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Subject: Implementation of Section 1517 of the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) Mapping Date: March 10, 2015
From: /s/ Original signed by: Thomas D. Everett for
Walter C. Waidelich
Associate Administrator for Infrastructure
In Reply Refer to: HIPA-10
To: Division Administrators
Federal Lands Highway Directors

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide general guidance and information regarding the provisions in Section 1517 of the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) pertaining to mapping. This memorandum updates the March 24, 1998 memorandum regarding implementation of Section 321 of the 1995 National Highway System Designation Act.

23 U.S.C. 306(a) provides: "In carrying out the provisions of this title, the Secretary shall, whenever practicable, authorize the use of photogrammetric methods in mapping and the utilization of commercial enterprise for such services." The MAP-21 amended Section 306 to require the Secretary to "... conduct a survey of all States to determine what percentage of projects carried out under title 23, United States Code, in each State utilize private sector sources for surveying and mapping services." Neither the original or amended Section 306, nor any other Federal law or regulation, mandates the use of private sector sources for surveying and mapping. Nevertheless, there is significant potential and capacity within the surveying and mapping private sector that can assist State and local governments meet their needs in those areas.

This memorandum summarizes the results of the recently completed survey and encourages States to engage, to the maximum extent practicable, private sector sources for surveying and mapping services for Federal-aid projects [as specified in 23 U.S.C. 306(b)] and provides guidance to address annual monitoring of these services.

On August 7, 2014, FHWA sent a survey (see attached) to the Chief Executive Officer of the State Transportation Agencies (STA) in each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The survey responses indicated the following:

  • 34 of the 52 STAs utilize private sector sources for more than 50 percent of their projects. No STA reported that they used only in-house forces for surveying and mapping.
  • Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey and Puerto Rico reported that nearly 100 percent private sector forces are utilized for surveying and mapping services.
  • 47 STAs said that they maintain the in-house capability to perform surveying and mapping services, with 34 STAs maintaining photogrammetric capabilities.
  • 38 STAs indicated that they were moving toward a greater use of private sector forces for mapping and photogrammetric services. 10 STAs plan to maintain their current mix of in-house and private sector sources.
  • 30 STAs indicated that their State has a standard operating procedure that establishes surveying standards and specifications on when is it considered practicable to contract surveying and mapping work to private sector sources. Additionally, the survey indicated that STAs consider aerial mapping and LiDAR to be the most practicable service to be accomplished by the private sector.

The table below identifies mapping and photogrammetric services and the number of STAs that maintain in-house capabilities for each service based on results of the survey.

SERVICE STAs with in-house capabilities
Aerial photography 14
Aerial digital data collection 8
Airborne GPS services 5
Boundary (cadastral) surveying 40
Cartographic services 27
Charting 2
Digitizing 18
Engineering surveying 40
GIS consulting and implementation 23
GPS surveying 42
Geodetic surveying 38
Hydrography 15
Image processing 17
Orthophoto production (digital and conventional) 26
Photogrammetric mapping 27
Photo processing 9
Planimetric mapping 32
Remote sensing 11
Right-of-way surveying 42
Terrestrial or close range photogrammetry 5
Topographic mapping 40
Scanning 26

Full results from the survey can be found on the Office of Program Administration's Consultant Services website at: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/consultant.cfm

In summary, the performance of surveying and mapping activities are commercial activities similar to engineering and architectural consultant services. The benefits of private sector services in the engineering and design areas are widely recognized as providing value to the STAs by providing technical expertise and resources, which may be difficult or expensive for the STAs to maintain in-house. The technology in the field of photogrammetry and mapping is very sophisticated and potentially expensive to maintain a high level of expertise in-house. A qualified and capable private sector exists that can provide STAs with these services.

We ask that Divisions monitor the States use of private sector sources for mapping and surveying as part of the annual stewardship and oversight activities. STAs should be encouraged to periodically evaluate the potential for engaging private sector sources for surveying and mapping services and to report significant changes in their practices to FHWA.

Please contact John McAvoy, Acting Consultant Services Program Manager, 360-619-7591, John.McAvoy@dot.gov with any questions regarding this survey.

Attachments (.pdf, 3 mb)

Updated: 06/27/2017
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