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Credit: New York State Department of Transportation
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States Continue the Move to Digital Project Delivery

The rapid evolution of digital technologies is offering State departments of transportation (DOTs) new opportunities to better collect and use data for project and asset management, including the creation of digital as-builts (DABs). DABs are digital records of the constructed condition of assets in an electronic format that can be shared, searched, and extracted for various uses. DABs are also durable—the information will be accessible over the life of the asset.

As State DOTs are at different stages of transitioning traditional paper-based workflows to digital, FHWA’s Every Day Counts (EDC) program hosted a workshop in June 2022 that presented successful strategies from DOTs that are at various points in the process.

“Digital as-builts can include much more valuable information than their paper predecessors and are simply the accumulation of information we already create as part of current digital design and construction delivery processes,” said David Unkefer, FHWA Resource Center engineer and EDC digital as-builts team lead. “We want to help agencies better utilize as-built data created during design and construction for business needs during operations and maintenance. It’s a matter of determining how an agency can implement digital as-builts in a practical way using the tools available today.”

Advancing Digital PDFs

The South Carolina DOT (SCDOT) currently maintains a searchable online inventory of as-built records that has 2,600 users, more than 700,000 searches per year, and contains as-built records dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. Over 2.5 million plan sheets are available online, including as-built plans.

New projects are submitted using digital PDFs created with as-built data collected by modern field surveying equipment. The digital PDFs have advanced features like searchable text, vector graphics, and information stored on layers for easier navigation. These PDFs provide as-builts in a way that is compatible with SCDOT’s existing online access platform, presented in a repeatable, recognizable format but with more advanced features.

Maturity levels for Digital As-Builts evolution diagram

States are continuing the evolution from paper-based to fully digital project delivery.

Credit: FHWA

SCDOT is continuing to move into a more digital-based delivery. “We have lots of challenges ahead in getting into digital as-builts, so we are taking steps like this to ease into the process,” said Jeff Brown of SCDOT’s Design Automation Office.

The Florida DOT’s (FDOT’s) move to DABs emerged from its previous investment in e-Construction. Florida currently uses digitally signed PDFs for construction contract documents, which laid the foundation for capturing as-builts in a digital PDF format.

FDOT captures as-builts as vector PDF markups in an official record set used to document and compute final quantity estimates. The digital mark-ups are more efficient to collate using productivity tools like copy and paste and automatically comparing documents. The digital format enables storing more robust information such as embedded photos, videos, and documents. It also offers better navigation features such as searchable text and hyperlinks to external content or bookmarks to locations within the file.

FDOT has made advances in additional areas related to implementation of DABs, including importing all materials certifications into a central database where they are easier to access than in the project archive and storing the unique identifier and location of certain manufactured items in a tracking system. They are also collecting 3D models to compute earthwork quantities and documenting Intelligent Transportation System assets using an import template for their facility management database.

Implementing DABs for Subsurface Utility Engineering

Due to frequent utility delays and several dangerous utility strikes by construction equipment, the Colorado legislature required the Colorado DOT (CDOT) to collect more as-built data on utilities in its right-of-way. CDOT now collects utility locations as part of an enhanced and standardized subsurface utility engineering (SUE) workflow, which includes as-constructed utilities. CDOT manages the 3D utility information for long-term reference as a digital as-built.

Contractors maintain a 3D database of subsurface utility information beginning with the SUE data collated during design. The SUE information is updated as utilities are exposed either through test pits or construction activities and when utilities are relocated, removed from service, or installed.

“Once a design is done and we are ready to go to construction, we have identified what existing utilities need to be relocated or moved or adjusted in place,” said Rob Martindale, CDOT utilities program manager. “We then have the ability to push this data out to construction via mobile devices.”

CDOT is also leveraging its 3D utilities map for use with new applications such as augmented reality and machine-guided excavation for damage prevention. “There are a lot of new tools and a lot of exciting things going on, and it’s built around having a database that is completely accurate and reliable,” Martindale said.

Collecting DABs for Asset Management

The Minnesota DOT (MnDOT) aligned its DABs program to its asset management plan, resulting in a list of about 75 asset classes. Currently, MnDOT routinely requires contractors to collect DABs for 12 asset classes such as guardrails, culverts, and signs that are included in its Transportation Asset Management Plan.

The digital as-built formats range from spreadsheets with 2D latitude/longitude locations to 3D survey files, all of which conform to specific formats to enable them to be incorporated into statewide or regional asset tracking tools. MnDOT realized a 30-percent efficiency in data collection when using the asset tracking tools on design projects.

Other uses for MnDOT’s DAB data include One Call service call responses and an extreme flood vulnerability tool developed using bridge and culvert asset data and climate projections. MnDOT also has a construction manager/general contractor (CM/GC) project, the Elk River Freeway, which is piloting the use of digital delivery with DAB information. The project has a guaranteed maximum price of $130 million, and MnDOT reports documented savings of $15 million to date attributed primarily to use of 3D model-based project delivery combined with CM/GC contracting.


To hear more from these States and others, contact FHWA’s David Unkefer for links to the online Digital As-Built Workshop recordings.

Visit FHWA’s Every Day Counts e-Ticketing and Digital As-Builts webpage.

Notice: The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this article only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Recommended Citation: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration - Washington, DC (2022) Innovator Newsletter, September/October 2022, Volume 16 (92). https://doi.org/10.21949/1521850