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Spring 2006
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Installing More Than 28 Miles of Waterline Along Populous Roads

For Newstead, New York, GIS Improves Construction Project Management

  click to enlarge
Construction management tool showing documentation and viewing of design changes and pre- and postconstruction photos during installation of waterline in Newstead.

The town of Newstead, located in the northeastern corner of Erie County in western New York, is a rural community with more than 40 percent of the area devoted to agriculture. Agriculture is the town's heritage, dating back to its founding in 1823. During the past few decades, the town has struggled with its identity. It is striving to provide services to its residents and grow at a controlled rate while maintaining its rural character. A decade ago, the town board took several measures to help guide the future of Newstead. It developed its first town master plan, used grant money to buy vacant land for future public use, started to expand water service to additional areas, and purchased the rights to various abandoned railroads in the town.

The desire to provide a safe and dependable water supply to existing and future town residents has led to the creation of 10 water districts. The town sought the help of its engineering consultant, the firm of Wendel Duchscherer, an Esri Business Partner in Amherst, New York, in the improvement of the existing water system and the installation of new infrastructure needed to facilitate this expansion. The Erie County Water Authority was also contracted for lease management services to provide operation and maintenance services for the water system infrastructure.

The most recent, and most extensive, expansion was for Water District No. 10. This water district includes approximately 60 percent of the land area of the town. Because of the size of the water district and the cost of providing water to these residents, a phased approach was taken for the installation of the water infrastructure. Phase 1 is currently ongoing and includes the construction of 28 miles of waterline along the most populous roads within the water district. Phase 2, an additional nine miles of waterline, is in the planning stage with an estimated construction start date in the summer of 2006. The complexities of managing such a large construction project in many different areas of the town has led the Wendel Duchscherer firm to evolve common construction management practices and look to new technologies and the ideals of GIS to improve the water district's communication and data sharing capabilities.

Construction history is fraught with problems when poor and inefficient communication exists between owners, engineers, contractors, and the public. Even in today's technologically advanced society, daily field activities and information recording in the town until recently had been performed manually and delivered weeks or months later. This lack of communication and data sharing has a direct impact on claims, public relations, and project cost containment. To lessen these problems and inefficiencies, the town developed a streamlined and efficient solution for getting the knowledge of the field crew into the hands of Wendel Duchscherer engineers and town of Newstead staff within the same day.

All documentation is now controlled through a geographically driven interface using MapObjects software alongside Primavera Expedition, Web-enabled project management software from Primavera Systems, Inc., of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. By taking advantage of advances in technology and engineering, the town turned the field inspector's reports and sketches into electronic forms to be filled out and stored on Tablet PCs. To ensure a smooth transition from paper to digital form and minimize training for field inspectors, the town staff re-created the standard hydrant and water service inspection paper forms via database input forms to provide easy, organized access to all collected information.

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Construction management tool utilized by town staff, project managers, and field inspectors for filling out and creating reports of service connections during construction.

Each form, sketch, or documented progress photo was input through a customized MapObjects application combining Newstead basemapping information with CAD design plans of the water project. Documentation input of all inspected features is initiated by clicking on the desired location in the created map window. Other information, such as daily field reports, material installed by the contractor, and correspondence, is recorded through Expedition. To fully utilize and combine the capabilities of each application, a migration of the existing program to ArcObjects for a seamless integration with Expedition is being designed.

This blend of technology, engineering, management practices, and GIS concepts simplified the transfer and reduced unneeded duplication of information among all parties by organizing the data through linked points on the design plans and providing wireless data transfer from the field. Each involved party—including the town of Newstead supervisor and Highway Department superintendent, Wendel Duchscherer construction managers and engineers, and each construction field inspector—is provided with the same MapObjects software-based interface for tracking construction progress and viewing the documented in-field design and construction issues. This allowed construction managers and town staff to understand construction issues and progress easier.

For additional information, contact Nathan Carter, GIS manager, town of Newstead (e-mail: ncarter@wd-ae.com, tel.: 716-688-0766), or Daniel Seider, project manager, Wendel Duchscherer (e-mail: dseider@wd-ae.com).

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