Webinar 23
Vermont Agency of Transportation -
Making Right-of-Way Accessible

September 9, 2014

Summary of the Federal Highway Administration’s Quarterly Webinar: Applications of Geospatial Technologies in Transportation

These notes provide a summary of the PowerPoint presentation discussed during the webinar and detail the question and answer session that followed the presentation.

The presentation is available upon request from the webinar speaker Nina Safavi (Nina.Safavi@state.vt.us).

The webinar recording is available at: https://connectdot.connectsolutions.com/p6e392etsnx/.


Nina Safavi
Survey & GIS Project Manager, ROW Section
Vermont Agency of Transportation

Ryan Cloutier
Plans & Titles Chief, ROW Section
Vermont Agency of Transportation


Approximately 62 participants attended the webinar.

Introduction to Presentations

Mark Sarmiento of FHWA thanked participants for joining the webinar. This webinar was the twenty-third in a quarterly series of FHWA-sponsored webinars. The series deals with the application of geographic information systems (GIS) and other geospatial technologies to transportation. This webinar focused on the development and application of Vermont Agency of Transportation's (VTrans) Right-of-Way (ROW) Viewer, a web-based GIS application that allows users to view all of the agency's ROW data in one location.


The ROW Section at VTrans conducts research on existing ROW at the beginning of each transportation project. The agency historically stored its ROW data in a variety of forms and locations, making it difficult for users to access and know whether data were accurate and comprehensive. Delays in ROW research can slow down an entire project.

To address these issues, the VTrans ROW Section decided to develop a web-based GIS tool, called the ROW Viewer, to consolidate all of the State's ROW information (from approximately 2,700 miles of State road) into one system. At the time, VTrans stored its ROW line data as scanned paper plans and computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting files, and additional ROW information (e.g., acquisition documents) in other systems.

Calculating Return on Investment (ROI)
In order to justify developing a ROW Viewer, the ROW Section worked with a consultant to clearly define the costs and benefits of the proposed project. As part of this effort, the team conducted interviews across the agency to determine which staff were using the agency's ROW information, how long it took these staff to find the specific information they needed, and what process they used to find this information.

The ROW Section learned that ROW data were used across the agency. The section also learned that while roadway engineers still needed to use CAD as the primary platform to manipulate ROW data, a GIS system would provide a better way to access that information. The section estimated the total benefits of the projects at $11.5 million over five years, with costs estimated at a small fraction of that amount.

Technology Solution
The ROW Section set three goals for the project:

  1. Create combined data model. The ROW Section wanted a repeatable method of CAD-GIS conversion and a process to review and digitize scans.
  2. Publish data as a web service. The ROW Section wanted the viewer to be accessible on a mobile device.
  3. Use advanced web-based viewer. The ROW Section wanted the viewer to link data from other internal systems, providing a means to view all ROW information currently stored in data silos in one place.

The ROW viewer connects three types of data stored in different locations and displays them spatially together. These data types include:

  • ROW Geospatial Data (made up of CADD and scanned plans).
  • Vermont Base Map Data (made up of linear referencing system, road centerlines, town boundaries, etc.); and
  • Project Management Systems (made up of project descriptions and history).

Nina demonstrated the agency's ROW Viewer, which is available at https://vtrans.vermont.gov/highway/row. The ROW Section welcomes comments/suggestions on the viewer. Users can direct questions to aot.rowgis@state.vt.us. The ROW Viewer is a map catalogue of available ROW information and is not meant to be the authoritative source of ROW boundaries.

The ROW Viewer contains a variety of ways to view information and allows users to query specific locations. For example, users can view ROW data overlaid on aerial imagery, GIS layers in relation to roadway data and mile markers, and CAD features. Users can turn specific data layers on and off. Users can also search where the information in the viewer is stored at VTrans. Users can also drop “correction points” onto the map to mark errors in the data.

Uses and Next Steps
The ROW Section is publishing the information as a service, so anyone can use the data in their own application. For example, VTrans’ Operations Department has combined the ROW lines with their culvert inventory, allowing maintenance staff to determine if culverts fall into the agency's ROW or if they need to acquire additional rights to do maintenance. The ROW Section also anticipates that ROW data could be useful to emergency responders to help them determine where they can park their vehicles in the field, and for the VTrans Environmental Section to determine where they can place solar panels.

The ROW Section recently completed Phase I of this project. This phase involved data loading and cataloging many of VTrans' ROW plans. Phase II, which will begin in November, will involve completing data loading, data clean-up and developing a lifecycle for changes in ROW. Phase II will also include a ROW parcel pilot to align with acquisition source documents.

Question and Answer Session

How long did it take to develop the tool?
It took a few months for the consultant, Applied Geographics, to customize the free ROW Viewer for VTrans. Applied Geographics is currently hosting the tool in the cloud. VTrans also has an internal version that cannot be accessed from outside of the agency's firewall.

What does the “ROW Clear” in the ROW Viewer do?
ROW clear is a form document agencies are required to fill out for FHWA that says all rights have been acquired to start the project. Users will be able to bring up a pdf version of the ROW clear document in the viewer when they click on a parcel.

What did the consultant charge to index the plans, how many did they index, and how long did it take?
VTrans actually indexed the plans when scanning them into the system. The consultant charged an hourly rate to digitize and georeference the data. Costs also included calculating the ROI, doing a pilot project, and learning how existing information systems were connected.

Was a feature manipulation engine (FME) license required?
The ROW Section had the consultant research different options and they decided to use FME. VTrans has recently acquired its own FME license to continue the work.

Does the viewer include a legal disclaimer?
There is a splash screen when a user first accesses the ROW Viewer that includes a disclaimer.

Did you use FME to translate the DGN (Digital Negative) files?
Yes, VTrans and the consultant only used FME to translate DGN files. DGN files are in different forms, so the consultant wrote several FME scripts to convert them.

What funds have been spent to develop this tool and what is the expected final cost?
VTrans has a 1 million dollar budget for Phase II (data modification). The agency spent approximately $600,000 dollars to integrate scanned and CAD files in Phase I. The agency also has developed a ten-year plan and cost estimate for the project.

Was calculating the ROI required?
It was not required, but the ROW Section thought it would be a good internal business practice to demonstrate that the project would have a positive return. The ROW Section originally developed the ROI for internal executive staff, but staff also used it to communicate with the State legislature. Calculating the ROI has helped the section get funding for the project.

What is the percentage of scanned plans to CAD files?
There were 7000 projects in the agency's digital archive (scanned projects), and each project has anywhere between 25 and 200 sheets. This equates to a terabyte of information, so the vast majority of information is in scanned files. VTrans started using CAD in 1989. As of December 2013, there were 869 active CADD projects, 772 archived projects, and 441 legacy CAD projects. Each CAD project can contain multiple DGNs.

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