Supporting Transportation Engineering with GIS

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 in GIS | No Comments

transportation GISWe recently blogged about Sain’s involvement in Alabama’s Horizontal Curve Safety Initiative. In that blog, we touched on the importance of the horizontal curve as a transition element in geometric design for highways and the opportunity this project has to reduce traffic crashes in Alabama.

A geographic information system (GIS) lets us visualize, question, analyze, interpret and understand data to reveal relationships, patterns and trends. These services perfectly complement Sain’s other areas of engineering expertise.

GIS has been utilized in the Horizontal Curve Safety Initiative in four main aspects:

  1. Pre-Project Planning
  2. Data Collection Planning
  3. Site Location
  4. Sign Data Collection

In pre-project planning, GIS was used to map a strategic approach to accomplishing the scope of work, estimate costs and define geographic work areas.  Since the project covers a large geographic area, this upfront planning with GIS helped us get our arms around the project scope so we could develop a logical plan of attack for work teams.

The second way GIS has been involved in the initiative is through data collection planning. Once the project began, we used GIS to come up with optimal driving routes to collect the data, automating the process rather than trying to eyeball it on a map. By utilizing the GIS tools, we have saved time, reduced wasted mileage, and made it easier to hit as many sites as possible in one day.

The planning process led to two applications of GIS to help our work teams in the field, site location and sign data collection.  The 384 horizontal curve study sites are all located based on state mile markers; however, many state roads have missing markers in the field. By operating GIS on a portable device, the engineers have access to online mapping with a layer of mile marker locations so they can verify they are in the correct location for each curve to collect the correct data.

The engineers also have access to a collector app that allows them to record point location of signs and various sign features. The points are then uploaded to desktop mapping products for analysis and production of report maps. This app allows the engineer to collect data and transfer it directly to the maps while in the field, rather than waiting to return to the office.

GIS has proven to be a valuable resource for Sain Associates and has been integrated into many areas of operations and functional processes, including the Horizontal Curve Safety Initiative. GIS has frequently reduced the time required to perform tasks from days to hours. Sain plans to continue using GIS as an innovative way to provide exceptional engineering services to all of our clients.


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