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Webinar 9
Appalachian Development Highway System GIS

March 10, 2011

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 speakers, Jason Wang and Sang Yoo (jwang@arc.gov and sang.yoo@njrati.org).

Presenters

Jason Wang
Senior Transportation Specialist
Appalachian Regional Commission
jwang@arc.gov

Sang Yoo
Research Associate
Nick J. Rahall, II Appalachian Transportation Institute
sang.yoo@njrati.org

Participants

Approximately 80 participants attended the webinar.

Introduction to Presentation

Mark Sarmiento of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) thanked participants for joining the webinar. This webinar was the ninth in a quarterly series of FHWA-sponsored webinars. The series deals with the application of geospatial information systems (GIS) and other geospatial technologies to transportation. This webinar focused on the development of a GIS portal for the multi-state Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS).

Presentation

Background
The Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 (ARDA) established the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) as a partnership of Federal, state, and local government and authorized the construction of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS). States included in the partnership are: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

The Interstate Highway System largely bypassed Appalachia. A President's Appalachian Regional Commission report to the Congress in 1964 concluded that economic growth would not be possible without a sufficient transportation system for the region. Funded by ARDA and subsequently through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century and later the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, the ADHS is the only federally funded highway system in the country established primarily for the purpose of economic development. Many roads in the Appalachian region were small winding roads and often unpaved prior to construction of the ADHS. Now, the ADHS comprises over 3,000 miles of mostly four-lane highways in 32 corridors.

Because ADHS program receives Federal funding and is operated like the Interstate Highway System, the ARC and FHWA must complete a Cost-to-Complete Report every five years. This report estimates the cost to complete the ADHS in order to determine the system funding level, appropriate apportionments of Federal funds, and guide policy and legislation. The Cost-to-Complete Report is a significant undertaking, requiring coordination between and among ARC, FHWA Headquarters, and the 13 Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and FHWA Division Offices of the Appalachian states.

ADHS GIS Architecture
In 2002, the ADHS GIS originated as a joint, cost-sharing venture between the ARC and the Nick J. Rahall, II Appalachian Transportation Institute (RTI). RTI was established in 1999 as a University Transportation Center at Marshall University to conduct transportation and economic development research in mountain regions. The ADHS GIS was designed to facilitate information collection among the 13 ARC State DOTs to help prepare Cost-to-Complete estimates using ADHS maps, as well as to help support document management, program cost tracking, and the ability to view, print, and update ADHS data.

The original ADHS GIS was developed as a desktop system. Because many users were not trained in GIS, it was later migrated to a web-capable GIS with a web portal (www.eadhs.org). The system now operates using ESRI ArcGIS 10 and a Microsoft Silverlight API with ESRI's online basemap for the web portal. The web portal originally used a JavaScript API but incompatibility with Internet Explorer prompted a switch to Silverlight.

Demonstration
During the webinar, Mr. Yoo demonstrated the features of the ADHS GIS web portal. Site visitors can view each ADHS corridor and its status (e.g., completed, stages of construction). Users can zoom to a local level and access detailed information about specific alignments, including cost-to-date, cost estimates, and segment characteristics. RTI and ARC have also been adding economic data layers to the system. Users can currently view information about economically distressed counties in Appalachia.

The portal offers access to five tables, each of which contains information about ADHS corridors, road characteristics, construction progress, cost estimates, and costs-to-date. Users can also upload and attach documents (e.g., cross section designs, construction pictures) to corridors or segments.

Next Steps for the ADHS GIS
The ADHS GIS will be used to complete the 2012 Cost-to-Complete Estimate. In future updates to the ADHS GIS, ARC and RTI plan to integrate intermodal transportation and economic development information from ARC with state DOT/FHWA data and project tracking information.

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Question and Answer Session

Is the web-portal publicly available?
The public can view the ADHS GIS but must have a password to enter or edit information in the system.

Are map services from ESRI exposed to the public? How do you handle security?
ESRI includes components to secure the web services portion of the system; security is built into the product. The site was developed as a tool for state DOTs and FHWA Division Offices to use in developing cost estimates. Although it is available to the public, ARC and RTI do not advertise it.

Are the GIS data available for others to use in other applications?
Most of the data come from state DOTs and can be freely distributed as long as ARC receives permission.

Are all ARC member DOTs providing data now?
Yes. The purpose of the system is to provide a platform for state DOTs to update their system information. ARC develops cost estimates every five years, but also updates the status of ADHS construction on an annual basis for a report to Congress.

What has been the biggest technological challenge?
Working with the information technology has been one of the biggest challenges. In developing the system, we tried different technologies to evaluate which work and which do not. In doing this, we made some mistakes and have had to change course. For instance, we originally developed the system using a JavaScript API but after realizing that some functions did not work in Internet Explorer, we switched to Microsoft Silverlight. It has been a unique situation to work across states and levels of governments. Each organization's network has different firewall and security settings but we have to provide a system that everyone can access.

Does the system include weight restriction data?
No, but in the future we would like to build a link to FHWA and state DOT databases. Currently, all of our data relates to cost estimates and is based on our priorities and needs. This system provides an efficient and effective way to develop cost estimates. Prior to the ADHS GIS, information would flow sequentially from the state DOT to the FHWA Division Office to FHWA headquarters, and finally to ARC. Now, state DOTs and FHWA can simultaneously submit and review the data.

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