Geospatial Data Collaboration (GDC) Operating Agreements

What is it?

As part of their efforts to better link the planning and environmental review processes, transportation agencies have been using operating agreements with their partner resource agencies to define the roles and responsibilities of each. A key component of these agreements is understanding how these agencies are working together to develop, use, and maintain tools. How they will share data that support these tools is also another important aspect.

While formal operating agreements that are executed between agency heads can clearly establish each agency's part in their work together, any efforts between transportation and resource agencies that lead to more formal agreements also have benefits, especially when it deals with data and tools. These less formal arrangements often are initiated at the professional peer level, where the efficiencies that can be gained from sharing data or creating GIS-based tools are very evident. This “bottom-up” approach can eventually lead to a more formal operating agreement.

With operating agreements, each party understands how data is going to be shared and how GIS-based tools will use that data. This can change the relationship between transportation and resource agencies from one-sided data exchanges or stovepipe-developed GIS applications to more collaborative, shared data libraries and/or GIS screening tools. All of this can happen in the name of delivering transportation projects in a timelier manner.


Some examples include the following:

  • Iowa DOT (IADOT) Obtains Local Data through Data-Sharing Agreements
    Agreements under Iowa State code, Chapter 28E, specify the terms under which Iowa State and local agencies can work together to provide joint and cooperative services for the purposes of making “efficient use of their powers.” Cooperative efforts can include sharing resources such as information technologies or data. IADOT has signed 28E agreements with other State and local agencies, including some for the purposes of sharing data with cities and counties. These agreements are one way in which IADOT obtains local geospatial data, except for imagery, which is obtained through informal sharing.
  • Maryland Collaborates both Formally and Informally with State and Local Partners to Advance Data Sharing
    The Maryland Department of Planning has developed agreements with counties for parcel and vector data, which contributes to an application called MdProperty View, an ArcGIS-based viewer that provides information on jurisdictions' tax maps and parcel information. The Maryland State Highway Administration meets quarterly with other GIS staff within the Maryland DOT and from other State agencies to discuss projects and data collaboration needs.
  • Missouri DOT (MoDOT) Develops Data-Sharing Agreement with the State Historic Preservation Office to create the Cultural Resource Inventory Database
    MoDOT partners with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to share geospatial data through the SHPO's Missouri Cultural Resource Inventory Database (CRID). The CRID is available to researchers and professional archaeologists conducting National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 consultations. MoDOT also uses the CRID to support planning and project reviews. MoDOT and the SHPO have a data-sharing agreement specifying how the agencies will share archaeological data. According to MoDOT, the agreement has dramatically expedited the process of completing NHPA Section 106 consultations. Previously, archaeological research for consultations required a physical trip to the University of Missouri's site files, but now cultural resource data can be accessed instantly and remotely through the CRID.
  • New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is a Partner in the OpenNY, a State Data Portal
    NYSDOT contributes data to Open NY, a data portal launched in 2013 per the State's Executive Order 95. Open NY serves as a one stop data portal for all of New York States agencies. Open NY provides an innovative means to harness these innovations and meet public expectations regarding the accessibility of government data and information. Open NY has created an opportunity to explore, discover, and use data in ways not previously possible in the State. Through Open NY, New York State is promoting transparency, accountability, and efficiency; supporting a new level of collaboration between government and the public; and fostering innovation, business development, and scientific research. The portal includes downloadable datasets compiled from State agencies providing direct access to a significant amount of data. NY State DOT data sets include bridge and pavement conditions, 511 information, Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT), and a host of others.
  • North Carolina's Informal Data-Sharing Arrangements Contribute to Inter-Agency Coordination
    According to North Carolina DOT (NCDOT), North Carolina's GIS community is relatively small and tightly knit, which has made it easier for agencies to establish good working relationships around sharing geospatial information. Through an informal data-sharing arrangement, NCDOT uses its Go!NC application to readily share data with other State agencies, such as the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services. Although NCDOT has no formal data-sharing agreements in place with other State agencies, it is also using Go!NC to help agencies leverage their resources to initiate their own geospatial data-sharing efforts.
  • Ohio DOT (ODOT) Encourages Local Agency Data Sharing through Location Based Response System (LBRS)
    In the early 2000s, Ohio Geographic Reference Information System (OGRIP), part of the State Office of Information Technologies, began developing formal procedures for local data collection by creating a Location Based Response System (LBRS). The purpose of the LBRS is to reduce redundant data collection among local governments in Ohio. Participating agencies sign a memorandum of understanding with OGRIP and compile data that adhere to LBRS formats and standards. Working with OGRIP, ODOT facilitates local data collection by providing funding to State and local agencies to collect and maintain LBRS data if they share these data with ODOT. To date, 79 of Ohio’s 88 counties have participated in ODOT's initiative. LBRS data have been incorporated into portions of the ODOT road inventory dataset.
  • South Carolina DOT Advance Mitigation for the Long Range Plan and Cooperation in Implementing Watershed and Habitat Conservation Priorities
    The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is implementing an early project screening process for natural resources impacts during development of the Long Range Plan. A GIS database with maps of environmental constraints will be utilized by SCDOT-funded resource and regulatory agency personnel to evaluate projects for potential impacts on projects and corridors with planned transportation improvements. GIS coverages are being developed for threatened and endangered species, wetlands, and high priority management areas so SCDOT and regional transportation planning organizations can avoid and minimize impacts and identify potential mitigation sites. An interagency agreement supporting the effort promotes improved decision-making through early identification of potential issues through early and continuous coordination with all involved agencies, and assistance with prioritization of projects. Participating agencies in the interagency agreement include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, S.C. Department of Archives and History, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agreement outlines a 45-day turnaround time for agency review and comments. These comments are then incorporated into the development of the Long Range Plans to ensure continuity in case of personnel turnover. The progress of the early screening and involvement program will be measured by its success in reducing the amount of project delays and the costs associated with that.

GDC Focus Areas

Geospatial Data Collaboration is concerned with three specific areas that are the essence of the initiative. Each of the areas is interrelated, and there is no order to their implementation.

The map above shows where states are with Geospatial Data Collaboration (GDC) Operating Agreements and their interest in participating in the Every Day Counts Initiative.

Clicking on the word “Legend” above will identify the colors on the map.

Pre-Demonstration: Learning more about the innovation, actively gathering best practices, building support with partners and stakeholders.

Demonstration: Testing/piloting the innovation.

Post-Demonstration: Making adjustments to prepare for full deployment, adopting the innovation as a tool in the toolbox, process in place to include innovation as standard practice.

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