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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|Volume VII, Issue 9||September 2004|
By Dennis Folsom
Imagine a future where Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) employees can search their Plans Archive (approximately 150,000 plan sheets dating from the early 1900s to the present) electronically through their computers web browser. They will be able to specify a combination of search criteria, (town name, route number, project number, etc.) and retrieve a set of thumbnail images of plans that match criteria. From this set, they click on a sheets thumbnail, opening a full-screen view, which may be panned and zoomed to illustrate details. They will be able to print full-size (to scale), half size, or reduced to fit any printer (such as 8.5 x 11). CADD software or training is unneeded.
The future starts now! MDOT staff and contractors have just installed Pilot Phase data into the Electronic Plans archiving system. Already, they can retrieve, view and print these plans as described above. More drawings will be added in large batches, and MDOT expects to complete scanning and archiving of Right of Way plans and drawings from the Plans Vault, by early 2005.
Scanning Project Through an RFP procurement process, MDOT has contracted with Smooth Solutions of Lodi, NJ, to scan the plans, post-process the images, apply indexing data, and install the indexed images in their Digital InterPlot archiving system. The contract also requires an indexed microfilm backup set and a set of the image files on DVD media.
Subcontractor Symmetry Systems, Inc., of Clifton Park, NY, is assisting with the database configuration and will process the images and indexes into Digital InterPlot. Smooth Solutions and Symmetry Systems, have successfully completed a similar project for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
Archive and Retrieval System MDOT has installed servers and software to support this system. The images reside in a "disk farm" attached to a file server. The index data resides in an Oracle database system. A Plot Server is the "engine" which processes plots and images into Digital InterPlot, and handles other plot generation tasks. A web server generates the web pages that are viewed by the systems users.
For now, this archive system is accessible only from computers within Maine State governments network. Infrastructure, logistics, security, and state government web policy issues must be addressed prior to Internet viewing.
Ongoing Archiving What about new plans as projects are constructed? One of the key features of the Digital InterPlot system is the ability to "plot" from MDOTs MicroStation drafting system to the archive. When new contract plans are approved for construction, an "archive librarian" will plot them to the archive, along with appropriate index data.
Other types of plans are being discussed for system archiving. Likely candidates include public hearing plans, "as-built" plans modified during construction, and preliminary plans for high-interest projects, such as the Prospect-Verona Bridge.
How Does This Relate to Other Document Management Systems? MDOT has a system called TEDOCS for electronic storage and retrieval of most documents (generally 8.5 x 11 or 8.5 x 14 in size). This Electronic Plans system will be used to store and retrieve plans and other large format items. Both of these systems are searched through a web browser interface and both have their index data stored in Oracle. A future enhancement may produce a "superquery" that will search both systems. It is envisioned that the user would click on a query results item to launch the appropriate viewer.
Future Electronic Plans Enhancements The archive and retrieval system described above is only part of MDOTs Electronic Plans implementation. Other planned features include full electronic plan set production, and posting electronic plan sets on the Bid Express website, along with our electronic bids, starting in early 2005.
The implementation of Electronic Plans technology will eventually affect the workflow. MDOT will be able to implement systems for electronic review and approval of plans on-screen (or printed to paper if desired), and for the use of electronic signature technology to ensure validity.
For more information contact Dennis Folsom by calling 624-3179, or e-mailing email@example.com. He can send State government network users links to intranet pages providing access to the Electronic Plans system, and a descriptive PowerPoint presentation.