The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), in response to requests from the construction contracting community, has chosen to examine how to facilitate their contractors’ use of three-dimensional machine control (3D-MC) systems, especially GPS-based systems. INDOT recognizes that the prerequisite 3D project model, if available in its intelligent electronic form, may be leveraged by both INDOT and its project partners to automate the performance of tasks other than construction. Therefore, INDOT was compelled to initiate this study to investigate the state of technology and the experiences of other state transportation agencies (STAs) and to synthesize that information to formulate recommendations for INDOT to implement for utilizing the electronic design file (EDF). The emphasis of the study is to discern best practices for how to facilitate better collaborative work and how to advance the use of 3D-MC on INDOT projects while avoiding or mitigating any pitfalls associated with supporting the use of the new technology.

The work plan conducted by Investigators from the Purdue University School of Civil Engineering involved a literature review to uncover information on performance of 3D-MC technologies and computer technologies and associated processes to enhance project team collaborations. Concurrently, the Investigators surveyed vendors of 3D-MC systems and contractors and designers to uncover critical lessons from their experience with these systems. A review of STA Web sites was conducted to gain an overview of STA requirements regarding design files and product offerings of two leading providers of project design and civil project management software were reviewed to assess the efficacy of EDF sharing. These reviews were compared against the INDOT Project Development Process to reveal opportunities to leverage electronic forms of the design files. Contacts established from the surveys and Web site reviews, yielded further contacts with engineering service providers and STA personnel who were primarily interviewed by phone. The STA contacts also provided or referenced documents that were valuable to the information gathering activity. The phone interviews and shared documents provided the greatest clarity regarding the progress of other STAs toward implementation.

The study confirmed that there are accessible commercial products from the industry leaders that enable 3D design model creation, secure file sharing with version control. Digital terrain models (DTMs) from these products can be read and translated for input to the array of GPS-based 3D-MC system options that are capable of meeting typical standard construction tolerances. The companies also have incorporated enough interoperability to work across platforms, thus enabling seamless and collaborative 3D-model-based project delivery with the appropriate investment. INDOT is making the correct investment in software applications to realize this objective.

With regard particularly to implementing 3D-MC, information from select STAs provided insight into options and considerations for project selection and specifications that clarify liability. STAs have assumed various positions of responsibility for making the DTM available to contractors, ranging from an official hands-off stance to one that prescribes GPS-based 3D-MC for certain projects. The Investigators encourage INDOT to pursue implementation through a program of pilot projects with special committee oversight responsible for assessing benefits and compiling lessons learned. A manageable set of objectives should be carefully set for each pilot project so that benefits can be convincingly demonstrated. Indiana design consultants seek leadership from INDOT and input from construction contractors regarding the critical data and information needs so that they can deliver the desired electronic design files with greatest efficiency and effectiveness.

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3D-MC systems, GPS, surveying, stakeless grading, SPR-3131

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Performing Organization

Joint Transportation Research Program

Publisher Place

West Lafayette, Indiana

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