GIS based Road Information and Management System: A decision support tool for...

GIS based Road Information and Management System: A decision support tool for Public Works Department, Government of Maharashtra


V.S. Karandikar
Chief Engineer, Public Works Department, Maharashtra, India

Amit Prakash
Team Coordinator, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, India

P.S. Bindu, Prashant Nayak
Member Technical Staff, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, India

The concept of e-governance fits in where public organizations are concerned with efficiency, effectiveness and transparency in their delivery systems. The initiative taken by Public Works Department (PWD), Government of Maharashtra, in this direction has been pioneering and commendable. In association with C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing), Pune, India PWD has been successful in bringing about a paradigm shift in the business of governance by leveraging on the opportunities provided by advancements in Information and Communications technology.

Public Works Department (PWD), Government of Maharashtra is the principal governing body for planning, design, construction and maintenance of roads and bridges in the entire state. The state has a road network whose total length exceeds 0.2 million km. The system of archival of road data prevalent in PWD was through traditional paper road maps, engineering drawings and road statistics registers. Voluminous and scattered data, maps in different formats and scales, difficulty in accessing the statistical information of a map feature etc. were some of the irritants in the prevalent system. A need was increasingly felt in the department to have a more scientific and systematic approach for the archival of maps and retrieval of statistical information.

In this context, the inherent capabilities of the technology offered in a GIS were looked upon as one having a great potential to successfully cater to the specified requirements. A project for utilizing it to develop a Road Information and Management System was conceptualized with the objective of creating a state wide, up-to-date digital database of roads that would induce efficiency and accuracy in monitoring, management, planning and subsequent development of the road network.

System Architecture
The entire system architecture was framed around the two major building blocks of a GIS enabled system: the Spatial and the Non-spatial data.

2.1 Spatial Data
Spatial layers that required to be incorporated into the system were identified and the work of spatial data creation for the state was taken up in collaboration with MRSAC (Maharashtra State Remote Sensing and Application Centre), Nagpur, India. Survey of India (SOI) maps (1:50,000 scale) as base maps along with PWD’s traditional taluka and district maps were the source for creating the raw data for the spatial digital database. The task was laborious due to the obsolescence of SOI maps and scale non-conformities of the PWD maps.

Updation of this digitized raw data was carried out with the help of IRS-satellite’s Panchromatic (PAN) and Linear Imaging Self-scanning Sensor (LISS III) data to incorporate any changes and new additions in the road network of the SOI maps. The PAN data were georeferenced to Survey of India maps. LISS-III data was suitably enhanced and registered to the PAN data and a hybrid FCC (False Colour Composite of PAN and LISS-III data) was generated highlighting the transport network. Actual ground checks were performed by the PWD field engineers to validate the status of roads, as revealed by the satellite imagery. Collation of maps to a uniform scale base was accomplished while registering it to a common projection system in a GIS. The updated digitized spatial data layers which included road network, administrative boundaries and village points were put into a GIS for further processing that included feature coding and kilometre-wise dynamic segmentation. Finally, the quality checking of the spatial data was done to ensure accuracy. The common boundaries between adjoining districts and talukas were edge-matched and the continuity of the roads was checked across taluka boundaries and district boundaries. Discrepancies were removed by proper editing in order to achieve a seamlessly matched digital database.

2.2 Non-spatial Data
Attributes that required to be attached to the spatial data layers, and were thought of considerable significance while planning and monitoring of the road network, were identified by exhaustive discussions amongst PWD officials and in consultation with C-DAC experts. Client-server enabled application software was subsequently designed and developed using Power Builder as the front-end tool and MS SQL Server as the RDBMS, to facilitate data entry and storage of attributes, respectively.

2.3 Integration of Spatial and Non-spatial Data
A proper integration of spatial data in the GIS and the non-spatial data residing in the RDBMS was achieved in the GIS environment through ODBC (Open Database Connectivity). Care was taken to ensure that the linkage of maps to the attribute database remains dynamic, in the sense, that, whenever there is a change in the attribute database, it gets reflected in the GIS.

GIS interface has been customized with ESRI’s Arc View as the base, the customization environment being Avenue with Dialog Designer and Arc View Network Analyst extensions. A comprehensive custom query shell specific to the PWD’s requirement, has been built across different property attributes in the attribute database, and incorporated in the menu based graphic user interface.

3. System Overview
The interface of the system is user friendly and interactive. It holds the spatial data layers dynamically linked to the attribute data, organized according to different administrative hierarchies.

3.1 Data Organization
The state of Maharashtra comprises thirty-four districts organized into six PWD regions. To map to existing organizational hierarchy of PWD, the customization of the GIS interface has been done region-wise. The interface for one region includes the details of all the districts and the talukas that come under its jurisdiction. For six different PWD regions there are six different customized GIS applications. In each application, there is a hierarchy of views, i.e., State View, Region View, District Views and Taluka Views. Each View is an interactive map that contains several themes including categorized roads, dynamically segmented roads, village points, administrative boundaries, etc. A view can be opened independently and the users can then explore, query and analyze the road data represented by it. The major roads, which include Expressway, National Highway, Major State Highway, State Highway and Major District Roads, have been subjected to dynamic segmentation at an interval of one kilometre. Then, for each one-kilometre segment of the road, around eighty attributes have been attached.

3.2 Customized GIS Interface
An intuitive and user friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface) with customized tools and buttons makes it possible to perform special tasks in addition to the built-in tools and buttons of the Arc View GIS. “Latitude-longitude reader”, “Length reader”, “Print map” are a few examples of the customized tools and buttons that have been created. Customized queries enable the user to generate complex queries from attribute database and display its results on the map along with the textual reports. Over forty customized queries have been incorporated into the system by means of easy-to-pick drop down menus. “Show the connected villages with population ‘X-range from ‘Y’ road” (Fig. 1), “Show the constructions along the ‘X’ road” (Fig. 2), “Show and report the segments of ‘X’ road in good condition”, “Show all the roads with ‘X’ Base Type”, are some of the customized queries. Queries of this sort are possible at all levels of the administrative hierarchy like Taluka level, District level, Region level etc.

Fig. 1 : Report of villages having population above 1500, connected to an all-weather road

Fig. 2 : Report depicting the location of minor bridges along the roads of Baramati taluka
The network analysis functionality incorporated in the system equips the user to render route optimization, closest facility analysis and resource allocation.

4. Implementation
Implementation of a project of this magnitude and ramifications required effective coordination of the various activities. A Core Committee to oversee the project implementation was constituted by PWD with officials from PWD, C-DAC and MRSAC. Proper work breakdown structures for the activities were prepared and task allocation and schedules for completion was made unambiguous. During the entire project duration, spanning almost two years, regular monthly meetings were conducted to review the progress and sort out the problems. The entire process of data creation – both spatial and non-spatial, required the involvement of a number of engineers and experts of the three agencies. The digital raw data supplied by the MRSAC was printed talukawise and circulated amongst the respective PWD division offices for ground checks. The maps were then updated based on the confirmation obtained through the ground checks conducted by the PWD field engineers. The updated spatial data layers created by MRSAC were then subjected to the quality checking by the PWD officials and C-DAC experts. The success of this entire process (Fig. 3) was ensured through extensive orientation training provided to over 500 PWD field engineers across the state.

Fig. 3 : Project Process Flow

The taluka-wise entry of road data for the creation of attribute database was again spread over 250 division offices of PWD, across the state. The individual PWD division offices in a campus are connected internally through a LAN (Local Area Network), while each campus has been connected to the regional headquarters through a WAN (Wide Area Network), which in turn is then connected to a central location. A proper methodology for non-spatial data collection and compilation was formulated. Properly designed data collection sheets were circulated to all the PWD division offices. The data collected through these sheets was then entered in the application software at the respective PWD division offices. All these databases were then merged to form district-wise, region-wise and statewide databases, by replication over the WAN (Fig. 4). Provision for future updation of the attribute database has been planned through its linkage to a completed works database, which is being created as a part of the comprehensive computerization of the department.

4.1 Issues
The volume of the spatial and non-spatial database was a hard task to manage. In the process, redesign of the system’s structure was inevitable. Arc View GIS’s inability to handle too many database joins effectively in a single project file was one of the major problems encountered. Later on, the problem was solved with converting some of the views with the database join to ODB (Object Database) files and invoking them as and when required into the parent project file. Attribute database creation was a mammoth task as far as the data volume is concerned. The co-ordination of data entry operations in all PWD division offices across the state necessitated in-depth reviews, awareness sessions, training and re-training to the PWD officials time and again.

PWD Wide Area Network

Fig. 4 : Project Data Flow Architecture
Results and Benefits
Customized view interface facilitates unique visualization and querying of the roads with respect to different levels of administration units, i.e., state level, district level, and taluka level. Customized menu based queries enable easy access and retrieval of information by a user having practically no GIS expertise. The query structure prompts the user to enter a value or select a value from the combo box/or a pop-up dialog box. The rest of the query syntax is pre-designed so that whenever the user enters or selects a value, the query is performed and the result is displayed on the modified map. For any selected road, information like surface condition, surface type, base type, crust thickness etc. can be obtained. Queries showing the list of important structures along the side of a road, village connectivity status, unconnected villages etc. have significantly streamlined the work of the PWD officials.

Preparation and printing of thematic maps of any desired scale is possible in the set up. The comprehensive spatial database of roads wherein an exhaustive list of attributes is attached to each kilometre segment of the road makes the system a significant asset management tool. Customized query executions, with report generation capabilities of the system also equip it with decision support capabilities.

As envisioned, the application serves the purpose of a decision support tool at all levels of PWD’s organizational hierarchy. The present version of the application can further be enhanced to incorporate several new features and additions based on future requirements. Web enabling of the application can bring forth an online accessibility and visualization of GIS data, which would definitely be a further enhancement as far as the organization’s decision-making activities are concerned. The requisite processes are underway in this regard. The entire system and the framework on which it has been developed for the state of Maharashtra in India can serve as an effective workable model for governing bodies of other organizations and can go a long way in not only enabling our policy makers but also solving the problems of spatial data.

The authors wish to thank sincerely all the officials and experts from C-DAC, PWD and MRSAC whose involvement has been instrumental in the successful implementation of this massive project. Special thanks are due to Mr. Pradeep Khekare, Member Technical Staff, C-DAC for providing us with neat illustrations for this manuscript.


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