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Geotechnical Data Management at the Virginia Department of Transportation
Yoon, Jaewan
Whitehouse, Derek H.
Kodger, Lester E.
Edward J. Hoppe
Edward J. Hoppe
Year: 2010
VTRC No.: 10-R21

This report describes the development and implementation of the geotechnical data management system at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).  The purpose of this project was to develop a practical, comprehensive, enterprise-wide system for entry, storage, and retrieval of subsurface data.  The resulting product satisfies the work flow requirements of VDOT and streamlines the delivery of geotechnical information.

Main components consist of gINT software for geotechnical data processing and the ESRI Arc Internet Map Server (ArcIMS) for distributed GIS data delivery via a web browser.  These programs are currently widely adopted by the geotechnical and GIS user community.  Custom command scripts and configuration files were developed in the form of an extensible applet framework called GDBMS (Geotechnical Database Management System) to manage and process geotechnical data.  The project was built on the extensive interaction among VDOT geologists, engineers, and information technology personnel.  Their expertise was harnessed to create a system that is user-friendly, rugged, relatively easy to maintain, and capable of delivering the required data in a consistent format across operating divisions.  GDBMS is flexible enough to be employed by both VDOT designers and VDOT consultants (free access is provided to these groups).  Its greatest advantage is that it greatly improves the efficiency of geotechnical data management and delivery on large transportation projects, typically those initiated under Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995.  A free customized set of support files can be downloaded from the website of VDOT’s Materials Division for use on all VDOT projects.

The study recommends that GDBMS and the associated methodology be mandated for use on all VDOT geotechnical projects.  Significant cost savings can be realized on large new projects planned in the vicinity of the existing infrastructure, where the proximate subsurface data are already available.  Additional exploration is often very expensive, with many over-water drilling projects costing more than $10,000 per day to carry out.  GDBMS can provide a more comprehensive picture of local conditions and thus reduce the expense of drilling additional boreholes.

This technology can be applied to all transportation projects involving subsurface exploration, including bridges, retaining walls, and sound walls.  It is estimated that on the average, the use of this technology would cut in half the time required to gather and process borehole data, resulting in approximately 16 person-hours of savings at an average rate of $100 per hour (including overhead).  For the past 15 years, VDOT has been approving an average of 102 bridges per year for construction.  Therefore, the potential cost savings are on the order of $160,000 per year, excluding the consideration of retaining walls, sound walls, and megaprojects.