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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 65· No. 6 > Internet Watch

May/June 2002
Vol. 65· No. 6

Internet Watch

by Keri Funderburg

One-stop Shopping for Geospatial Data

New E-Gov Initiative Promises to Make Finding Geospatial Data Easier

Maybe you're planning a transit route or rehabilitation of an existing road? For performing many tasks in the public and private sectors of the transportation industry, geospatial data are crucial. Each year, the Federal Government spends millions of dollars on geographic data, which are used by hundreds of government agencies, private sector groups, and citizens. According to 1993 estimates by the Office of Management and Budget, the Federal Government shells out $4.1 billion annually to collect and manage geographic data. State and local governments are estimated to be spending twice that amount.

In 1994, then-President Clinton issued Executive Order 12906, creating the National Spatial Data Infrastructure to promote the use of geospatial information in the public and private sectors. Since then, the use of geographic and geospatial data has become increasingly widespread, including applications within the transportation industry.

Despite the importance of geospatial information, the task of collecting and sharing it has not been easy or cost-efficient. Without a central location from which to access geospatial data, researchers often have to visit multiple sites. Lacking a single resource that provides a list of sites where data are available, transportation professionals are left with the daunting task of trying to identify whether certain data even exist. In addition, much of the information currently collected does not follow uniform standards that would minimize redundancy and ensure consistency across data sets. Geospatial One-Stop, a new Federal e-government initiative, is about to change all that.

Geospatial One-Stop

This Internet site, as its name implies, is a one-stop-shop for a variety of geospatial data and information. Accessible through the web, the site enables users from around the country—in Federal, State, and local govern- ment agencies and the private sector—to locate geospatial data quickly and efficiently. When complete, Geospatial One-Stop will:

  • Provide access to existing geospatial data classified as digital orthoimagery or categorized into six data sets: transportation, hydrographic, cadastral (property), elevation (terrestrial and bathymetric), government boundary, and geodetic control;
  • List planned and upcoming geographic data that will be accessible through Geospatial One-Stop;
  • Launch new types of geographic data and mapping services; and
  • Implement geographic data standards developed under the National Spatial Data Infrastructure to ensure data consistency, minimize collection redundancy, and improve data compatibility.

Who's Behind It?

Development of the site is led by the U.S. Department of Interior, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Transportation and several other agencies. The Geospatial One-Stop site is one of 23 components of the Federal Government's e-gov initiative. The geospatial one-stop-shop will help support government-to-government operations at all levels and also will be useful to private citizens and professionals seeking geospatial information. The Geospatial One-Stop data will be collected by multiple government agencies at all levels, thereby establishing partnerships among the Federal Government and several State and local governments.

Within DOT, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) is responsible for the transportation data that will be accessible through Geospatial One-Stop. To help ensure the accuracy and uniformity of the data, BTS is developing its own set of data standards. Geospatial One-Stop will contain information on all modes of transportation, including both physical and nonphysical elements of the transportation system. In addition to accuracy and uniformity, BTS also is concerned with the usefulness of the transportation data. The bureau solicited the help of various stakeholder groups to participate in the develop- ment process. Participation ranges from simply observing the process to participating on the Model Advisory Team, which is one of the groups responsible for making key data decisions.

Externally to DOT, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is leading the overall data collection efforts. The FGDC is composed of 17 executive-level Federal agencies (including DOT) and several nongovernmental organizations.

Once complete, the benefits from Geospatial One-Stop will be immeasurable. Its implementation will help make government more cost-efficient and responsive. Other benefits will include:

  • Higher quality, more reliable, and more consistent geospatial data;
  • Greater access to standard data sets for governments, private industry, and the public;
  • Improved decision-making regarding Federal and State programs due to greater availability of information;
  • Enhanced partnerships among Federal, State, local, private, tribal, and academic groups, all of whom will have access to the Geospatial One-Stop; and
  • Increased intergovernmental efficiency because all parties will have access to the same data. The Geospatial One-Stop is currently under development, and developers hope to launch the site by the end of 2002. PUBLIC ROADS will provide the web address once the site becomes active.

Keri Funderburg is a contributing editor for PUBLIC ROADS and is employed by ICF Consulting of Fairfax, VA.

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