Point of Beginning

The Latest News - March 2000

April 20, 2000
Making Michigan Safe:r GIS Planning Project Wins Award; and Maritime Surveying.

Making Michigan Safer

OSHA mandates that surveyors wear orange safety vests, but that is not enough to prevent surveyor accidents on roadways. "There's probably a situation every month that causes injury," said Roland Self, executive director for the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS).

In October 1999, MSPS voiced its approval for Senate Bill 803, introduced by Senator Joanne Emmons, R-Mich. Bill 803 would potentially make surveyors safer on site by placing them out of the roadway. Specifically, the bill states, "If access to the corner location will create an unsafe condition, the surveyor may install at least four reference monuments interrelated and visible with the corner location and each other by angular and linear measurements."

A scheduled review of the Local, Urban and State Affairs Committee on Nov. 10, 1999 resulted in a rapid eight-minute approval of the bill. The Senate passed the bill 37-0 following its third reading in December. It now sits in the House Insurance and Financial Services Committee, a 21-member board. Self said he expects the bill to pass into law before the House summer session. "If it runs on the same track that it did in the Senate, there will be no problem in the House," Self said.

GIS Planning Project Wins Award

Not only did Oklahoma get a comprehensive GIS recently-it got an award-winning GIS. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) honored the system and its developers, Jay Adams and Tim Callahan, at its conference in Tulsa, Okla., last October. Adams and Callahan, both from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (OKDOT), received the 1999 President's Transportation Award for Planning.

Developed with Intergraph's (Huntsville, Ala.) GIS software technology, the system allows Oklahoma to submit timely and accurate Highway Performance Monitoring System data to the Federal Highway Administration, a problem in the past. Adams said he chose Intergraph's products because of past experience with the MGE Segment Manager (MGSM). He said Intergraph's products prove advantageous in efforts of dynamic segmentation, a process in which data is linked to a linear network and oriented spatially along the network by using a unique road identification number and a mile-point location. Updates to new data can be automatically displayed and placed along a linear network through dynamic segmentation.

"To be able to get the data to segment roads, you need to lineate it," Adams said. "Our system is so flexible that we found we can bring in all of our highway and road data, bridge and railroad data, as well as billboard and junkyard data."

OKDOT primarily used Intergraph's MGE in the beginning stages of the project. They continue to use MGE and have added GeoMedia.

"[GeoMedia] is not as administratively capable [as MGE], but the beauty of it is that it integrates all the systems used [in the other areas of the state]."

Increased road construction challenged the OKDOT team in the first three years of the project. The Oklahoma state legislature granted OKDOT over $1 billion to complete the project, later adding another billion dollars to complete the project in conjunction with other construction projects under the state's Capital Improvement Project. The high construction period came after the GIS project was conceived.

Another challenge for the OKDOT team was a decrease in staff. "We had 12 people in our mapping group when the project began," Adams said. Because of budget funds and the inevitability of people moving on, the mapping group decreased to six people within five years. Efforts weren't hindered, however, as the mapping team was able to reach its goals. "The time frame wasn't as great as we hoped it would be, but we've got half the state digitized," Adams said.

To make highway data readily accessible in a modern format, the team used existing resources. "We took an old state data map and attached our new data to it with 1 mm accuracy. There's a whole lot of data in the highway department. What we wanted to do was access historical data and be able to read them through our GIS data sources," Adams added. Adams said OKDOT is happy with the outcome thus far, and said the project will be completed within the next six months.

Maritime Surveying

Maritime archaeologists Robert Church and Daniel Warrens experienced elements of the Civil War on a survey of an 1862 vessel off Cape Hatteras, N.C., last November. After completing a routine survey off the Cape, Church and Warrens, working for C&C Technologies Inc., a Louisiana-based surveying company, ventured to the site of the USS Monitor.

The USS Monitor, the Union's ironclad warship during the Civil War, sank while involved in battle against the Confederate frigate Virginia (USS Merrimack). Both Church and Warrens knew of the ship, as they had studied under Gordon Watts at East Carolina University. Watts was the underwater archaeologist on the team that first located the Monitor in 1973. Church and Warrens were presented with a preservation project that would both remind them of days past and make a mark for the future.

Opting to use C&C's R/V Ocean Alert, which is equipped with state-of-the-art underwater equipment including a Simrad EM300 multibeam sonar (Simrad, Kongsberg, Norway) and a Klein 5500 high-speed side scan sonar (Klein, International Industries Inc., Annapolis, Md.), Church, Warrens and other surveyors and marine archaeologists set out to survey the historic wreck. The Monitor site is located in an area of strong northward flowing currents with a submerged site location buoy approximately 100' north of the wreck and 20' below the surface. Surveying is often difficult in this area, so the C&C crew performed the initial passes over the wreck site using only the EM300. Once the buoy was located, the crew towed the Klein 5500 system, which was set on a 100-meter range scale, past the southern perimeter of the wreck site to determine the location of the buoy anchors and anchor chain. The team was then able to conduct the detailed survey without danger of entangling the buoy cable with the sonar towfish, the unit that transmits and receives acoustic energy for imaging.

The Monitor was found upside down in 60 m of water, with its bow pointing westward. Surveyors captured high-resolution images showing hull damage, historically thought to be a result of charging by the U.S. Navy during WWII after it was mistaken for a German U-boat. The images were given to NOAA for ongoing study and documentation of the shipwreck.

C&C Technologies has documented and assessed prehistoric and historic sites as part of larger surveys for pipelines or submarine cables. The Monitor project was the first time the company conducted a detailed survey specifically to document a historic shipwreck site.