Webinar 42
Local Agency Data Collection

March 25, 2020

Summary of the Federal Highway Administration’s Quarterly Webinar


The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) promotes geographic information systems (GIS) as a means to more effectively manage and improve transportation systems. One of the ways that FHWA does this is through its GIS in Transportation program,1 which identifies timely and critical GIS issues and topics in transportation and connects transportation agencies with available resources and best practices. The webinar summarized here is part of a quarterly series organized through the GIS in Transportation program.

In this webinar, Jose Simo (Jose.Simo@dot.state.ma.us) and Kevin Lopes (Kevin.Lopes@dot.state.ma.us) of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) presented MassDOT’s activities and best practices for using GIS to collect data from local agencies. Jose and Kevin presented on the tools they created to enable municipal authorities to interactively add, update, and review its roadways and their information.

A recording of the webinar is available here.

Local Agency Data Collection Case Study – MassDOT

MassDOT operates an enterprise GIS platform called geoDOT that allows users to view, create, and share transportation datasets. MassDOT built the platform using available ArcGIS online technology. geoDOT enables MassDOT to better collect, report, and share data between the DOT and the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.

One of the tools within geoDOT is MaPIT—the Massachusetts Project Intake Tool. The tool collects project information and links the project initiation to existing GIS resources. Esri professional developers built MaPIT using funds from an Every Day Counts 2 (EDC-2) grant MassDOT received from FHWA. MaPIT’s purpose is to help cities and towns create and complete project workflows using available MassDOT resources. To use this system, cities and towns electronically submit two forms describing need, intent, and objectives for their project, and a scope of work. Upon completion of the two forms, the tool prompts users to initiate a new workflow. MaPIT includes workflows designed to initiate basic project screening, Local Aid applications, existing facility improvements, and new facility construction, among others. Given the initial information inputted by the user, MaPIT creates a multilayer map that outlines project limits, identifies relevant intersecting layers, and answers queries from the project need forms. MaPIT provides a single point of entry for multiple applications and guides users through the application process using location intelligence models and smart forms.

MassDOT also built and now operates the Road Inventory Submission Application (RISA)—a web-based mapping interface that enables users to add, update, and review local roads information. Using RISA, cities and towns can report the conditions of roadways, bridges, and other assets directly to the MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning. RISA guides users through a process of submitting new roads or road revisions when using this online tool. Users can make edits directly in RISA by adding road shoulders, adjusting the width and type of a road and sidewalk, and changing the jurisdiction of a particular location, to name a few examples. Submitted user-made edits go to MassDOT for review by the Office of Transportation Planning.

MassDOT uses the data reported by cities and towns to calculate the amount of State funding localities should receive for infrastructure maintenance and improvement projects. In addition, MassDOT also uses the submitted data for Federal grant applications and other funding opportunities, including the Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) All Road Network of Linear Referenced Data (ARNOLD) tool.

MassDOT initiated MaPIT and RISA in order to streamline project intake, eliminate burdensome processes, and improve the speed and accuracy of updates to physical assets across Massachusetts. MaPIT and RISA are examples of two user-friendly systems that vastly improved the coordination between MassDOT and its stakeholders, as well as data collection and accuracy, and project flow. In addition, MassDOT has found that these applications serve as great introductions for cities and towns to MassDOT resources and processes; the launch of these applications has increased stakeholder engagement and communication with the DOT.

Questions & Answers

In RISA, what dataset does MassDOT use to generate map layers? Can cities and towns update road and other infrastructure data?
RISA uses the road and highways map from Esri as a base map. RISA users—local agencies, cities and towns, etc.—can edit roads, add new roads, and remove old roads. Previously, this process was done via mail and was very laborious. This hands-on approach improves the accuracy of MassDOT’s infrastructure data and transformed how MassDOT works with cities and towns.

What is the QA/QC process for the data submitted by cities and towns?
There is a secondary, internal application for data review. MassDOT has a quality control coordinator who reviews suggested changes from the city or town submitter and guides those changes through to publication.

How does MassDOT encourage local agencies to use these tools and update the road network and other attributes?
When MassDOT first launched these tools, they engaged in marketing and outreach campaigns to cities and towns to announce the tools and provide information on how to use them. MassDOT also hosts training videos on their website that guides submitters on how to use the tools. MassDOT initially targeted those cities and towns that had fallen behind in reporting to reengage them in the process. Most cities and towns are eager to use these tools because they are easier to use than the previous system, and because the data is used to allocate funding to their agencies.

Does MassDOT have an agreement with local agencies with regard to sharing and exchanging data in RISA?
There is no formal agreement. It is understood that in order to receive Local Aid funding, cities and towns must complete this process so they tend to be eager to participate.

Is the RISA linework also used for 911 activities?
Currently, there is a separate network managed by the State called MassGIS that includes health and safety data, like 911 responses. MassDOT is working with the State to merge the two networks.

How does MassDOT update their Federal network?
MassDOT internally updates Federal assets, including Federal highways, National Parks, Fish and Wildlife areas, and other Federal lands, as well as Massachusetts State roads.

1 See the FHWA GIS in Transportation website for details: https://gis.fhwa.dot.gov/.

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