There was more that we could do with GIS to not only make our records more accurate but to make it easier on ourselves. It's pretty straightforward and simple from both the adoptees' side and internally.
Delaware DOT Transforms Its Adopt-A-Highway Program
From Pushpins to Digital Maps
Using pushpins and string to make connections on a paper map sounds aesthetically pleasing and fun, but what if you need to map a large initiative for an entire state? The effort would be complicated, complex, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. And that was what the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) had to contend with until it incorporated technology that changed its processes for good. Using Esri's geographic information system (GIS) software, DelDOT was able to not only digitally map roadways that have been adopted but also road segments available for adoption that people could sign up for in Delaware's three counties: Sussex County, Kent County, and New Castle County. A key initiative DelDOT has been supporting since 1990, the Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) Program serves as a roadside cleanup campaign to provide people with the opportunity to give back to their community in a more active way while also giving them recognition for their commitment to the AAH Program. Individuals or organizations can make a difference by signing up online to clean litter along roadways that they choose to sponsor.
Transforming the Way Things Are Done
For DelDOT to get more people involved in the AAH Program, it needed a smooth, modernized system that would make it easy for people to sign up and enable DelDOT to keep track of who wanted to get involved and in what specific areas. DelDOT needed to know which roads were already sponsored and which roads people could still sponsor. Changing from a pushpins and yarn system to one that is completely digital would require a unique and innovative technology.
DelDOT also needed to find a way to track this data for all three counties that offered the AAH Program. With each county managing its AAH Program in different ways, inconsistencies also became an issue that needed to be solved. Each county stored its AAH participant and road data in various spreadsheets that lacked consistency and coordination, making it more difficult for DelDOT to keep an accurate record of which AAH sponsors were actively picking up litter a minimum of three times a year—a requirement of the program.
Mobilizing Citizens to Get Involved
To make this digital transformation, DelDOT incorporated GIS technology to streamline its workflow and create an easy method for people to sign up. With the help of ArcGIS Survey123, DelDOT was able to create the Adopt-A-Highway Web Based Adoption Form to track those who want to get involved as well as which road segments they were willing to adopt. Included in the form is a map created by Esri that allows applicants to mark the location of a road they would like to adopt by using the draw tool. This enables them to visualize where they want to get involved. The interactive mapping technology makes the process more attractive for people who are interested rather than just filling out a paper form. As Kathryn Beasley, Community Relations officer for DelDOT notes: "The mapping allows people to see if a road has been adopted. If I'm excited and interested, I want to know if it is available right then and there. And now people can do that instantly and pick the road they want."
The online form also asks which county you are adopting in, the organization name, and the group name that would appear on the AAH sign that will mark which road your group is sponsoring. The best part about this new method was it made it easier to store the data in one consolidated place. DelDOT no longer needed to process form submissions by hand and could view the data of the three counties all at once, since each county now used the same form for the AAH Program.
Many families, small businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches, clubs, and other groups have signed up for the AAH Program through the Survey123 form that DelDOT provided. These groups can use the AAH Program to raise awareness for a cause, like environmental issues, or honor a family member, or they can simply participate to support DelDOT's mission to keep Delaware looking beautiful. No matter the reason, the AAH Program has brought many people in local communities closer together and shows that people do care about making a difference and keeping their state clean.
Organized into a Hub
In addition to consolidating the different data formats, DelDOT also moved the reporting requirements to digital forms and brought all the relevant information together into a comprehensive site by using ArcGIS Hub. Previously adoptees had to fill out a paper form indicating when they had performed the cleanup activities and fax that back to DelDOT. Now they simply fill out an online form accessed from the hub site, and all the information is uploaded to a single database containing all the relevant information for each roadway and adopted highway segment.
Colton Phillips, a planner with the Adopt-A-Highway Program remarks: "It feels more interactive by using ArcGIS Hub, and it feels like there's more to Adopt-A-Highway than just going out there and cleaning a road and sending in a paper form." This sentiment was reinforced by Beasley: "When you make it easier, when you make it more accessible, when it's right there, it's clean, it looks great, people are going to use it. And we are certainly seeing that."
Doing More with Less
The Adopt-a-Highway Program originated in Texas in the early 1980s, when an engineer at the Texas Department of Transportation sought to tackle the litter problem on the state's highways. Working with a public information officer at the DOT, they began to organize cleanup drives, and by 1985, the first group volunteered to adopt a two-mile segment of the highway, laying the foundation for a program that has now spread to 49 state DOTs.
The concept caught on quickly since the benefits were twofold: the state DOT could save on roadway maintenance and cleanup efforts, and it gave citizens and community groups a way of engaging in community participation and helping to keep their states beautiful. Delaware DOT started its program in the early 1990s and is now part of the larger statewide Keep Delaware Beautiful effort led by Governor John Carney.
Since launching the AAH Web Based Adoption Form, DelDOT has received numerous positive feedback from participants on the ease of use the online form provides. Not only do people appreciate how fast and easy it is to sign up for AAH, but they are getting more excited to get involved and serve their local community. This boost in community engagement has significantly improved the involvement of sponsors and new participants that sign up for AAH.
The workload of DelDOT's staff has also decreased tremendously by implementing the Survey123 form as their mode for keeping track of new AAH submissions for all three counties. Transitioning to a common framework and data workflows to support the program has improved data management and accuracy. Information can now be shared more efficiently internally and helps to facilitate better communication with other organizations and state agencies. As Beasley remarks: "Using GIS technology is going to help [us] with moving forward not only internally but with our partner agencies and partner organizations who are trying to achieve the same goal of keeping roads litter-free." The extra time this method provided enabled DelDOT to focus its attention on many other projects that continue to improve the lives of the state's residents.
Keeping Delaware Beautiful
Overall, involving the community in cleanup and beautification efforts is part of a larger effort to improve everyone's quality of life in Delaware. The Adopt-A-Highway Program not only encourages community participation but also expands the ethic of maintaining the beauty of the state as seen along the state highways. It helps to demonstrate how easy it is to make a positive impact in your community. For Delaware DOT, GIS helped to make that process easier, which encouraged citizen involvement.