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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-16-002     Date:  January/February 2016
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-16-002
Issue No: Vol. 79 No. 4
Date: January/February 2016


Leveraging A Data-Rich World

by David Unkefer, Katherine Petros, Bryan Cawley, and Alicia Sindlinger

Civil Integrated Management is shepherding highway construction and transportation asset management into the digital age, while improving the consistency and efficiency of project delivery.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is using 3–D engineered models and other CIM technologies to reconstruct a 12-mile (19-kilometer) corridor of interchanges, known as the Zoo Interchange project. This visualization shows the flyover bridge at the core system interchange.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is using 3–D engineered models and other CIM technologies to reconstruct a 12-mile (19-kilometer) corridor of interchanges, known as the Zoo Interchange project. This visualization shows the flyover bridge at the core system interchange.

Thirteen years is commonly recognized as the average length of time needed to complete a major highway project. However, transportation agencies have made it a priority in recent years to adopt innovations to increase the efficiency of project delivery--saving time and money, while reducing traffic congestion on affected highways.

A significant part of the challenge to speeding up the delivery of projects is that many practices that are used to develop them remain linear in flow and still rely on compartmentalized processes. For example, project designers do not always share digital designs with contracting and construction teams. Rather, many agencies still print paper plans, and then contractors have to recreate the three-dimensional (3–D) models for the automated systems in their construction equipment. In addition, engineers often mark up paper drawings and archive them for the “as-built” records of the construction project--a practice that makes those records difficult to access for future work and to retrieve for activities related to asset management. This traditional approach takes considerable time and often means duplication of efforts by various stakeholders.

But there is a better way. It is called Civil Integrated Management (CIM). CIM is the technology-enabled collection, organization, managed accessibility, and use of accurate data and information throughout the life cycle of a transportation asset. By combining multiple emerging technologies with an emphasis on digital practices--from 3–D models and e-Construction to digital data and geospatial referencing--with the concept of integrated management, CIM has the potential to take project delivery and asset management to the next level.

CIM can enhance consistency and efficiency by improving access to information about highway projects and facilitating information-sharing among the various stakeholders, from owners and operators to designers, planners, surveyors, construction and operations personnel, and asset managers. The result is improved overall productivity of the highway industry through cost and time savings, plus safety benefits.

Traditionally, disparate data sets within an agency have been optimized for use within a particular agency function, which causes challenges in being able to use that data further downstream in the agency’s business processes. Projects that are applying CIM take a holistic approach to project design, construction, operation, and maintenance.

Examples of applications of CIM in highway construction include the North Carolina Turnpike Authority’s Triangle Expressway, the DFW Connector in Texas, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Zoo Interchange, and the Sellwood Bridge project in Oregon. However, CIM practices have not been adopted widely yet in transportation projects of all scales.

Taking a look at the history of CIM and its various technologies will demonstrate how States are putting those tools to work on their projects.

What Is CIM?

CIM includes leveraging data and information from various sections of a highway agency and making use of that data throughout an asset’s life cycle. CIM may be used by all affected parties for a wide range of purposes, including planning, environmental assessment, surveying, design, construction, maintenance, asset management, and risk assessment. CIM aims to serve all project stakeholders and consistently provide appropriate, accurate, and reliable information.

“CIM is really a mindset,” says Richard Juliano, senior vice president for strategic initiatives with the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. “It is about being open to using innovations and new technologies, and it is a departure from the way previous generations conducted business. But it is on par with the general shift in all parts of society right now--going paperless and doing things electronically because it is more efficient. When embraced, CIM can maximize efficiency, keep costs down, and shorten project delivery times.”

The Birth of CIM

In 2010, a joint technology committee that included members from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Associated General Contractors of America, and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association identified several technologies that might help to accelerate highway construction. The joint committee recognized the trend toward all-digital practices as a significant opportunity to improve efficiencies during construction. More specifically, the committee recommended the use of automated machinery for roadway construction and the implementation of building information modeling, a technology already being used in building construction.

Components of CIM Projects
Alternative Contracting
Alternative technical concepts
Construction manager/general contractor
Franchise contracting
Alternative bidding
Information Modeling
Public outreach
Software applications
Optimizing construction means and methods
Earthwork balancing
Equipment automatic guidance control systems
3–D, 4–D, 5–D, 6–D modeling
Liability of plan and survey data
Long-term liability with as-builts
Project Management Systems
Electronic document approval, transmittal, and storage
Online real-time status of materials sampling and testing
Electronic wage rate verification
Public relations
Real-Time Verification
Intelligent compaction
Infrared imaging
Radio frequency identification (RFID) for materials quantity and certification transmittal
In-cab weight scales
Video surveillance for remote construction inspection and recording
Light detection and ranging (LiDAR)
Equipment flexibility, precision and accuracy of surveys, and data processing and storage
Laser total stations
3–D mapping and data storage
RFID subsurface marking


The Texas Department of Transportation and its partners employed CIM technologies when constructing the DFW Connector, shown here.
The Texas Department of Transportation and its partners employed CIM technologies when constructing the DFW Connector, shown here.

In a letter to Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez (then Federal Highway Administrator), the joint committee recommended that the Federal Highway Administration consider including these two concepts in the agency’s Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative. The goal would be to “develop guidance on 3–D modeling capabilities and practices for the transportation sector.”

FHWA leadership agreed with the committee’s assessment of the potential for these practices to shorten project delivery, a main goal of EDC. The agency selected the use of 3–D engineered models for construction as one of the innovations it promoted during the second round of EDC.

Moreover, the committee’s recommendation was the impetus for today’s CIM, with 3–D modeling for construction as the centerpiece.

Domestic Scan Program And CIM Guide

The agencies working together in the joint committee provided the initial leadership that paved the way for CIM. Since then, FHWA, AASHTO, leading State DOTs, and other stakeholders have been working to champion the use of CIM.

Image. This 3–D model shows the final design for a highway with an exit ramp splitting off to the right side and an adjacent local road also on the right.
Three-dimensional modeling, as shown in this geometric design of a highway and exit ramp, is one of the keystones of CIM.

Specifically, FHWA is working to roll out CIM to State DOTs through its EDC initiative and also through ongoing research projects. FHWA also proposed a domestic scan on how State highway agencies are applying CIM technologies and cofunded a project through the National Highway Cooperative Research Program (NCHRP) to develop a guide on CIM for DOTs.

The U.S. Domestic Scan Program (NCHRP Project 20-68A) aims to facilitate information sharing and technology exchange among States and other transportation agencies with the goal of deploying innovations faster. CIM is one of the many innovations included in the program. Scan 13-02, Advances in Civil Integrated Management, explored how transportation agencies use CIM technologies in projects. The scan also looked at the necessary partnering among DOTs, consultants, contractors, and materials suppliers to address program characteristics (for example, program size, degree of management centralization, use of outsourcing) that may influence CIM’s effectiveness. For more information on this scan, visit http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=1570.

NCHRP Project 10-96, Guide for Civil Integrated Management in Departments of Transportation, recently developed guidance that State DOT managers can use to assess their agency’s use of digital information in project delivery and subsequent asset management. The guide helps managers improve project quality and more effectively control costs through increased reliance on digital methods. Using the guide, managers can better identify the opportunities, benefits, obstacles, and costs for their agency and pinpoint practical strategies. The guide draws on practices in vertical (or building) construction, case studies, and the experiences of transportation agencies at various levels. For more information on the guide, visit http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=3648.

Transitioning to 3–D Models

Three-dimensional modeling in transportation construction is a technology that serves as the building block for the modern-day digital jobsite. The technology facilitates faster, more accurate, and more efficient planning and construction. With 3–D modeling software, design and construction teams can connect virtually to develop, test, and change project features and resolve problems more visually.

During the second round of EDC (EDC-2), FHWA encouraged a transition from traditional computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), which results in two-dimensional paper plan sets, to 3–D modeling as a strategy for shortening project delivery and improving quality and safety on the construction site. With 3–D models, design and construction teams can view project features geospatially to improve designs, plan construction phasing, and detect clashes, such as structures and utility conflicts, before construction begins. Contractors can export data from 3–D models to generate bid estimates and then import it to equipment guidance and control systems that help equipment operators place earthwork, perform excavation, and lay pavement more efficiently.

Graders like this one equipped with automated machine guidance andcontrol use 3–D modeling data, along with GPS and advance surveying technology, to provide real-time direction to construction equipment operators.
Graders like this one equipped with automated machine guidance andcontrol use 3–D modeling data, along with GPS and advance surveying technology, to provide real-time direction to construction equipment operators.


Photo. A small computer screen shows a digital representation of the grader and specific instructions for the operator on how to maneuver the equipment.
This monitor in the grader’s cabin guides the operator’s steering while also showing how the blade is being controlled to perform accurate grading with fewer passes.

As part of the effort to promote EDC-2 initiatives, FHWA sponsored several State-hosted workshops on integrating the use of 3–D engineered models for design and construction, a building block for CIM. The workshops provided participants with practical knowledge that prepared them to create an implementation plan for adopting 3–D modeling as part of their agency’s project delivery process. Twelve States held workshops between January 2014 and March 2015. EDC-2 efforts also included creating Web-based training, hosting a series of eight webinars, and conducting field demonstrations. More information on these resources is available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/3d.

During EDC-2 in 2013 and 2014, the number of States implementing 3–D engineered models nearly tripled from 9 to 24. FHWA’s Office of Federal Lands Highway, which provides transportation engineering and related services for projects on public roads that serve Federal and tribal lands, also began employing the technology. Four of the 24 States now use 3–D engineered models for construction as a standard practice. A few States also have expanded their use of 3–D modeling beyond excavation and pavement applications to enhance bridge design and construction as well.

For example, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) increased its output of 3–D models, from design to construction, nearly 50 percent in 2014. The agency collaborated with peer agencies, the construction industry, and others to develop requirements for the design of 3–D models. The requirements are available on the MDOT Development Guide wiki page at http://mdotwiki.state.mi.us/design/index.php/Main_Page.

“The ability to rapidly transfer the engineer’s design information to the field electronically has remarkable efficiencies when we talk about performing [quality assurance] functions on modern automated construction projects that do not have stakes or string lines for spatial reference,” says John Lobbestael, MDOT’s supervising land surveyor. “Not only are we able to realize design intent in a more complete form, but we are also able to document quality and progress in a much more automated fashion than prior methods allowed, enabling more active real-time oversight and better project outcomes.”

3–D Engineered Models And Geospatial Data

FHWA continues to promote 3–D engineered models in the third phase of EDC (EDC-3) to help the transportation community glean even more from the technology. Pushing for implementation of CIM, FHWA is promoting more advanced uses of the modeling and other geospatial asset data for structures, scheduling, cost management, and asset management. Gathering geospatially located as-built data for 3–D models, along with network asset data gathered through means such as light detection and ranging (LiDAR), offers the opportunity to create a complete, high-quality, digital footprint of the Nation’s roadways.

In 2015 and 2016, the focus is on three practices. The first is using as-found survey data (geospatially located and programmatically collected, such as with LiDAR) for roadway inventory and asset management purposes. The second involves incorporating schedule (known as 4–D modeling) and cost (known as 5–D modeling) information into models to enhance stakeholder communications and enable contractors to streamline construction schedules and improve cost estimates. The third is using post-construction survey data (also geospatially located) to create accurate as-built record drawings, including subsurface utility location information.

The benefits of these practices include improved project management, more accurate cost estimates and cash flow management, and a living record throughout an asset’s life cycle. With 4–D modeling, stakeholders can visualize phases of a project to identify potential conflicts and to better manage the construction schedule and the worksite. Adding the fifth dimension to models enables stakeholders to better evaluate costs and cash flows. Lastly, stakeholders can use accurate as-built and as-found survey data for continuing maintenance, asset management, and future planning.

Among the first highway projects to use 4–D models was the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston, MA, in the 1990s. Since then, many States have successfully employed them in delivering both small and large projects, including the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span in California.

Managing Construction Digitally

Highway projects require a significant amount of documentation. Traditional management includes extensive, paper-based systems involving conventional postal delivery, project journals, design and construction submittals, and physical signatures on multiple copies of many documents. Significant time and money is required to create, process, and store documentation in this manner.

A more efficient approach is e-Construction, another EDC-3 innovation that supports CIM. This approach includes electronic submission of construction documentation by all stakeholders, electronic document routing and approvals with electronic signatures, and digital management of all construction documentation in a secure, online environment. The all-electronic format enables distribution to and access by all project stakeholders through both desktop computers and mobile devices.

e-Construction uses technologies that are readily available to the transportation community, such as digital electronic signatures, electronic communication, secure file sharing, version control, mobile devices, and Web-hosted data archival and retrieval systems to improve management of construction documentation. Not only does e-Construction save money by decreasing the use of paper plus the costs of printing and document storage, but it also saves time by decreasing communication delays and transmittal times.

During EDC-3, 13 States; Washington, DC; and FHWA’s Office of Federal Lands Highway plan to take advantage of the benefits of e-Construction and make it a mainstream practice. An additional 19 States and the U.S. Virgin Islands plan to use e-Construction tools within 2 years.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is one of several agencies using e-Construction on design-build projects. The agency invested in a collaborative sharing site, mobile devices, digital signatures, and form automation. All stakeholders on a construction contract have access to the collaboration site and receive automatic notifications when they need to review a document. FDOT’s initial investment in e-Construction was about $1.5 million, but it expects to save about $22 million a year on paper and overhead costs.

Wisconsin’s Move to 3–D

Wisconsin is among the States championing adoption of CIM and using 3–D modeling for design and construction of its civil transportation infrastructure. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is using CIM 3–D engineered models for its $1.7 billion megaproject, the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee. The project, slated for completion in 2020, is reconstructing a 12-mile (19-kilometer) corridor for the oldest and busiest interstate interchanges in the State, averaging a traffic volume of 350,000 vehicles per day. Most notably, the project is using 3–D technologies, integrated project delivery methods, and enhanced multidisciplinary 3–D workflows to increase efficiencies.

“Wisconsin has taken our use of CIM 3–D modeling to an advanced state,” says Lance Parve, senior project engineer with Southeast Freeways and project CIM coordinator with WisDOT, whose team implemented CIM over the last 5 years for the Zoo Interchange project. “We try to incorporate as many of the disciplines in 3–D as we can, including roads, structures, utilities, lighting, signals, signs, ITS [intelligent transportation systems], and ancillary items, and that leads to higher quality, more realistic designs.”

In addition to the Zoo Interchange project, WisDOT is working to speed adoption of CIM 3–D tools and technologies statewide. In 2010, the agency deployed advanced 3–D design software. To bring all of its staff, consultants, contractors, and partners up to speed, the agency disseminated online training. The State also requires that all design projects starting after July 2014 deliver 3–D roadway models to supplement construction plans, specifications, and estimates.

“We were fortunate with timing of the software update and saw it as an opportunity to improve the [project delivery] workflow,” says Brad Hollister, design methods engineer lead with WisDOT. “We recognized the flaws of the old process-- going from 2–D designs and having contractors reverse engineer them to 3–D--and jumped at the chance to forge ahead in this area.”

WisDOT is already seeing benefits with CIM 3–D modeling. Benefits include faster clash-detection resolution, improved 3–D visualization, multidisciplinary reviews, staging-scheduling, constructability analysis, simulations, realistic public information models, and reduced number of contract change orders, translating into enhanced design workflows, coordination efficiencies, and construction costs savings.

Oregon Hosts a Demonstration

Oregon is another leader in advancing CIM. In July 2014, the Oregon Department of Transportation hosted a 2-day training event called Design to Paver: Intelligent Construction Systems and Technologies Demonstration. The event, an EDC activity, featured classroom presentations and field demonstrations on 3–D design, automated machine guidance, and related technologies.

More than 200 attendees from State DOTs, local agencies, engineering consultants, and other industry organizations participated in the demonstrations and presentations. Participants had a front row seat to see how the latest technologies--from GPS and LiDAR to robotics--are used to automate highway construction using 3–D models. These intelligent systems offer more precise and efficient construction of transportation projects.

“I learned a great deal about the types of survey equipment that can be used, the accuracies, and most importantly, how they are used in conjunction with construction equipment in order to construct roadway projects,” says Richard Hewitt, State construction pavement engineer with FDOT. “The Design to Paver workshop provided me the knowledge base I needed to really start moving forward in construction with CIM and [automated machine guidance] in Florida.”

This aerial the view shows the U.S. 45 and Watertown Plank Road Service Interchange, part of the Zoo Interchange project.
This aerial the view shows the U.S. 45 and Watertown Plank Road Service Interchange, part of the Zoo Interchange project.

For a summary of the event, as well as photos and videos of the presentations and field demonstrations, visit http://designtopaver.org/post-event-materials.

FHWA’s Ongoing Research

At the national level, the Infrastructure Analysis and Construction Team, housed within the FHWA Office of Infrastructure Research and Development, is working on research projects related to CIM. One of the projects, Challenges and the Return on Investment for Paperless Project Delivery, assesses what State and local highway agencies are doing to transition to a paperless project delivery system.

The scope covers the time from when a project is advertised to when the final project is accepted, and includes the processes used in the central and field offices and on the jobsite. The focus is to document the return on investment for the delivery of paperless projects, including the costs (in terms of human and capital resources), benefits (tangible and intangible), and challenges encountered by the agencies. The project also will develop recommendations to address the identified challenges. FHWA expects the results of the study to be applicable to various types, sizes, and scopes of roadway projects.

Photo. Here, presenters at a demonstration in Oregon are installing a slip form barrier using automated machine control technology guided by GPS with enhanced accuracy from robotic survey stations.
During an equipment demonstration in Oregon, presenters installed a slip form barrier using automated machine control technology guided by GPS with enhanced accuracy from robotic survey stations.

Another project focuses on profiling projects using 3–D digital design data in highway construction. For the project, Utilizing 3–D Digital Design Data in Highway Construction – A Case Study, FHWA will select highway projects to showcase the successful use of 3–D design data in digital format and to use the information gathered from those projects to develop broader guidance for highway agencies. This study involves collecting, organizing, and analyzing data from State highway agencies and design vendors using XML or design model schemas, and then drawing recommendations for other agencies. The effort is identifying best and evolving practices, characterizing opportunities and constraints, identifying institutional practices that led to success, and evaluating successes to quantify the impact on project delivery. The case studies will include more typical highway construction projects rather than the megaprojects usually associated with CIM.

A third project, Integrating 3–D Digital Models into Asset Management, examines the state of the art in using the 3–D data from construction for digital as-builts and asset management. The application of CIM technology for highway asset management is often considered the sixth dimension of modeling. This research project is assessing the business and information requirements and current status of State DOTs’ asset management processes, and confirming the current level of CIM use among them. Further, the project will identify strategies, technologies, and data architectures that will enable greater use of 3–D data in asset management. Once this information is synthesized, the effort will focus on developing recommendations for best practices for agencies to develop workflows and processes to leverage information from construction into asset management.

These projects kicked off in October 2014, and FHWA expects to complete them in 2016.

FHWA also awarded two additional research projects in August 2015. One project will assess how the use of automated machine guidance impacts a contractor’s ability to meet pavement smoothness requirements (expected completion is August 2017). The other will document how geospatial tools such as LiDAR and unmanned aerial vehicles can effectively be used in highway construction (expected completion is December 2016).

“The best way to help the transportation industry fulfill its true mission to improve people’s lives is to harness the collective capacity of innovations across the life cycle of the transportation facility,” says Hari Kalla, director of FHWA’s Office of Asset Management, Pavement, and Construction. “Innovations like civil integrated management are doing just that by offering tremendous potential to deliver transportation projects better, smarter, and faster.”

David Unkefer is a construction and project management engineer at the FHWA Resource Center in Atlanta, GA. He provides national technical assistance support to FHWA division offices, DOTs, and consultant and contractor partners. He has been with FHWA for 23 years and is a professional engineer with degrees in civil engineering from the University of Florida and Purdue University, including an M.S. in construction engineering and management.

Katherine Petros is the team leader of the Infrastructure Analysis and Construction Team within FHWA’s Office of Infrastructure Research & Development. Her team is responsible for research and development activities focused on advancing knowledge and technology associated with infrastructure construction, project delivery, preservation optimization within the broader context of asset management, assessment of pavement performance, and prediction technology. Petros earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Bryan Cawley is the construction team leader in FHWA’s Office of Infrastructure. Since joining FHWA in 1997, he has held a variety of positions in multiple FHWA offices. He earned an M.B.A. from the University of Nebraska, an M.S. in construction engineering from Iowa State University, and a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Utah. He is a licensed professional engineer in North Dakota.

Alicia Sindlinger is the associate editor of Public Roads.

For more information, contact David Unkefer at 404–562–3669 or david.unkefer@dot.gov.



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