GIS for Transportation: Principles, Data and Applications

4.5 Next Week's Webinar


Next week we'll hear from 2 speakers.

Speaker #1

Our first speaker will be Mr. Frank DeSendi. Frank is the Manager of PennDOT’s Geographic Information Division and is also a former Chair of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials’ GIS for Transportation (AASHTO GIS-T) Task Force. He began his career with PennDOT in 1989 and has been working in the geospatial field since 1995. Frank holds a Bachelor of Science in Geography from The Pennsylvania State University.

One interesting use of spatial technology which Frank’s group implemented a few years ago is called LPN which stands for Linking Planning and NEPA. PennDOT and its planning partners (i.e., the MPOs and RPOs) use the application to screen potential projects against more than forty environmental datasets which collectively address most NEPA concerns. Based on the proximity of a proposed transportation project to these resources, the application determines a score which can be used to compare various alternatives for the project. The user’s guide for the application is here.

Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL)

In the past, transportation planning and the development of TIPs and STIPs occurred with little thought given to environmental and cultural resources and community concerns. Later in the project development process, when the design and construction of the project were imminent, the potential impacts to these resources were considered as is required by NEPA. If through this NEPA review process, the project was anticipated to have potential impacts on these resources, it often led to substantial delays in project delivery, unexpected increases in the project budget, and a less than ideal solution for all involved. Consequently, significant efforts have been made in the past 15 years to begin assessing potential impacts to resources early in the planning process and for transportation agencies to work more closely with resources agencies. Spatial technologies have played a large role in facilitating potential impact assessments, identifying alternatives that eliminate or minimize impacts and, when impacts are unavoidable, identifying mitigation strategies which can offset any negative impacts of the project.

In response to the need to more closely integrate transportation planning and environmental review, FHWA created the Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) program to help state DOTs, MPOs and RPOs revise their planning processes, improve their coordination with resource agencies and develop tools to streamline the entire process.

Watch the 2011 webinar (72 minutes) jointly sponsored by FHWA and AASHTO titled Linking Transportation and Natural Resource Planning through the use of Environmental GIS Tools.

Assignment 4-6 (10 points)

Submit an M.S. Word document (no more than 300 words) to Assignment 4-6 in Canvas which addresses the following items. Note: Questions 1 - 4 are based on the 2011 webinar on Linking Transportation and Natural Resource Planning through the use of Environmental GIS Tools.

  1. What are the differences and similarities in the GIS tools used by Texas DOT and Maryland State Highway Administration? (3 points)
  2. What is “green infrastructure”? (1 point)
  3. What is the difference between avoidance or minimization strategies and mitigation strategies? (2 points)
  4. What are some of the types of mitigation strategies which were discussed? (2 points)
  5. Include 2 - 4 questions for our speaker Frank Desendi. (2 points)

Speaker #2

Our second speaker will be Mr. Greg Ulp. Greg is a Senior Project Manager with GeoDecisions, a division of Gannett Fleming specializing in GIS and IT. He has over 25 years of experience in applying spatial technologies to solve transportation problems and has worked with a number of state DOTs. Greg has worked extensively with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s GIS Division. He was the technical architect for a GIS application called the Multimodal Project Management System Interactive Query (MPMS-IQ) which is used to access and visualize data for the Department’s highway and bridge projects. Greg holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from The Pennsylvania State University.

Transportation Planning

There are a number of transportation plans that regional planning organizations (MPOs and RPOs) and state DOTs are federally required to prepare and periodically update. These include the following:

  • Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)
    An LRTP, also known as a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), is a long-term plan which is prepared by an MPO. It typically has a 20 to 30-year horizon and is updated every 3 to 5 years. The LRTP establishes priorities and long-term objectives for the region.
  • Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)
    The TIP is a short-term plan, at least 4 years in length, which aligns with the policies and objectives defined in the LRTP. Each MPO is federally mandated (49 U.S.C. 5303(j)) to develop a TIP which includes all federally funded projects in addition to non-federally funded projects which are consistent with the LRTP. The TIP is required to be in line with available funding (i.e., fiscally constrained).
  • Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)
    The STIP is a statewide roll-up of each of the TIPs across the state and is maintained and updated by the state DOT. The STIP is also federally mandated (23 U.S. Code § 135). Each state’s STIP is subject to approval by both the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) (two organizations we’ll take a look at in upcoming lessons).

Project Visualization Tools

In order to solicit feedback from the public on potential projects and to provide legislators and the public access to information on planned and active projects, state DOTs, Municipal Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs) sometimes use web-based GIS applications to enable people to visualize projects in a specific geographic area and get detailed information on a project of interest.

Watch this FHWA sponsored webcast on Visualizing TIPs and STIPs Using GIS which was held on April 27, 2016. It is a little rough in spots but is very informative. The presentation doesn’t actually start until about 7 ½ minutes in, due to some technical difficulties. In the webcast, PennDOT discusses three separate GIS-based project visualization applications which are used to provide the public and state legislators access to planned and active projects. All three applications have a consistent user interface and differ only in the types of projects they show. The first application shows active projects under construction, the second shows Act 89 projects which are projects of particular interest to state legislators and the third shows planned projects (i.e., projects on the STIP and TYP). All three applications can be accessed here.

Another organization which participated in the webcast was the Delaware Valley Planning Commission (DVRPC). DVRPC is an MPO which spans 9 counties in 3 states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware). In the webcast, DVRPC discusses how they make project information available through a Google Maps-based GIS application. Take some time to explore the 2017 DVPC TIP Visualization tool. In addition to using GIS to facilitate visualization of their transportation program, DVRPC also uses spatial technologies to evaluate potential projects for the TIP based on a variety of criteria they have developed.


MPMS-IQ is a web-based GIS application developed for PennDOT which allows users to visualize projects and access a wide variety of project related information via a map interface. The projects which are available through MPMS-IQ include active construction projects in addition to projects on PennDOT’s Twelve Year Plan (TYP). Unlike the STIP, the TYP is not federally mandated. The STIP corresponds to the first 4 years of the TYP. Take some time to explore MPMS-IQ. In particular, look at the methods by which users can search for projects, the information available for each project, and the additional layers and features the application provides.

Additional Learning

TELUS is a research and innovation program funded through a grant from the FHWA designed to create spatially-enabled tools to assist MPOs and state DOTs in preparing TIPs and performing other transportation planning functions. TELUS software is created and maintained by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Information about the tools, including demos and download links, can be found here.

Assignment 4-7 (10 points)

Submit an M.S. Word document (no more than 300 words) to Assignment 4-7 in Canvas which addresses the following items. 

  1. What are some of the differences between MPMS-IQ and the 3 project visualization mapping applications available on PennDOT’s project page? (4 points)
  2. Describe some of the factors DVRPC considers in evaluating candidate projects for its TIP. (4 points)
  3. Include 2 - 4 questions for our speaker Greg Ulp. (2 points)