Baltimore, MD Usage of a Software-Based System to Coordinate Right-of-Way Activities and Reduce Impacts
Faced with a growing list of proposed infrastructure improvement projects owned by various stakeholder groups across the city, Baltimore, Maryland's engineering staff recognized a need to better coordinate activities that affect the public right-of-way (ROW) in order to reduce impacts to drivers. To implement better coordination and communication, the City of Baltimore implemented a software-based project coordination system to track all capital and maintenance activities.
About the System
The system selected by Baltimore to coordinate ROW activities was implemented over a two year period. It provides real-time information on infrastructure projects across the City via a web-based system accessible to all of the stakeholder groups. Each project is mapped via GIS data points. A clickable map provides key details such as location, timeline, scope, schedule, cost, and points of contact for each project.
Identifying Stakeholder Needs and Requirements
Before implementing the coordination system, the City met with various stakeholders involved with ROW activities to discuss their system needs, data they were currently collecting, and potential use cases for the new coordination system. Stakeholder groups contacted included:
- The Mayor's Office.
- City of Baltimore staff (capital design, maintenance, public works, and street cut inspection).
- Gas and water companies that serve the Baltimore region.
From these meetings, Baltimore City engineers found that:
- 90 percent of roadway cuts were being conducted due to requests from the local gas and water companies.
- Many cuts could be combined or coordinated more efficiently, reducing the number of individual roadway cuts and increasing the life of the pavement.
- All of the stakeholder groups were currently using an existing system to manage their roadway activities, and many were unwilling to migrate to a new system.
To overcome the resistance of stakeholder groups to using a new infrastructure coordination system, the City of Baltimore worked with the software development company to implement requirements that met stakeholders' needs. This included ensuring that all stakeholders retain control of the information that they contribute to the coordination system and that they could continue to use their legacy systems for tracking work activities. The stakeholders would be able to control their own data sources and input data to the software-based infrastructure coordination system using a cloud computing concept. This would allow shared data to be gathered and compiled across different servers and software systems and then integrated to glean a large-scale picture of the infrastructure activities occurring across the City with minimal data input from each stakeholder group.
The City presented this solution to the stakeholders and educated them on the benefits of the system and how it worked. According to City staff, there was relatively immediate buy-in for the system after these initial meetings and discussions.
Benefits of Project Coordination
The City of Baltimore has recognized numerous benefits through the use of the system:
- Improved stakeholder engagement: The system enables stakeholder awareness of upcoming and ongoing projects, and encourages them to come to the table to discuss the projects and coordinate. Once a project is launched, less time is spent trying to reach individuals from other agencies and companies to determine the best way to proceed with a project because this coordination now occurs before the first patch of pavement is removed.
- Earlier awareness of project impacts and enhanced traffic management plans: Because projects are entered into the system in advance of beginning construction, the City is able to better predict impacts of construction activities on motorists and therefore better manage projects to mitigate these impacts by developing traffic management plans that take other nearby work zones into consideration
- Enhanced data quality: All stakeholders are committed to data quality within the system and are willing to contribute data from their own systems to help better manage Baltimore's infrastructure network.
- Longer pavement life: Because the system enables coordination of roadway pavement cuts, it reduces the number of cuts necessary and therefore allows for smoother pavement and longer pavement life. Cost savings: Over the first year the system was used, the City of Baltimore reported a cost savings of between $350,000 and $500,000 in paving costs.
Future Uses of the System
The City of Baltimore is currently considering how it can benefit from expanded usage of the system. Possibilities include:
- Developing a two year paving plan - The current plan is only for one year, but a two year plan would enable utilities to have even more advance notice of roadwork and therefore additional ability to coordinate projects and street cuts.
- Automating Permit Tracking - The City currently uses an in-house automated roadway construction permit review process, but it does not provide information on who has the permit, where it is in the permitting process, and the location of the permit in relation to all other construction. The City is looking into using the system to gather more information about permits, automate the tracking of nearby projects, and provide the information to the affected stakeholders in a timely manner.
- Coordinating Special Events - Special events, such as parades and races, often take place in the ROW and must be managed in coordination with roadway construction. The City is considering using the system to track special events and related detours, generate maps of the detours, and share them online for use by the general public.
- Enhancing Incident Management - The system can be used to assist with incident management in construction zones by showing emergency management personnel and first responders where activity is taking place and routes to avoid because of construction.
- Conducting Benefit/Cost Analyses - The system can be used to track the benefits and costs associated with the various infrastructure improvement projects to help better communicate the impact that coordinated activities have on the overall bottom line. The City of Baltimore is currently working on developing a plug-in for the software that will enable this type of analysis.
- Identifying Environmental Benefits - The City is investigating the implementation of a feature in the software system to track the impact of infrastructure activities on delay and congestion, and then hopes to use the information to analyze carbon-based offsets and demonstrate how proper coordination activities can reduce the carbon impact of congestion on the surrounding environment in Baltimore.
For More Information
To learn more about the coordination system used by the City of Baltimore, visit http://www.accela.com/company/customers/success-stories/baltimore. An article in the December 2008 issue of Public Works magazine entitled, "Playing Nice in the Right of Way", also describes Baltimore's success with project coordination, as well as San Francisco's experience using similar software.