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About this Program

About the GIS in Transportation Program

The GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in Transportation Program is a capacity building program for practitioners and users of geospatial tools and technology, operated by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Office of Planning, Environment and Realty (HEPP). The program aims to advance transportation planning and coordination in planning efforts through the use of GIS and geospatial tools. The program provides technical assistance and strategic communication to State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and other stakeholders across the nation on the role of GIS and other geospatial tools in streamlining transportation planning and communications.

In support of these efforts, FHWA and the U.S. DOT Volpe Center (Volpe) conduct policy research, host public outreach events, develop case studies and state-of-the-practice reports, and maintain a public-facing website. On an annual basis, the GIS in Transportation Program provides:

  • Quarterly webinars showcasing leading practices at State DOT and MPO partners
  • Quarterly newsletters highlighting how an agency has developed new processes or products and providing an editorial on emerging topics in geospatial practice
  • Two peer exchanges for small groups of practitioners to go into depth on key tools or focus areas, as well as summary reports describing the proceedings
  • Case study reports highlighting the noteworthy practices of States and MPOs in key practice areas
  • Workshops and presentations at various conferences and meetings, including American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) GIS-T and Transporation Research Board (TRB) committee meetings

The GIS in Transportation program welcomes GIS practitioners to join our Advisory Panel. See our Advisory Panel page for more details.

Why is GIS important to FHWA?

GIS is a market-ready technology that supports agency priorities and strategic goals within FHWA, and at the State and local levels. FHWA recognizes that several State DOTs and MPOs have already implemented or are in the process of implementing GIS and geospatial tools to support day-to-day operations, while others are in the early stages of using these tools. FHWA hopes to support State DOTs and MPOs at all stages of development, to advance the state of the practice, and support effective stewardship of the nation’s transportation system.

GIS and geospatial tools are important to FHWA. They can be used to integrate planning and project development activities, can streamline the environmental review process, and can support national performance management goals and measures. Incorporating GIS into transportation activities allows for project alternatives to be effectively and efficiently evaluated in response to public or agency comments.

GIS offers significant advantages over conventional computer programs and can be used in a wide range of transportation applications. In addition, GIS enables users to visualize the spatial relationships between various geographically-referenced features, such as the location of clusters of highway crashes. GIS also facilitates the integration of different databases. Transportation planners, for example, could use GIS to integrate a database with information on the location of transportation projects with another database that includes information on local land characteristics to produce a map that identifies land parcels and environmentally sensitive areas that may be affected by a new highway corridor. Lastly, GIS helps transportation staff present findings to policymakers and the general public using visually attractive and understandable thematic maps.

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