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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This summary report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information

Geometric Design Laboratory Assessment Report

DATE: April 2 – 5, 2007
HOST LABORATORIES: Geometric Design Laboratory (GDL)
CHAIRPERSON: Karen Dixon, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Oregon State University


Mehdi Nassirpour, Ph.D.
Chief, Research and Evaluation
Illinois DOT

James A. Bonneson, Ph.D.
Research Engineer
Texas Transportation Institute
The Texas A&M University System

Robert Scoptz, Ph.D.
Director of Consulting
Data Nexus, Inc.

Mrinmay Biswas, Ph.D.
State Research & Analysis Engineer
North Carolina DOT

Panel Facilitator

Barbara T. Harder
B.T. Harder, Inc

Overview of Geometric Design Laboratory

Ray Krammes Geometric Design Lab Manager 202-493-3312 Ray.Krammes@fhwa.dot.gov

  • Overview of Geometric Design Laboratory


The mission of the GDL is to provide technical support to the Office of Safety Research and Development to develop to Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM), a suite of software tools for the safety evaluation of highway geometric design alternatives. Interested users can download, free-of-charge, the current public release of IHSDM at www.ihsdm.org.


GDL helps establish the standards and procedures for IHSDM software development, prepares the software system and functional specifications, performs verification and validation of the models that are core IHSDM components, performs Alpha testing of IHSDM software, coordinates the Beta testing of IHSDM software by potential end-users, and provides technical support to users of the IHSDM software.

GDL also helps coordinate the interaction of key players in IHSDM software development, including research contractors, software developers, end-users, and commercial CAD/roadway design software vendors. GDL markets IHSDM to decision makers and potential end-users, and supports staff research related to roadway design and safety.

Key Strengths and Observations

  • On-site contractor staffs are exceptionally qualified and are clearly devoted to the success of IHSDM.
  • HSDM is extremely powerful to enable practitioners to evaluate rural two-lane highways. Its concept still appears to be visionary (i.e., still ahead of its time). The IHSDM continues to be a critical and valuable tool for the design engineers both at the federal and state levels.
  • Management of on-site contractors appears to be optimum from standpoint of efficiency and ensuring quality in research products.
  • The group has a good sense of what the next needed enhancement is to make the system more useful to a broader audience.
  • The staffing is at an appropriate level for current demand, and they currently have the staff resources to implement the planned work for the remainder of the current contract.
  • The GDL management has developed a multiyear road map with project timeline and has expanded to increase stakeholder involvement in the development of such road map.
  • Customers who regularly use the product were very satisfied with the IHSDM software and quality and standard of work and the very knowledgeable GDL staff that provided great technical assistance.
  • During the review, the GDL staff provided outstanding information and data regarding the IHSDM tool and how it worked and benefits of the tool to the state DOTs.
  • Contractor’s staff has taken ownership of the system and is thinking independently about future directions and enhancements.
  • The GDL is ideally suited to facilitate the development of software for the HSM procedures in Part III.

Key Recommendations and Status of Current Activities

  1. Panel Recommendation: Aging hardware needs to be upgraded. This lab needs new computers and a powerful server for the various CADD packages.
    Action to be taken: a) Develop an equipment upgrade plan. b) Purchase most critical computer hardware upgrades. c) Purchase remaining Critical Computer hardware upgrades.
    Status as of 07/03/07: a) Completed May 7, 2007 b) Purchased new printer. Submitted Procurement Request for new “GDL Server.” Target Completion Date 9/07/07 c) Remaining critical equipment to be purchased after FY 2008 funding becomes available. Target Completion Date 3/31/08

  2. Panel Recommendation: Address expiring contract that will occur right about the time the Highway Safety Manual (HSM) is scheduled to be released – contract extension sooner? Separate software support contract?
    Action to be taken: Submit Procurement Request(s) for IHSDM laboratory and software support services beyond 10/14/2008. (Consideration will be given to maintaining separate contracts or combining into a single contract.)
    Status as of 07/03/07: Considering various contract support options based on requirements and available funding in preparation to generating the PR package. Target Completion Date 3/31/08

  3. Panel Recommendation: Training of GDL staff to keep them current on civil engineering CADD tools.
    Action to be taken: a) Develop training plan for FY 2008. b) Send GDL staff to training for civil engineering CADD tools.
    Status as of 07/03/07: a) Analyzing training needs and opportunities in preparation of training plan. Target Completion Date 10/14/07 b) GDL staff participating in 8/9/2007 web cast to view the new features of Autodesk Land Desktop 2008 and Civil 3D 2008. Additional training to follow based upon training plan. Target Completion Date 6/30/08

  4. Panel Recommendation: Consider implementing an annual process of recognizing accomplishments and contributions of on-site contractors.
    Action to be taken: Determine, with HRRM, whether and, if so, on-site contractors accomplishments and contributions may be recognized.
    Status as of 07/03/07: Exploring appropriate options for recognition consistent with FHWA policy. Target Completion Date 10/31/07

  5. Panel Recommendation: Consider increasing opportunities for on-site contractor staff to participate in lab-related research and encourage their participation. Research should lead to publication.
    Action to be taken: Develop a plan for on-site research within the budget constraints of the existing GDL support contract, to be conducted during the next contract option year.
    Status as of 07/03/07: FHWA manager and GDL staff discussing research needs to include on plan. Target Completion Date 10/14/07

  6. Panel Recommendation: Develop a short and long-term strategic plan that leads to defined, measurable objectives and goals as well as a time frame for its implementation. Consider development of companion software that simply implements only the HSM chapters in Part III. Follow model of HCS and CORSIM in terms of transitioning FHWA out of software market as private developers emerge.
    Action to be taken: a) Develop short-term strategic plan. b) Develop draft long-term strategic plan. c) Develop final long-term strategic plan.
    Status as of 07/03/07: a) Identifying and researching options for long-term maintenance and enhancement of IHSDM and their implications for short-term contract actions (Item 2). Coordinating with TRB Highway Safety Manual Task Force, NCHRP-funded HSM development activities, and other related activities. Target Completion Date 12/31/07 b) Target Completion Date 3/31/08 c) Target Completion Date10/14/08

  7. Panel Recommendation: Develop a current marketing plan for IHSDM.
    Action to be taken: a) Update marketing plan for FY 2008. b) Update marketing plan for FY 2009 and beyond.
    Status as of 07/03/07: a) Planning is underway to select marketing actions for 2007 updated public release. Coordinating with TRB Highway Safety Manual Task Force User Liaison Subcommittee. Target Completion Date10/14/07 b) Target Completion Date 10/14/08

  8. Panel Recommendation: Training for IHSDM users: Use actual project for trainees; Develop a more efficient method for acquiring “honest” feedback from users; Develop a web-based, instructor-led IHSDM training product to reach a broader range of users; GDL should be geared up to support training once the four (+) lane modules are in place and the HSM is launched; develop instruction modules that can be used in university based undergraduate and graduate transportation engineering courses. Enhance the “wizard” style of built-in tutorial for IHSDM.
    Action to be taken: a) Develop plan for revamping the IHSDM training toolkit including consideration of on-site NHI training course, web-based training, instructional modules for university courses, and built-in tutorial. b) Implement plan and complete revamped IHSDM training toolkit.
    Status as of 07/03/07: a) Seeking feedback from users as part Item 9, and discussing alternative training media with NHI. Target Completion Date 12/31/07 b) Target Completion Date 10/14/08

  9. Panel Recommendation: Technical Support: Improve user feedback process (also for the software development team).
    Action to be taken: a) Complete survey of users. b) Analyze results and incorporate actions into long-term Strategic Plan.
    Status as of 07/03/07: a) Currently collecting feedback from user community. Target Completion Date 10/14/07 b) Target Completion Date 3/21/08
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