In the following article, find out how transportation management is easier with GIS.

Due to high-risk failures over the past decade, transportation agencies have experienced an increased need for a better means of inventorying asset condition. This tends to be prevalent in the northeast section of the United States, which has older transportation assets in a densely populated region, but is not limited to that region.

While assets differ for public agencies and private sector clients, the same concept of asset management can be applied. The challenge is simple and clear: How do you get the most out of your assets while maintaining an acceptable service condition of those assets?

Managing transportation assets using Enterprise GIS (eGIS) technology has provided a solid foundation for assisting public agencies with optimizing the performance and life expectancy of their assets. These eGIS solutions provide program users with a means to make informed decisions about maintaining, replacing and constructing asset infrastructure based on current asset condition, budgets and infrastructure needs.

Even with an annual investment of $91 billion for road infrastructure alone, it is still not enough to improve the conditions and performance of the infrastructure long term as indicated in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “2013 Infrastructure Report Card.” Agencies realize budgetary shortcomings and try to come up with alternate ways they can become more efficient in pinpointing problem infrastructure and prioritizing investment on rehabilitating and, in some cases, reconstructing their assets.

Asset Management programs using eGIS as the backbone must focus on specific goals and objectives that will generate quick results in assisting operation and maintenance teams with identifying and maintaining their most in-need assets.

Inventory and condition ratings of assets such as signs, pavement, pavement markings, guide rail, shoulder slopes, ADA-compliant ramps, and signals are inclined to be the most sought after inventory and assessment reporting. Once the initial eGIS program is in place, assets can be easily located, inventoried, evaluated and prioritized for repair, replacement or re-configuration to meet new roadway construction.

Data can be initially collected through LiDAR (light imaging detection and ranging) technology. This process is done by driving the transportation routes at posted speeds with LiDAR units mounted on vehicles, or through aerial LiDAR using helicopters or airplanes. The true value of this approach to surveying asset infrastructure is improved field safety, reduction of vehicular or rail traffic disruptions and overall cost savings due to schedule compression and the ability to extract line-of-sight asset data for eGIS consumption.

When implementing technology such as mobile LiDAR data collection, the sky is the limit as to what can be done with the data. Many times we conduct additional pilot project tasks because the stakeholders realize other existing processes and procedures may benefit with the use of eGIS asset management programs. For example, a project originally focused on sign and pavement marking inventory may grow into one using the LiDAR 3D point cloud to calculate safety curve advisory against the current posted speed advisory.

Advisory Speed Curve Evaluation

For many years, the evaluation of the safe travel speed for highway curves has been a subjective practice. The reliance on “ball bank” tools and hand measurements in the field has made this a somewhat inefficient and inexact science. This leads to potential dangers to the traveling public as “reduced speed” signs may be posted with higher speeds than what is actually advisable.

The modern use of mobile LiDAR data has evolved to now provide a much more exact evaluation of these highway curves since the LiDAR data can be used to establish the curve radii and the superelevation along the curve. This allows transportation officials to determine precisely where the curve is underperforming for a given travel speed. Equipped with this precise data, officials can now choose to repair any deficiencies to the roadway or lower the advisory speed sign.

eGIS affords an organization a streamlined method of accessing the most updated information about all managed assets instantaneously via desktop and internet accessible mobile devices. Because GIS tends to be friendly to other Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) complaint software, the eGIS solution can integrate third-party data, making the eGIS asset management program the hub for collaboration and communication between an organization and/or customers.

Once the decision is made to implement an eGIS asset management program, a needs assessment should be performed to develop an implementation plan. The needs assessment will help identify the key elements in developing a specific plan. These points will help:

  • Have a good understanding of your current standard processes and procedures.
  • Review the IT infrastructure of your end users to ensure high performance in accessing such a program.
  • Understand the data that you would like to provide to end users and the output of data that best suits asset management decision making by stakeholders.
  • Identify the management tasks you would like to incorporate into the program.
  • Identify your user base and have them properly trained to match their business use.

Linear Referencing Systems

Many transportation agencies maintain linear referencing systems (LRS) as a means for accessing a comprehensive look at roadways. Using eGIS foundation software products can support the integration of LRS enabling data to be brought into one synchronized secure eGIS access point to perform and monitor data-maintenance workflows.

A good example of how using eGIS can enhance efficiency and improve maintenance workflow is that Department of Transportation agencies are finding mapping capabilities such as Esri can supply a means to take straight line diagrams (SLDs), which are not-to-scale schematic views of roadway segments and bring them into a digital to-scale map. This map can be used for planning, design and field maintenance processes. SLDs can be used within mobile applications to assist field staff in navigating their way to the asset, where inspection data can be entered and updated to the main eGIS asset management program in the field within seconds.

Every organization has some system of managing their assets in place whether it’s a traditional manual system or a mix of manual and technological. Using eGIS solutions can be far more efficient, and making the transition when it is well supported by key stakeholders guarantees that clear objectives are met and successful results will follow.

Current eGIS programs are highly configurable to specific needs, easy to use, highly effective and, in most cases, integrate into existing asset-based software applications. While the initial program implementation is time consuming, certified GIS professionals are trained to sort through the details, perform the necessary assessments and help with informed decisions in developing the right program. Asset management is an ongoing task. Taking the time to design and implement an eGIS program properly will optimize time, budget and workflow.