The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has 22,000 employees and an annual budget greater than the GNP of more than half the countries in the world. Over the last 60 years, department responsibilities have broadened in response to the states exploding population and resulting traffic congestion.

In addition to managing the states 15,000 miles of highways and related structures, Caltrans oversees mass transit, intercity rail and air transportation. Many operations are conducted in partnership with private industry and with local, state and federal agencies.

Easy Access

Managing transportation in the 21st century will require rapid access to complex transportation data. To help achieve that capability, Gary Gilley, chief of Caltrans Construction, Traffic Management Centers (TMC) and GIS Support Branch, proposed making all internal data enterprise-wide to provide faster, easier access to the agencys disparate datasets in legacy, image, video and GIS formats. According to Gilley, divisions throughout Caltrans use ESRIs ArcView and ArcInfo GIS, but do not have a GIS component -- an open-architecture GIS -- capable of translating, interacting with and integrating all of these data types. "Applications are project oriented and spatial data is compiled separately for each project," Gilley said. "No one else at Caltrans was even looking at enterprise-wide data. The construction division alone was taking several months just to pull together data needed to develop annual maps of current and planned Caltrans construction projects statewide. Thats when our concept group began thinking about using whatever was on hand to develop a concept project, one that could demonstrate the utility of enterprise-wide data."

The Concept Project

Gilley formed a concept group and collected disparate transportation data sets -- highway speeds, aerial photographs, construction projects, mile markers and contractor addresses -- and put them into an Oracle Spatial database management system. In addition to a server, the group used a geocoder to assign spatial coordinates to the addresses and used open-architecture GIS freeware to access, manipulate and map the data.

Funding was not available for a fully developed project, so the group used department resources to develop applications for demonstrations. Already on hand were the servers, the geocoder and Oracle Spatial; licensing for the latter allowed for trial applications. Java-based freeware from JShape provided an open-architecture GIS to access and interact with the various data. Bill Naddy, the Branch GIS Unit manager, stressed that the applications were intended to generate funding for a larger project by demonstrating the ability of a small-scale concept project to support certain internal business needs.

According to Naddy, much of the initial effort went into collecting data sets and loading them into Oracle Spatial. "We brought in data from our old mainframe system, from current legacy systems and from CAD and GIS files," he said. "We went around to different Caltrans divisions running various programs and said, Give us a set of data. We mapped the information, then went back to them and demonstrated a solution using their data."

One division was developing a program to display long-range, mass-transportation plans by county. Using its data, the concept group made a polygon to represent a county and put the divisions transportation-related datasets into it. Highlighting the county brought up all the planned mass-transportation projects, whether they involved buying buses or installing a light-rail line. The group also enabled the division to map all of its projects by legislative district. "Just by pointing at a project, they could get 15 different pieces of information, including project scope, cost, schedule and percent of the project completed," Naddy said. "If they were meeting with a legislator or with a local group, they could call up the latest data and show it graphically."

For their own construction division, the group collected data sets of the various methods used to indicate geographic location -- mile markers, latitude and longitude coordinates