MAP-21 Surface Transportation Funding Impacts Technology, Citizens and the Private Sector

By Directions Staff

President Obama signed MAP-21, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, into law in July. It funds surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 and is the first long-term highway authorization since 2005. The provisions went into effect on October 1. Terry D. Bennett, senior industry program manager, Civil Engineering & Planning at Autodesk, answers questions on how technology, citizens and the private sector will play key roles in this new vision for transportation.

Directions Magazine (DM): MAP-21 requires 3D modeling/virtual construction and visualization technology for all eligible projects. How is Autodesk positioned to deliver such models and visualizations across the disciplines and scales of design, engineering and GIS?

Terry Bennett (TB): Autodesk’s comprehensive portfolio of intelligent 3D model-based solutions empowers teams to take advantage of the incentives offered by delivering on MAP-21 requirements. Our modern 3D modeling and visualization technology goes beyond traditional GIS and 3D computer-aided drafting (CAD) platforms, helping to facilitate the implementation of truly innovative methods that are not just the current standard practice of the industry.

The coupling of infrastructure investments with the strategic and innovative use of Autodesk’s 3D technology, will allow transportation infrastructure owners and investors to gain a better understanding of the scope and complexity of their investments. It will also enable owners to route efficiency gains made from this change toward the financing of future projects—it’s critical to be able to “do more with less.”

Further, Autodesk’s 3D technology and integrated project delivery approach helps to achieve the following:

  • Clarity –The technology provides project managers with a better understanding of a project’s risks and enhances their ability to communicate these risks as well as to explore design intent, test various options and weigh business outcomes.
  • Continuity – Autodesk tools allow teams to maintain consistent data, context and processes across the transportation infrastructure lifecycle.
  • Agility – Autodesk’s virtual construction portfolio enables teams to respond quickly to project changes while also navigating dynamic market conditions and industry headwinds.

DM: How can the public keep track of and be involved in transportation projects? What is the public’s role and how can technology enable participation?

TB: As demonstrated with projects such as the Presidio Parkway and the Bay Bridge, Autodesk’s BIM for Infrastructure products allow stakeholders to visualize design solutions that can be easily shared with the public to encourage public participation. The ability to visualize and simulate a particular design solution approach and its components enables all stakeholders—regardless of age, background or discipline—to understand the “finished product” intent of a project design, as well as to gain insight into the value being created by the funds allocated to infrastructure projects. Additionally, a visual representation of a project allows all stakeholders to connect personally with these projects. Essentially, it provides people with an answer to the question, “How will this affect me?”

In sum, technology enhances public participation by enabling project teams to:

  • Communicate their design intent visually, helping to build stakeholder support for transportation projects by using intelligent models to produce compelling, near-photorealistic project visualizations. As the old adage goes, “Seeing is believing.”
  • Interactively navigate through a rich visual environment to explore design alternatives in context to help the public understand project impact, as well as potential design alternatives
  • Quickly shift between design proposals to compare and contrast project designs and their potential impact on the surrounding environment
  • Produce recorded videos for higher-impact presentations that can be shared via the Web or mobile devices

Figure 1. Visualization of roundabout at intersection of Keystone Parkway and 116th Street. Image courtesy of American Structurepoint, Inc.

DM: Autodesk suggests 3D modeling and visualization drives “expedited completion time/lower costs” by preventing errors on the computer versus on the ground. Are there data to support that finding?

TB: Yes; we have numerous case studies that demonstrate the impact of reducing errors, omissions and design collisions prior to actual construction. Two examples below—American Structurepoint and the City of Riviera Beach—exemplify these benefits.

American Structurepoint

  • American Structurepoint, an Indiana-based consulting and design firm, used 3D modeling solutions to help design, analyze, visualize, document and implement its vision for the Keystone Parkway in Carmel, Ind. (Figure 1). Although numerous roundabout interchanges have been constructed in the U.S., this project’s unique teardrop design was the first double-roundabout interchange and the first one integrated with such a tight configuration. Using 3D model-based workflows, American Structurepoint’s overall project schedule was reduced by 30 percent.

The City of Riviera Beach

  • The City of Riviera Beach, Fla. used 3D modeling and visualization tools to help produce compliant documentation for local permitting agencies, including the Department of Environmental Protection. These tools enabled the city to gain quick approval (without a single comment), complete the design 60 days ahead of schedule, and save $30,000 in design fees through increased productivity and efficiency. The 3D model also detected several unforeseen utility line conflicts that were resolved before releasing construction documents (Figure 2).

Additionally, advanced 3D modeling and virtual construction technology reduces costs and expedites project delivery by:

  • Quickly assessing and quantifying the impact of any project scope changes via model–based solutions that dynamically update related design elements when changes are made
  • Enabling innovative construction methods that speed field activities and optimize execution by connecting design and construction processes with a continuous stream of coordinated, consistent data (i.e. building information modeling and integrated project delivery)
  • Building projects more reliably and helping to reduce errors and omissions by generating visualizations that aid in the identification of costly design and scheduling conflicts before ground is broken
  • Improving visibility into constructability, cost and schedules to reduce contractor risk (resulting in more cost-effective construction bids)
  • Facilitating time and material savings by using more coordinated, consistent data to compute earthwork volumes, produce 4D simulations for planning and subcontractor coordination, and delivering high-quality models to contractors for automated machine guidance

Figure 2. Virtual models of integrated information, including pipe networks and various underground utilities, can be used for disruption avoidance.  Image courtesy Wisconsin DOT.

DM: Do you think the guidelines in the legislation to maximize private sector work in surveying and mapping will mean a greater use of these technologies than if the public sector did the work? Why?

TB: In order to meet MAP-21’s goals, we need to push the boundaries of model-based design and upend archaic project delivery methods. History has shown that the private sector has tended to advance and establish new workflows and processes (i.e. use of aerial LIDAR and laser scanning for surveying and mapping) for technology. This is also true for project delivery approaches, which are often proved first and then democratized by wider implementation. However success in transportation has typically occurred when new technology or processes are validated by the public sector jointly with the private sector. The entire industry—public and private—must move forward together in partnership.  For example:

  • Projects should adopt a “model-first” approach, incorporating 3D modeling in planning, finance, environmental review, public participation, design construction and operations.  This “model-first” approach provides planners and engineers with accurate, accessible and actionable insights into a project to produce better results.
  • Tools should drive new collaborative design and project delivery methods to achieve performance measures and reduce contingency fees, change orders and schedule delays.
  • Modeling tools must be sufficiently powerful to drive rich visualization, simulation, analysis and evaluation of project outcomes to attract private sector investment, and to provide the public with a meaningful way to understand projects and offer comments.
  • Model-based tools should contribute to public safety by creating life-like simulations that inform drivers of changes in road conditions or configurations.
  • 3D modeling tools should enable the deployment of other advanced technologies – such as 4D (time) and 5D (cost) analyses, clash detection capabilities, and Automated Machine Guidance – to reduce cost and streamline construction.
  • All design data, information, visualizations and simulations should be available at any time, at any place and on any device

DM: What do you expect the major differences will be in project implementation with regard to software (outside the use of 3D and visualization discussed above) between the last transportation funding bill and this one? In short, what’s new for 2013 in the tech tools for infrastructure?

TB: Improving the speed of planning and environmental review times is one of the biggest opportunities. In all transportation projects, regardless of size and complexity, the time it takes to garner approval today is upwards of 4x what it was 40 years ago. It takes longer to pull together relevant data and clearly demonstrate the impact of a particular approach. These long lead times have dramatic effect on cost, funding and in some cases, project viability as material costs escalate or new regulations are passed. With MAP-21 now allowing for the use of modern tools, technology and approaches, we foresee the planning and approval process heading back to what it used to be, with no loss in quality of environmental review.  For example, the new tools for infrastructure can now:

  • Quickly access and integrate readily available information, including CAD and geospatial data to perform analysis in planning
  • Use analysis results to support decision making with quantitative feedback to streamline and shorten environmental reviews—as demonstrated by the City of Riviera Beach example
  • More confidently evaluate how alternatives will perform by creating 3D models of early planning/design concepts in the context of the existing environment

More importantly, these solutions for infrastructure help make MAP-21’s vision actually achievable. In fact, it marks the end of the era when 2D drawings are adequate and project delivery procedures continue without reform. MAP-21 acknowledges the importance of pursuing better, faster and smarter ways of doing business to overcome our nation’s infrastructure deficits. The legislation signals the confidence that the best of American technology can transform our transportation processes and achieve new efficiencies that save taxpayer dollars, accelerate progress and protect the environment.

Published Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Written by Directions Staff

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