road construction (vewfinder/

Seattle maps transportation construction projects

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has turned a back-office tool that maps construction projects inside-out, letting residents of and visitors receive notifications about work that could affect their travel plans.

Since August 2017, SDOT has been using dotMaps, a cloud-based application, to manage and plan transportation construction projects that affect city streets and sidewalks.

Users can now visit SDOT’s website, draw a boundary around the areas for which they want to receive alerts via email and select how often then get those notices: daily, weekly or monthly. The notifications include information about new projects but also changes to ongoing ones.

“The general public can see not only the projects that are scheduled for the future, but they can also see construction projects that are happening right now,” said Heather Marx, director of downtown mobility for the city. “We want everybody to have all of that information at their fingertips about construction that’s happening, construction that’s planned and any last-minute changes to construction plans.”

Through an application programming interface, the department shares the dotMaps data with map service providers such as Waze and Google Maps, which can display the projects on their navigation apps.

What’s more, because the application is a software-as-a-service project, it gets updated and improved automatically when SADA -- the company behind dotMaps -- makes changes.

Like the internal-facing tool, the new public-facing one uses Google Cloud Platform for cloud-based consuming, rendering and storage of the data. dotMaps collects that data, syncing in real time with Esri’s ArcGIS or ArcSDE database and displaying the information visually using Google Maps.

Internal use of dotMaps involves a project manager entering a construction plan into the system, which immediately returns a list of other projects planned in the same area at the same time. Any  work in the right-of-way, whether by permitted companies or SDOT, goes into the system for planning and sequencing well in advance of construction, allowing stakeholders to collaborate. For instance, utilities can share a trench, rather than build their own -- and realize time savings of 207 days on average per group, up from 22 days shortly after SDOT launched dotMaps.

“This helps avoid unnecessary overlaps, it minimizes the time that the right-of-way is out of public use, and it also saves a bunch of money” -- specifically $18 million total for all program participants, Marx said.

The timing of the tool's release pairs with the Seattle Squeeze, an effort through 2024 to redevelop the downtown area to prevent strain on the city’s transportation system. The department plans to expand its light rail service, for example, so it moved buses from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to the surface in March, and it’s monitoring the transportation system in real time to track performance. SDOT also added traffic cameras and travel time detectors to monitor traffic flows.

“These are some really fundamental changes to the way that people get around, and so having solid information at your fingertips about what you’re going to be facing on your commute into work is really important,” Marx said.

Another early dotMaps user for internal transportation construction coordination, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) launched ChiStreetWork in April as its public-facing web-based tool. It makes information from dotMaps available on Google Maps. People can search by ward, neighborhood, intersection or address, and the map populates current, past and upcoming projects.

“CDOT is excited to roll out the new ChiStreetWork website that creates an unprecedented level of transparency for information about work going on in the public way,” CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said in a statement at the time. “Our goal is to make ChiStreetWork the go-to site for City residents to find out what kind of construction work and special events are happening on their streets and in their neighborhoods.”

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.


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