Chicago DOT maps out project management

Real-time mapping service coordinates Chicago's road work

Like many big cities with aging physical infrastructure, city of Chicago officials have to map, track and coordinate repair work across a variety of different agencies so that repaved streets are not  dug up a week later to install new underground cabling.

In fact, renovation of streets, bridges, sewer and gas lines and water pipes often require synchronization of stove-piped information across 26 different utilities and city agencies. Consequently, in 2012 the Chicago Transportation Department created a Project Coordination Office (PCO) to help manage the overlapping projects.

The PCO, which is overseen by Chicago-based Collins Engineers, needed a way to share data stored in separate agency databases and display it on a map. So it worked SADA Systems, a Google for Work Premier Partner, to develop a real-time, interactive web mapping service that included tools to collaboratively manage, create, edit and resolve overlapping project issues.

The dotMaps application the partners built allows agencies to see map-based data on all projects across multiple departments, in one central customizable platform.

dotMaps is built on a variety of Google products, including Google Maps Engine and the Maps API and Cloud Platform, which offer infrastructure for hosting applications and includes App Engine, a hosted service for building web applications.

“Before dotMaps, workers spent a lot of time jumping around between different applications in order to validate the accuracy of the data provided,” said Chicago DOT Director of Technology Services Lawrence Olszak, and Deputy Commissioner of Infrastructure Management William Cheaks Jr. in a blog post.

“Now, the processes for overseeing projects are streamlined, permit and project data is accessible in one central location and it’s all viewable on a ‘live’ interactive map,” they said.

“We’ve ported information on all the 30,000 current projects, including details like type of project, agency in charge, date of construction and other data into the dotMaps so agencies can easily search for projects using that information and by address.”

As a result of the new technology and processes for coordinating activities, the city has saved $14.5 million so far this year by eliminating duplicated work. Meanwhile,  complaints regarding works projects to officials have dramatically declined.

dotMaps lets users edit and create information associated with different projects within Google Maps Street View. Users can view the locations and progress of various projects at a glance, and can easily track recently modified projects and approve changes. Users can also discuss projects via chat and get email alerts for any changes made.

Designed as a centralized hub of information, dotMaps syncs with multiple data formats, including designs, transmittal forms, PDFs and MOUs, according to SADA Systems. Any potential project conflicts are generated in real-time, resulting in faster resolution and a huge reduction in wasted resources.

“Employees used to share information about new projects and updates in weekly three-hour meetings where dozens of people would provide input. Today, people share that information in real-time directly in the dotMaps,” noted the blog.

The tool also helps with field work. Field inspectors can attach construction contract plans to a map and  view the information on a mobile device without having the plans emailed. Others on site can use the tool to determine why there may be a hole in a sidewalk without making several phone calls to get the information, for example.

 “In the future, we plan to use Google satellite imagery, traffic and transit data to make the mapping even more useful,” noted the blog.

Currently SADA is targeting the solution to state and government agencies, particularly other transportation departments, as well as companies specializing in real estate, utilities and transportation. 

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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