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GEOSPATIAL DATA-SHARING PEER EXCHANGE
Raleigh, North Carolina

May 20-21, 2014

logo of the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation

Host Agency

North Carolina Department of Transportation

Participating Peer Agencies

Maryland State Highway Administration
Missouri Department of Transportation
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
South Carolina Department of Transportation
West Virginia Department of Transportation


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The U.S. Department of Transportation John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, prepared this report for the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Planning. The Volpe Center project team wishes to thank the participants in the peer exchange, which are listed in the agenda in Appendix A, for providing their experiences, insights, and editorial review. The time they kindly provided was vital to preparing the exchange and reviewing this final report.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

Background

This report provides highlights from a peer exchange held in Raleigh, North Carolina, on May 20-21, 2014. The exchange was part of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Geospatial Data Collaboration (GDC) initiative. A companion report to this document—Geospatial Tools for Data-Sharing: Case Studies of Select Transportation Agencies—provides additional information on the GDC initiative and includes case studies from 23 State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and others that are developing, using, and maintaining a variety of applications and tools to support GDC goals. Six of those 23 agencies participated in the Raleigh peer exchange.

FHWA's Office of Planning (HEPP) sponsored the peer exchange and the North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) hosted the event. FHWA HEPP also sponsored a second GDC peer exchange on May 28-29, 2014, hosted by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The CDOT peer exchange convened a separate set of State DOTs to explore the same topics as the Raleigh event. Highlights from the Colorado peer exchange are available here.

Goals

FHWA's GDC initiative encourages State DOTs and others to use geospatial tools to streamline transportation decision-making and improve data sharing within an agency and with external stakeholders. The North Carolina peer exchange aimed to provide opportunities for State DOTs to share noteworthy practices, success factors, and challenges encountered in using, developing, and maintaining geospatial tools that support improved data-sharing, the core goal of GDC.

Format

The NCDOT peer exchange was held at NCDOT's offices in Raleigh. Participants included staff from NCDOT, Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA), Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), South Carolina DOT (SCDOT), and West Virginia DOT (WVDOT) (see Appendix A for a complete participant list).

This exchange followed a two-day format, which began with a brief round of introductions and information on FHWA's GDC activities, followed by peer presentations and demonstrations to highlight agencies' geospatial activities relevant to data-sharing. After the presentations/demonstrations, peers convened for a series of roundtable discussions that addressed pre-identified topics of interest. The peer exchanges concluded with a discussion of next steps and final remarks from FHWA that summarized recurring themes (see Appendix A for the peer exchange agenda, including roundtable discussion topics).

Types of Data-Sharing Efforts

Participating agencies shared their experiences related to many different kinds of data-sharing efforts (see Table 1 below).1 For the purposes of this report, these efforts were grouped into three categories:

Table 1: Summary of data-sharing efforts reported by Raleigh peer exchange participants

Agency Name of Data-Sharing Application/Effort3 Repository Gateway Coordination
MDSHA MD iMAP (ArcGIS Online (AGOL)4 site)   X  
eGIS   X  
Open Data Portal X    
One Maryland One Centerline   X  
Maryland State Geographic Information Committee     X
MoDOT Missouri Natural Heritage Program Database (MONHD)   X X
Missouri Cultural Resource Inventory X    
Missouri Spatial Data Information Service   X  
Missouri GIS Advisory Council     X
NCDOT AGOL   X  
Go!NC and Spatial Data Viewer X X  
OneMap   X  
North Carolina DOT GIS Data - North Carolina State University Library X    
Archaeological Predictive Model X    
NC Geographic Information Coordinating Council     X
PennDOT PennShare   X  
PennDOT GIS Portal   X  
Proposal Screening Tool X    
Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access   X  
Pennsylvania Data-Sharing Forum     X
PennDOT Next Generation     X
SCDOT Project Screening Tool X    
Data Portal X    
Local Agency Data Collection (LADC) X   X
GIS Coordination Council     X
WVDOT West Virginia GIS Data Clearinghouse X    
Our Solution with Integrated Systems (OASIS) (also known as the Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] Suite) X X  
WVDOT ESRI Roads and Highways   X  
Data Catalog and Mapping Services X    
WVDOT Facilities X    
West Virginia GIS Policy Council     X

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PEER EXCHANGE HIGHLIGHTS

This section presents a compilation of highlights and recurring themes that emerged from the peers' presentations and roundtable discussions.

A. Motivating and Success Factors

Peers identified factors that motivated their agencies' data-sharing efforts or helped them successfully develop their related applications:

Federal requirements
Many peers chose to develop data-sharing applications in response to Federal requirements. For example, some peers developed GIS tools to develop federally required plans and programs such as the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) and Transportation Asset Management Plan. Many peers noted the need for geospatial tools to compile, consolidate, and share an expanding amount of data will only increase in the future due to Federal requirements and other factors. For example, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) requires that State DOTs report data on all public roads, including locally owned roads. GIS might be an important component of a tool that helps a State DOT report these data.

Natural disasters
The need for a coordinated response to natural disasters can provide an initial opportunity for State DOTs to demonstrate their geospatial capabilities and prepare for potential improvements. Peers also acknowledged; however, that maintaining enthusiasm for these efforts is challenging since interest in geospatial tools and efforts can sometimes fade in the wake of natural disasters.

Champions
Several peers commented that it was valuable to have a champion, ideally within the agency's leadership, who could advocate for geospatial data investments or establish a vision for improvements. Peers reported their champions have included elected officials (e.g., a Governor or Secretary of Transportation) or a mid- to senior-level official who is familiar with GIS through training or professional experience.

Identification of benefits
Peers noted that identifying the benefits of data-sharing efforts can help justify current and future investments of time and funding necessary to build more robust data repositories, gateways, and other applications. Based on anecdotal evidence, the peers believe data-sharing can lead to more informed decision-making, increased efficiencies (i.e., time and cost savings), streamlined project review processes, increased transparency, and improved communications both internally within the State DOT and externally with other stakeholders, including the public. Identifying, documenting, and sharing these benefits is both an important motivating and success factor.

B. Technologies and Platforms

Many peers reported using commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) solutions, such as Esri ArcGIS Online (AGOL), as a platform for their data-sharing applications (this was also true in the Denver peer exchange). The COTS software used by the peers allows agencies to compile, aggregate, and share geospatial data and mapping applications without investing as much time or resources in developing their own software. These platforms also allow users without formal GIS training to apply geospatial technologies that meet specific business needs. Other peers chose a combination of different platforms, including some COTS solutions and some customized or developed by the agency itself. In each case, peers noted they carefully selected a software solution to best meet their agency's specific data-sharing needs.

C. Data Management and Governance

Peers noted that as improved technology makes it increasingly easy to collect, store, and share geospatial data, State DOTs must carefully consider how to manage and administer this information. Peers discussed several strategies for developing data guidelines and governance, with a particular focus on establishing metadata standards.

Data owners
Throughout the exchange, peers discussed the difficulty of establishing authoritative data sources and maintaining data quality over time. Agencies have to decide who is responsible for maintaining data that may be submitted and shared through a common platform or framework. One common solution to this challenge discussed by peers was to assign data providers ownership of the information, ensuring they take responsibility for updating their own data.

Standardized data
Many peers established formal policies to standardize the data included in their repositories and gateways. Others were in the process of creating enterprise linear referencing systems (LRSs) or other types of data inventories that united existing datasets into a centralized database according to a common set of data standards.

Metadata
Metadata provide the filing system necessary to organize geospatial data and enable users to make better decisions on how to use a given geospatial dataset. Peers agreed that reliable metadata are necessary to support accurate and usable geospatial data. Information such as map projection, date/location of collection, author, owner, data definitions, references to data dictionaries, and edit history provide useful background on datasets and help prevent duplication.

Despite the importance of metadata, peers noted several challenges that make it difficult for State DOTs to develop robust metadata. Many agency staff have a limited understanding of the need for metadata. Some agencies struggle to decide which of many approved or suggested metadata standards to use. Others face issues related to establishing data ownership and defining who is responsible for developing and updating metadata. While rigorous metadata standards and policies are helpful to reduce information gaps and address data quality issues, having standards that are considered too demanding may also deter data owners from sharing their information. In response to these challenges, peers have engaged in different strategies.

D. Data Management and Governance

A key topic at the peer exchange was the importance of coordination among all stakeholders involved in geospatial data-sharing efforts, including application users. Peers discussed that typically, both intra-agency coordination (such as with information technology (IT) staff and between agency business units) and interagency coordination (such as among State and local agencies) are required for successful geospatial data-sharing efforts. However, the extent of coordination needed may depend on the specific purpose of the effort.

Intra-agency coordination

IT coordination
Peers noted that coordination with IT is important, but often difficult to achieve. GIS staff typically rely on IT support to meet geospatial hardware and software needs, but many IT departments do not have adequate staffing resources to meet their workloads. Peers discussed that when an agency's GIS office is organizationally located within the same division as the IT group, GIS and IT staff sometimes have stronger working relationships. When GIS and IT staff are separated into different business units, or when a State DOT shares IT staff with other agencies across the State, collaboration between GIS and IT staff can be more difficult.

Data silos
Peers noted that different business units within their agencies often collect their own geospatial data or store data locally. Staff are either unaware that data could be useful to other offices/units or else staff are concerned that their information is of inadequate quality and may not be useful to share. Overall, peers believed there were important opportunities to increase awareness of how individual data efforts might connect with each other, or how locally collected data could feed an existing centralized repository or gateway. Peers also discussed the fact that State DOTs are often divided into business unit silos, completing tasks without being aware of related activities occurring elsewhere in the agency. They may only become aware by chance encounter or ad hoc communication, rather than through more strategic and sustained coordination.

Interagency coordination

Formal agreements
Peers discussed the benefits of drafting formal operating or data-sharing agreements, such as MOUs, with partner agencies that outline how partners will share data.

Informal arrangements
Several peers who have not developed formal data-sharing agreements reported they have a culture of informal networking that supports strong coordination among Federal, State, and local agencies.

Local agencies
Peers noted that they have encountered some challenges in collecting geospatial data from local agencies, often as the result of staff and resource limitations at the local level. Some local agencies are reluctant to share data with State DOTs if they feel they are unlikely to benefit from this coordination. Several peers have developed innovative strategies to pursue stronger relationships with local agencies, particularly in terms of meeting Federal data reporting requirements.

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CONCLUSION

This peer exchange provided important opportunities for State DOTs to share noteworthy practices, lessons learned, and challenges related to geospatial data-sharing. Peers agreed the exchanges helped provide momentum for developing a community of practice in this area. Peers also agreed that GIS personnel—who often serve various offices within an agency—are essential for developing these solutions as State DOTs continue to strive to shorten project delivery, enhance safety, protect the environment, and meet the needs of the traveling public.

During the final session of the peer exchange, participants identified several specific, current, GIS-related trends likely to influence their data-sharing activities in the future. Peers also discussed ways of referencing these trends to expand and improve the role of geospatial data in transportation decision-making:

Evolving data requirements and practices

Advancements in technology

Funding challenges and solutions

Given the influence that these key trends are likely to have on data-sharing applications, systems, and initiatives in the future, State DOTs will need to take advantage of opportunities and prepare for emerging challenges. For example, broader acceptance and recognition of geospatial data will allow transportation agencies to more easily secure management support for investment in data-sharing activities. Additionally, it will help identify new geospatial champions that can set a vision for future improvements to a state's geospatial data. Diminishing budgets, on the other hand, will continue to challenge the amount of resources that State DOTs can devote to geospatial data-sharing efforts.

It is expected that FHWA can support State DOTs in producing innovative data-sharing applications, systems, and initiatives that will make the most of limited resources and result in both faster decision-making and better transportation outcomes.

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APPENDIX A: PEER EXCHANGE AGENDA

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
Geospatial Data-Sharing Peer Exchange
North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)
Conference Room 436/437
4101 Capital Blvd at New Hope Center
Raleigh NC 27604
May 20-21, 2014

Participants

Peer Participants
North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) John Farley, GISP, Manager GIS Unit - 919-707-2151 jcfarley@ncdot.gov
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Matt Long, Transportation Planning Manager - 717-772-0795 matlong@pa.gov
South Carolina DOT (SCDOT) Yelena Kalashnikova, GIS Manager - 803-737-1270 KalashniY@scdot.org
Emily Watts, GIS Analyst - 803-737-1677 WattsEK@scdot.org
Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) Mike Sheffer, Assistant Division Chief/GIS Coordinator - 410-545-5537 MSheffer@sha.state.md.us
Erin Lesh, GIS Project Manager - 410-545-8464 Elesh@Sha.state.Md.us
West Virginia DOT (WVDOT) Marshall Burgess - 304-558-9528 Marshall.L.Burgess@wv.gov
Karl Epps - 304-558-9614 Karl.A.Epps@wv.gov
Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Christopher Shulse, Senior Environmental Specialist - 573-526-6678 Christopher.Shulse@modot.mo.gov
Other Participants
NCDOT Observers Ryan Koschatzky, GIS Unit - 919-707-2176 jkoschatzky@ncdot.gov
Tom McKay, GIS Unit - 919-707-2321 tmcaky@ncdot.gov
Mary Ellen Perko, Geospatial Services Supervisor - 919-707-2157 meperko@ncdot.gov
Tim Sheldon, LRS Manager - 919-707-2181 tmsheldon@ncdot.gov
Chris Tilley, GIS Unit - 919-707-2156 cbtilley@ncdot.gov
Sarah Wray, Spatial Data Manager - 919-707-2167 sbwray@ncdot.gov
FHWA North Carolina Division Office William Beatty, Transportation Asset Management Program Manager - 919-747-7013 William.Beatty@dot.gov
FHWA HEPP Mark Sarmiento, Community Planner - 202-366-4828 Mark.Sarmiento@dot.gov
Volpe Center Paige Colton, Environmental Protection Specialist - 617-494-2361 Paige.Colton@dot.gov
Scott Middleton, Operations Research Analyst - 617-494-3480 Scott.Middleton.CTR@dot.gov

Agenda

Tuesday, May 20
8:30 - 8:45 WelcomeNorth Carolina DOT (NCDOT)
8:45 - 9:15 Overview of FHWA Geospatial Data Collaboration (GDC) ActivitiesFHWA
9:15 - 9:45 Introductions and Discussion of Peer Exchange GoalsAll Participants
9:45 - 11:00 Demonstrations/Presentations 1
  • NCDOT: NCDOT ArcGIS Online (AGOL) Site
  • SCDOT: Local Agency Data Collection (LADC) program
Break
11:15 - 12:15 Roundtable 1: Process & Structure - All Participants
Lunch
1:15 - 2:30 Demonstrations/Presentations 2
  • MDSHA: MD iMap, Enterprise GIS, MDSHA AGOL Site
  • WVDOT: WVDOT AGOL Site, WVDOT Data Catalog, OASIS/ERP, other GIS data-sharing applications (e.g., WVDOT Facilities)
Break
2:45 - 4:00 Roundtable 2: Technology & Data - All Participants
4:00 – 4:15 Day 1 Wrap-Up - FHWA
Wednesday, May 21
8:00 – 8:15 Day OverviewFHWA
8:10 – 10:00 Demonstrations/Presentations 3
  • PennDOT - PennShare (AGOL Site)
  • NYSDOT - Metadata Clearinghouse, enterprise linear referencing system
  • MoDOT - Missouri Natural Heritage Review Website, Missouri Natural Heritage Database
Break
10:15 – 11:15 Roundtable 3: Benefits, Challenges, & Lessons Learned - All Participants
11:15 – 12:00 Roundtable 4: Future Directions & Next Steps - All Participants
12:00 – 12:15 Wrap-Up - FHWA
12:15 Adjourn

Roundtable Discussion Questions

Roundtable 1: Process & Structure - All Participants

Roundtable 2: Technology & Data - All Participants

Roundtable 3: Benefits, Challenges, & Lessons Learned - All Participants

Roundtable 4: Future Directions & Next Steps - All Participants

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FOOTNOTES

1 Appendix D of the Geospatial Tools for Data-Sharing: Case Studies of Select Transportation Agencies companion report provides more detail on these agencies' efforts.
2 Screening tools are specifically designed to support users in identifying a transportation project's potential impacts during project planning or development processes.
3 Efforts listed include both those the State DOT initiated and those in which the State DOT is a participant or contributing partner.
4 Esri's AGOL cloud-based platform permits users to aggregate and share a wide array of geospatial information including mapping application and data layers.
5 Eco-Logical is an approach to avoid or minimize environmental impacts, as well as plan future mitigation, through the prioritization of natural resources in early infrastructure planning. As one of 14 Implementing Eco-Logical funding assistance recipients, MoDOT is using funding from FHWA to make improvements to the Missouri Natural Heritage Database, as described above.

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