Are DOTs going digital faster than they ever have before? After attending the 2015 International Highway Engineering Exchange Program (IHEEP) in Pittsburgh, PA, one could not help but notice the predominance of digital documentation and paperless project delivery themes appearing throughout the event. Two-thirds of the outlined core tracks of this year’s conference—3D Modeling, Design Construction Integration and Digital Project Delivery—focused on digital solutions. But is the transition to digital truly gaining momentum? What adoption challenges do DOTs still face?
Digital Drivers for DOTs
With pressure from outside stakeholders and shrinking budgets, timelines are tightening. For those DOTs in states particularly affected by harsh winter weather, the season for outdoor infrastructure work is extremely abbreviated, sparking a real need to push projects through more efficiently.
“We’re having to do more with less. We have less money to spend, and fewer people to do the work,” says Mike Dillner, IT/CADD Support at Kansas Department of Transportation.
Additionally, with many DOTs working with outside consultants who themselves work predominantly in the digital project delivery environment, DOTs that adopt technology and approaches in parallel to their consulting counterparts are benefiting from simplified collaborative efforts.
Digital Implementation Challenges
Getting digital documents into the field is another known challenge for DOTs, considering many don’t have access to tablet devices. But this year’s IHEEP attendees indicate that could be changing. Tablets are now being viewed more as essential tools rather than luxury expenditures, opening the door for more DOTs to potentially have better access to digital documents in the field soon.
Additionally, more DOTs are driven to embrace model-based projects, but are encountering snags when some team members don’t have access to, and/or knowledge of, the model environment. Everyone wants to leverage the model throughout the lifecycle of a project, but it isn’t always possible.
As such, more DOTs are exploring ways to address this communication gap. Solutions like Bluebeam Revu, allow teams to store and collaborate on documents, and to share 3D model views outside the CAD environment via 3D PDFs.
Assessing Investments in Technology
Receiving approval to invest in digital solutions can be an uphill battle for DOTs. One IHEEP attendee reported, “Software redundancy is a large issue for government. Trying to get buy-in for new digital tools is often met with, ‘Well, we already have tools that do that.’ But we have unique challenges that, often, only specialized tools can truly address.”
Explaining the difference between specialized tools and more mainstream solutions, Ralph DeStefano P.E., District Bridge Engineer with the Pennsylvania DOT says, “Tools like Bluebeam Revu are the best choice to reach our goals because they are written specifically for the AEC community and, therefore, know the intricacies of this business better than a generic product.”