A new mapping system that reduces surveying error to less than one inch per mile has resulted in Surprise and a national planning and management company sharing the Grand Award in the 2007 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Arizona annual Engineering Excellence Awards. The Judges Choice Award was also awarded for being the best entrant overall.

"Translating a round surface to a flat surface causes distortion," says Surprise Chief Land Surveyor Ron Dry. "Our project, called the Low Distortion Project or LDP, is a mathematical means of translating positions on the shape of the Earth onto a flat surface and minimizing distortion to about one inch a mile here in Surprise."

Brian Fisher and Michael Dennis of David Evans and Associates were recognized for their part in the joint project. David Evans and Associates is a nationwide planning and management firm based in Portland, Ore., with offices in Phoenix. The awards were announced at a dinner in Glendale on Oct. 13. "The team completely re-evaluated how map projections are designed," says Dry. "The LDP design incorporates digital elevation model data from the U.S. Geological Survey in conjunction with the Geoid model of the state from the National Geodetic Survey to calculate the fit of the final map on the ground, where the map is most used."

The projection not only fits Surprise, but also fits the entire Maricopa County area and most of Pinal County, according to Dry. It has been presented for consideration to the Maricopa County GIS Department, the county assessor, the Maricopa County Department of Transportation, the Maricopa Association of Governments, the general GIS community and several adjacent cities.

"This is significant, because this amazing projection will allow anyone doing surveying or GIS development to coordinate and associate all projects into one simple mathematical base within Maricopa County," says Surprise information technology Director Randy Jackson.

The award will be submitted at the national level of the ACEC for consideration for additional honors.