March 11Transportation for the NationCase Study – Washington State:Washington Pooled Funds effortTFTN Strategic Plan Case Study
Overview:The Washington State Transportation Framework project (WA-Trans) is anexemplary project for cooperation and partnership at all levels ofgovernment, including 8 Federal Agencies, 7 States, 14 Washington Stateagencies, 23 counties, 10 cities, 9 tribal governments, and 20 other privateand public entities, to build a framework transportation data layer. Theprimary goal of this project is to build a statewide transportation databaseusing a continuously evolving and improving collaborative effort. WA-Trans has been working in cooperation with six other state departments oftransportation to develop computer-based tools that facilitatetransportation data sharing and integration. The computer-based toolsportion of the project has been financed with federal funds, specificallyTransportation Pooled Funds (TPF).Project Background:The WA-Trans project began in 2000, when the Puget Sound RegionalCouncil (PSRC) led an effort to develop a transportation framework modelwithin the King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties in WashingtonState. In 2003, the project name officially changed to WA-Trans, andOregon became an active partner in the project. Business needs analysisand data model design work began as well. In 2004, standards designand development began, and core datasets were determined anddefined. Pilot projects began to take shape and business needs wereaddressed with pilot project requirements and specifications. By the endof 2004, the WA-Trans data standards and data model, and a high-levelarchitecture design were completed; and funding became available forWA-Trans to hire a technical lead. In 2005, WA-Trans began the PugetSound pilot, which included Pierce County, King County, PSRC and USGS.The goal of the pilot was to the test WA-Trans data model usability bytranslating data from King and Pierce Counties into WA-Trans, integratingthat data into a seamless dataset, and providing it back to the counties,as well as USGS. As of 2005, four states also participated in the programand funding was provided for a TPF Study.In 2006, the WA-Trans database was implemented and transformers weredeveloped using FME Workbench software. These transformers allowPierce County and King County to provide their data to WA-Trans andhave it automatically transformed to the WA-Trans schema and loadedinto the WA-Trans database. An innovative concept termed ’agreementpoints‘ was developed, which allowed data to be connected acrossborders more efficiently without requiring each entity to change theirdata within their jurisdiction.
By 2007, six states were participating with WA-Trans in the TPF Study.Bidirectional transformation of data from the counties to WA-Trans andback again was completed successfully. A return on investment (ROI)study showed positive benefits to local, regional, state, and federalagencies. The results of this study showed a conservative estimate of $27million in savings over 20 years with an 11% ROI and a break-even pointwithin one year of completion. A Data Provider portal was researchedand prototyped, which allowed data providers to submit data to WA-Trans over the Internet.In 2008, WA-Trans completed the Puget Sound pilot, incorporating localdata from King, Kitsap, and Pierce Counties. Prototype Data User andData Provider portals were completed.In 2009, database and portal packages were delivered to all participatingTPF partners in an effort to test transferability of processes into differentstates. Software to automate processing was researched and ChangeDetection and Change Management were completed. A seven-countyimplementation project was initiated to provide local road data tosupport safety program needs. Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish,Spokane, and Thurston counties participated. The dataset included localaddress and route information, and state route information. Later in theyear, the Eastern Washington Regional dataset project was initiated as aWA-Trans implementation effort. Adams, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille,Stevens, and Whitman counties participated in this project.Automating Data Integration, Data Update processes, and feature-levelmetadata dominated WA-Trans in 2010. Completing refinement anddocumentation of the Integration and Workflow of data from localproviders, including addresses and routes with state route information intothe WA-Framework data structure, was a significant accomplishment. Theability to string together automated processes was researched. Theprocess for provider data submittal and transformation into the WA-Transstandardized database, change detection, and the flagging of thesechanges for the update process was completely automated.TPF Partners Software Packages that include: Software, Processdescriptions, SQL and Spatial ETL Code, and detailed documentation areexpected to begin in April 2011. Data Update and maintenance processresearch and software development is continuing and expectations arethat completed software will be delivered by June 2011.After all of the successes of the program, looking forward, the lack ofadequate funding has become a serious issue and the program couldpotentially come to an end.Lessons Learned and Challenges:
As with many complex projects, communication is a key component inmaking a project successful early on. Having a communications person asthe early lead to the project proved to be extremely beneficial foreducating participants and gaining support to move forward with acommon goal.Some of the challenges that were encountered in the program included: • Lack of internal WSDOT offices understanding of the differences between managing relational data versus geospatial data. • Lack of GIS expertise in small counties which created a significant barrier for entry for them into the program. • WSDOT did not initially understand the importance of addressing (much like many State DOT’s) due to their complete reliance on the state LRS. To WSDOT WA-Trans efforts with addresses seemed like a waste of resources.Some of the lessons learned in the program that could be applied to anational model included: • Local counties with strong GIS groups will see immediate benefits of a program that goes beyond their boundaries because they often have difficulty obtaining good data beyond their boundaries. • Local counties will become significantly important partners, even helping other surrounding counties that had no geospatial capabilities participate. • At the onset of a program it is important to create a perpetual ID system to accurately perform change detections. • Learning to educate local government agencies about a program, and asking them how the program could help them, versus telling them what the program can do for them will achieve a higher level of success • The need to have agreements in place (most likely memorandums of understanding) that are very specific and allow participants to freely share data at a regular frequency are time consuming but essential to a program’s success.Conclusions:The WA-Trans program has shown that a successful framework dataprogram can be executed at the state level in which data can becollected from a local level, integrated at a state level, and shared to allproject participants while saving money and benefiting the users at alllevels of government. In addition, having individual states coordinate withthe local government agencies within their states is a model that hasbeen successful and is a model that can be reproduced and expandedto create a national framework data set.
The incorporation of addressing into the WA-Trans program has proventhat this collection of data plays a vital role in a Statewide TransportationFramework and addressing should be part of a national program to fullyengage local government. Finally, it is critical to a state and/or a nationalprogram to have adequate funding for not only infrastructure, tools,staffing and data, but also for outreach and communication efforts.Sources: Michael Leierer, WA-Trans Project Manager and Technical Lead;and Bob Crabhorn, Independent Consultant interview on January 12,2011; “WA-Trans Business Needs Document Version 2.0”, January, 2008.“The Agreement Point Process and Case Study Version 2.0” WA-Trans,Washington State Department of Transportation, April 4, 2008; “ProvidingData to WA-Trans the First Time (and into the future)”, WA-Trans,Washington State Department of Transportation, July 10, 2009; “IntegrationProcess Workflow (New Provider Data)”, WA-Trans, Washington StateDepartment of Transportation, January 7, 2011; Washington StateFramework for GIS Project Web site:http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/mapsdata/transframework/default.htm;