMinimee, a UDOT leader who passed away in 2012.

Hjelm, who has been at UDOT for just under three years, has proven herself to be a visionary, with the ability to build effective teams and work strategically to accomplish more than thought possible. She does it by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) along with her attention to detail, outreach and collaboration talents.

“Through her leadership, UDOT has embraced GIS,” said Randy Park, UDOT’s Director of Development. “The way we do business is changing rapidly, and the increased reliance on data is making us more efficient.”

Hjelm has been part of a big culture change at UDOT, through her contagious excitement about the technology. During her short time at the department, she’s identified and implemented many projects and opportunities, including geo-referencing CAD files, creating an Outdoor Advertising Control Map, implementing ProjectWise layers statewide, and establishing a new Emergency Management Tool.

Becky Hjelm (center) poses with her UDOT GIS team.

Becky Hjelm (center, in vest) poses with her UDOT GIS team.

Some of her most valuable work has been her work on an asset management data project. UDOT had already asked Mandli Communications to perform LIDAR scanning, which allows engineers and scientists to examine natural and built environments across a wide range of scales with greater accuracy, precision and flexibility. The state has scans of every state route, which includes pavement and other asset data.  Using that large amount of data would prove to be difficult without using GIS. So Hjelm organized a cross-departmental team to accomplish the task of building the tool in a timely manner, saving countless hours and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Park said UDOT expects the culture change and innovation to continue to benefit the State of Utah for years to come.

“There isn’t just one innovative idea that Becky has implemented. She’s put in place an entire program that continues to grow,” he said.

 

Interactive Projects Map Being Prepared for Public Launch

Screen shot of the interactive map show details about the Pioneer Crossing Exension

A new interactive projects map will utilize existing GIS layers and add project specific detail for use in meetings with local governments and stakeholders

UDOT Region Three is developing an interactive map to display project information in a GIS format.

Region Three will develop and test its use with plans to launch the GIS map as a statewide resource in the future. Internal staff and technical staff may be accustomed to using GIS, but this map is targeted for use with local government officials and other key stakeholders so that people not familiar with GIS can easily find meaningful information in a public-friendly format.

The map will utilize existing GIS layers and add project-specific details, such as concept and final design, for use in meetings with local governments and stakeholders. A limited number of layers will be pre-selected to keep the map interface simple and easy to use for non-GIS users.

The Interactive Projects Map development team is working toward a June launch date in order to begin using this resource through the summer. As we use the map, we will gather feedback from stakeholders and internal staff alike to refine the map and its functionality. An updated version of the map based on initial feedback is targeted to be launched in November. Link to the map from the UDOT Region Three homepage www.udot.utah.gov/go/region3.

GIS at work: GETTING IT RIGHT

A new GIS tool for retrieving right-of-way information is saving time and funding for UDOT.

Photo of GIS street view with colored line showing right of way data.Some of the UDOT Right of Way Division’s responsibilities include acquiring property for the expansion of the transportation system and regulating access to roadways by issuing permits. These important functions involve interaction with property owners and developers who need to know the location of a property line or the type of access granted on a roadway. Sometimes UDOT employees need answers about UDOT-owned property as well.

UDOT ROW employees respond to hundreds of complex inquiries each year. Getting answers used to be very time consuming, according to Randy Smith, UDOT Region Two Right of Way Manager. “It took about twelve hours per each request and up to 3 days to answer each question,” says Smith, because several data bases needed to be thoroughly searched.

Smith worked with UDOT Central Right of Way, UDOT Central GIS, and a team to develop a GIS tool as part of his course work for the Utah Certified Public Manager program offered to state employees.

Searching more easily

Much of the ROW data UDOT maintains is in ProjectWise, an online document storage system. Smith’s team built links that connects the map to ProjectWise documents. “The Arc Map has hyperlinks to ProjectWise and the original source data,” says Smith. Now finding answers takes minutes as opposed to hours or even days.

Called the Right of Way GIS Tool, the new process offers many advantages. It’s a “once-and-done” solution explains Smith, since inquiries are kept in the system to eliminate duplication of effort.

Smith’s team performed a cost-benefit on the system that’s quite impressive. Paying an employee to respond to an inquiry was determined to be $550 per request. UDOT Region Right of Way Two alone gets an average of 350 requests a year. The savings offered by the tool is a whopping $160,000 each year. “It’s an opportunity cost savings,” explains Smith, since employees are now freed up to work, to problem solve or improve processes.

Table showing annual savings of $161,358.75

Future benefits

The tool is only available to UDOT right now, but a tool for the public will be released in the near future. Smith suspects that the volume of questions may go down once people can find information on their own.

Other groups with information stored in ProjectWise may benefit as well. “While we developed this tool specific to right-of-way, we found that the environment is applicable to other disciplines,” Smith says.

For more stories about GIS Tools, see:

UDOT Receives National Award

Consider a Map

Pavement Marking Check-Up

Visit the UDOT Data Portal, a one stop shop for maps, apps and data.

Under construction: GIS apps to improve safety

The following post is the second of a two-part series about how GIS tools help employees expedite work and refine the quality of information needed to improve the transportation system. Please also see GIS tools at work in UDOT Region Four.

Widespread, enthusiastic uses of spatial data have not always been embraced – mostly because employees didn’t have experience using the data and tools. One of UDOT’s most enthusiastic GIS tool proponents, Pre-Construction Engineer Monte Aldridge, took a pro-active approach and changed the work culture in region four.

Aldridge required his pre-construction team to use the tools and then report back at a monthly team meeting. Pre-construction teams are made up of members with a variety of engineering specialties, including design, environmental, and hydrology. Teams plan and design small and large roadway projects.

The experience was “very beneficial,” says Aldridge. Once the team members investigated the tools then shared their use experience, they were hooked.  “Now it’s something that’s used every day.”

Wildlife Corssing Images

Wildlife fencing works to direct animals safely across roadways. In the top photo, a mule deer buck has just crossed an overpass. In the bottom photo, fencing directs a mule deer herd to a crossing under the roadway.

For example, roadway designers found out right away that using the Linear Bench, a straight line diagram tool, is useful to catalog relevant roadway assets before designing a project. Region Four designers also use smartphones as on-site data-collectors to geo-reference roadway features when visiting a future construction site. Using the tools has prompted ideas for other uses.

Oh deer!

A large animal that gets around wildlife fencing “is an almost guaranteed accident,” says Aldridge. When a wildlife carcass is picked up on a UDOT route, the location, animal type, along with other information is currently geo-referenced with a smart phone app.  A modification to this app will send an email when a carcass is picked up along a road section where wildlife fencing has been installed. The email will alert transportation technicians that a fence may have been breached.

Another app is being developed to accumulate crash hot-spot data. The Utah Highway Patrol investigates highway crashes and turns over information over to UDOT. Information on the location and cause of a crash is not immediate, however. Overcoming that time lag in getting that information can speed up the time it takes to improve safety.

Staff in Region Four is working to identify how to log crash data to exclude private and sensitive information that’s collected as part of UHP’s investigation. Then, the non-sensitive information can help UDOT employees make safety improvements, if needed, more quickly.

GIS tools at work in UDOT Region Four

UDOT Region Four takes in half of the state. While other regions face heavy snow or urban traffic, Region Four’s challenge is to coordinate work over a large area. Geographic Information System (GIS) tools have helped that coordination process.

The following post is the first of a two-part series about how GIS tools help employees expedite work and refine the quality of information needed to improve the transportation system.

Data Portal screenshotGIS data can be accessed at the UDOT Data Portal.  Much of the information on the site is geo-referenced – that is, given an exact spatial location. The UDOT Data Portal also has tools to view and analyze the data sets. Tools include maps and the Linear Bench, a straight line diagram generator. Both tools can be populated with multiple data sets, like the location of culverts or bridges. Data sets can also be downloaded.

Maps and apps improve work coordination

The Utah Prairie Dog, which occupies habitat within the right-of-way of many highways in Region Four, is afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act. UDOT recently completed a formal consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service that defined measures to minimize impacts to this species.

As part of implementing these measures, UDOT uses GIS and GPS tools to identify and quantify the acreage of habitat of temporary and permanent impacts. The tools expedite surveying and monitoring efforts so UDOT can quickly complete necessary road work.

Material pits are the sources of rock, sand and gravel used on construction and maintenance projects. Pits located on BLM or US Forrest Service land require permits.

An app that geographically displays the pits along with their permitting information is helping UDOT employees stay on top of the permitting process. The app generates an automatic email six months before expiration of the permit so UDOT won’t risk losing access to pits.  

UDOT Leads at GIS Conference for Innovation and Progress

UPLANThe Utah Department of Transportation was recently recognized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) at a national conference held in Boise, Idaho May 6-8. UDOT has been acknowledged for the way we utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in transportation.

UDOT stands out as a leader among the nation’s DOTs for our advancements with the highway mapping system known as UPlan. UDOT also received an honorable mention in the Transportation Publication division map competition for the Utah State Highway Map.

UDOT GIS Manager Frank Pisani attended the conference and said he was approached by nearly a dozen states who expressed interest in emulating UDOT’s implementation of UPlan.

So what exactly is UPlan and UGate?  “UPlan is an interactive mapping platform that supports UDOT by helping visualize our data, track our assets and strengthen our transportation planning with better analysis and collaborative information,” Pisani explained.

“UGate is the database and UPlan is the front end,” Pisani said. “UGate is behind the scenes as the engine that powers UPlan.”

The UPlan website is used as an information system where data can be tracked and recorded for both internal and public audiences. Due to it success, the federal government is also encouraging state to implement a similar system..

The Federal Highway Administration also highlighted UDOT as a model for other states for our Highway Performance Monitoring Systems and the approach we use with Linear Reference Systems.

Frank Pisani explains Linear Reference Systems:  “This is how UDOT coordinates with other state organizations like 911, highway patrols and local governments to collectively maintain 1 road network.”

Pisani said he was approached by a fellow conference attendee who claimed he had been coming to the conference for more than 20 years., “Three years ago UDOT wasn’t even here,” the man said. “And now you guys have taken over.”

UDOT has surpassed other state DOTs in the way we have been able to accomplish more with limited resources.

“UDOT has direction, support and good technology that is helping us capstone a lot of our efforts,” Pisani said. “We are trying to use technology to the best of our ability to inform the department and also the public that we are using this as an information tool and we are making the best out of the technology and data that is out there. UDOT is innovative in all aspects of the department and our technology focus is just one of them.”