Congested right of ways complicate completion of infrastructure projects. Utility and telecommunications systems, and water and sewer lines are examples of existing infrastructure that can create nightmares for transportation project engineers.
Historically, the lack of good records and technology has been the contributor to timeline overruns, accidents and, in some cases, loss of life when dealing with subsurface obstructions. To counter these dangers, the rise and adoption of subsurface utility engineering (SUE) makes projects safer, especially when paired with the conflict matrix. Absent of taking these steps, critical issues would not be addressed before the first shovels hit the ground.
With SUE and the use of the conflict matrix many of a projects utility crossing challenges can be identified and dealt with during engineering and planning. In recent years the conflict matrix has only been paired with a map printout that displays the matrix information. Each instance of a conflict is numbered in reference across both documents. The map though with the center line, issues, known paths of assets and other information becomes difficult to decipher with multiple lines, numbers and notes posing a hazard itself to the workers relying on the information from the SUE.
Technology from geographical information systems (GIS) provides one answer to the gaps that a traditional conflict matrix and map pose. Cluttered maps can be separated into layers that can be toggled on and off, providing a clear view of the important information. The conflicts can be identified with icons that stand out, making the transfer of information easier. Clicking on those icons would then display all of the known information from the type of asset, who the owner is all the way to the plan to remedy the issue during the project. With multiple map formats including satellite, street and topography identifying where conflicts exist, faster identification is possible especially when paired with property data. Finally information would no longer be stagnant. Tie the maps and the conflict matrix with a central database and the information would be up-to-date in real time leveraging mobile technology.
The great thing about all of the advantages that GIS brings to the existing conflict matrix is that the platforms and technology are already available. According to a study by Purdue University, for every dollar invested in the SUE and the resulting conflict matrix, approximately $4.62 is saved on the overall project. That estimate is calculated with a traditional SUE and conflict matrix. Project cost savings can be even greater when combined with a modern technology application.
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Nathan Mirolo is Marketing Lead for geoAMPS, a technology company in the Columbus, OH, area that specializes in software solutions to manage land rights and infrastructure assets. For more information, call 614-389-4871 or visit www.geoamps.com.