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Coordinating Street Projects Saves California City Money
By Mark Perry, GeoPrise.Net

Editor's note: The Public Works Department of the County of Sacramento GIS developed an Intranet-based application using ArcIMS that has improved communication within the department. By coordinating street work, the county has consolidated projects, which has saved both time and money. Readily accessible information and proactive notification, two features of the Project Coordination application, have helped managers make better decisions. The county has also created Parcel Viewer, Mailing List Generator, and Sewer Infrastructure Viewer applications. These applications, as well as several other applications currently in development, will eventually be available to the public via the Internet.

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SEROW, an ArcIMS application, lets engineers, planners, developers, utilities, governing boards, and the public produce maps of current and planned projects in Sacramento County that involve street excavation in the right-of-way.

How does a government agency provide real-time project information and service to employees and the public? Have you ever driven through a neighborhood and noticed the same street dug up several times in a short period of time? Or have you ever driven through a neighborhood and found a freshly overlaid street being trenched?

The organizational silos that reengineering trends of the 1990s were supposed to eliminate are still pervasive. Typically, cross-organizational communication is secondary to satisfying immediate project responsibilities. Additionally, the fiber optics boom has created a backlog of construction projects and a stockpile of planning and development studies. Staffing shortages experienced by engineering and planning organizations make the opening question in this article very difficult to answer.

An ArcIMS solution developed for Sacramento County is the Street Excavation in Right-Of-Way (SEROW) application. This Web-based coordination tool allows users to produce maps of current and planned projects in Sacramento County that involve street excavation in the right-of-way and perform spatial and tabular queries based on several criteria to produce reports. Users of this application include engineers, planners, developers, utilities, governing boards, and the public.

The application's most powerful features are the online tools for creating and maintaining project data and an automated e-mail notification process that tracks project data status. Creating project data that conflicts with other projects triggers the generation of an automated e-mail notification that is sent to the contacts listed for affected projects.

Sacramento County deployed SEROW on its Intranet so that it would be accessible to anyone with a browser and a network connection. Users can access project data through spatial and tabular searches. To access data via a spatial search, a user can zoom and pan to the geographic area of interest, trigger the rendering of projects, and click on a project to open a new window that presents a tabular display of project data. To access data via a tabular search, a user can open the project search screen and define search criteria.

An organization must commit staff to maintain project data using the online administration tools. However, the return on investment quickly justifies the minimum required efforts. If an associate-level engineer were to update every single project record in the SEROW database during the course of one year, the staff time costs would be approximately $10,000. The cost to overlay a typical street in a short residential cul-de-sac in Sacramento County is approximately $20,000. Preventing one unnecessary cul-de-sac overlay in Sacramento County more than justifies the expenditure. This example represents savings realized by preventing duplicate work on small-scale projects. The savings that Sacramento County realizes every time it prevents a similar scenario on a large-scale project are tremendous.

In addition to monetary savings, some of the significant benefits of this application include improved communication and coordination among government agencies, developers, and utilities; reduction in public inconvenience; and enhanced customer service. For more information, contact

Mark Perry
Tel.: 916-541-2341
Fax: 866-422-2529

About the Author

Mark Perry is the principal consultant and GIS application developer for GeoPrise.Net He received both a master's degree in business administration in management information systems and a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from California State University, Sacramento.

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