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Department Director:
Kirk Brethauer
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Regional Data Center: Recent Activities

2016 Regional Data Center Activities

Aerial Photograph of Kittanning, Armstrong County
Aerial Photograph of Kittanning, Armstrong County

Regional Aerial Photography - A New View from Above

A multi-year effort to acquire high-resolution aerial photography for Southwestern Pennsylvania to aid projects and programs at SPC, member counties, local governments and planning partners continued in 2016. The detailed aerial imagery is used for a multitude of transportation and economic development projects at SPC and is also used by the planning, emergency management, public works and real estate departments at member counties and local municipalities.

Using specifications based on national mapping standards that support high level of accuracy, imagery was acquired for part of the region in Spring 2015 and the remaining part of the region in Spring 2016. SPC’s project built on past efforts across Pennsylvania, by incorporating highly accurate LiDAR elevation data from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to ensure positional accuracy.

Another component of this project is the near infrared band of light of the aerial images. Aerial photography containing this band allows users to better distinguish between healthy vegetation and human-made infrastructure in GIS mapping programs. This can aid planners and engineers in determining pervious surfaces across the landscape to better manage stormwater at the local level. This new digital base map for the region has been distributed to member counties and PennDOT and SPC is sharing the imagery with municipalities, public utilities and other planning partners for use on local projects and plans.

Landslide Prone Areas – Looking to the Past for Future Plans and Projects

Situated in an area of river valleys and steep slopes, Southwestern Pennsylvania has always dealt with issues involving landslides.  Whether it’s natural or human induced movement, millions of dollars are spent annually on the remediation and removal of landslide materials from roadways.  Pennsylvania’s geography can be challenging for planners, developers, and engineers due to the lack of a comprehensive collection of information documenting past landslide events.  Recognizing the potential impact of landslide prone areas as a component for resiliency planning related to transportation infrastructure, SPC embarked on the conversion of scanned USGS maps to a more useful geo-referenced resource.

In 2016, SPC converted 125 USGS topographic maps in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region where USGS had denoted landslide activity as “active or recently-active” and accurately positioned them at their respective locations across the landscape. SPC then identified and digitized 4,565 sites from the maps where landslides had occurred in the past so that these locations would be further reviewed when they are in the proximity of future infrastructure projects. As landslides are a significant hazard, SPC is trying to increase the use and availability of accurate data to assist planners in making the most informed decisions.

Regional Data Supporting Projects at the Local Level

Projects at the federal, state, county and municipal levels across Southwestern Pennsylvania rely on SPC’s data resources and technical assistance to move forward. From the comprehensive data layers within its regional GIS, to new applications that intersect and analyze different types of data representing the people, structures and environment of Southwestern Pennsylvania, SPC provided support and distributed data for numerous projects in 2016, including:

  • Aerial imagery and elevation data were supplied to design staff at PennDOT Engineering District 12 to assist with the alternatives analysis phase for the Layton Bridge project on SR 4038 in Fayette County. The Layton Bridge is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and PennDOT is required to study a number of design alternatives for rehabilitation of the bridge. PennDOT plans to use SPC’s elevation data for surveying purposes during the study phase project and will perform a traditional survey once the scope is refined to one alignment for the bridge.
  • Aerial imagery and elevation data were supplied to PennDOT Engineering District 12 to assist with evaluating upgrades for the Laurel Valley Transportation Improvement Project along the SR 981 corridor in Mount Pleasant and Unity Townships in Westmoreland County. This project will focus on increasing safety and providing more efficient travel along the corridor. PennDOT has been working with Westmoreland County, SPC, municipal governments and the public in the study phase of the project to determine a preferred improvement concept for upgrades along SR 981.
  • SPC developed mapping based on 2015 EcoLane data from TOC partner Washington Rides. The data depicted the origins and destinations and frequency of trips across the provider’s service area. Mapping the data showed the distribution of trips and is expected to aid in determining changes or expansion of service across Washington County.
  • SPC developed an online mapping application for Washington County’s Freedom Transit to showcase current transit routes and stops of the system and linked the application to Freedom Transit’s website for access by commuters and the general public
  • SPC provided mapping for transit planners that examined existing transit corridors and service connections with other modes of travel. The mapping focused on transit routes that originate in New Castle, Lawrence County and the City of Butler, Butler County and connecting to the City of Pittsburgh.
  • SPC created GIS data representing the locations of public electric charging stations and compressed natural gas refueling stations across the region. This data was also published to an online map application to assist employers and the public in evaluating commuting options across the region.
  • SPC processed GIS data and provided aerial imagery to assist with the development of conceptual alternatives for a highway crossing of SR 981 in Ohiopyle Borough, Fayette County for PennDOT District 12. Data items representing infrastructure, demographics and environmental conditions and aerial imagery will assist in planning alternatives and for providing a near real-time base map for the project for public participation and outreach.
  • SPC provided mapping data for the SR 288 roadway realignment project in Southern Butler County to assist with public meetings.
  • SPC processed aerial imagery to assist in identifying and investigating issues related to truck traffic in the downtown section of the City of Butler, particularly along SR 8/Main Street, as part of the Butler Truck Study for the Butler County Planning Department. The study’s goal is to analyze truck routes, technology, and various intersection and corridor improvements that will help decrease the impact of truck traffic in the downtown area. The aerial photography from SPC will be used for conceptual layouts of proposed improvement alternatives.
  • SPC processed land use data for West Pike Run Township, Washington County and the surrounding area to assist in updating the Township’s comprehensive plan.
  • Updated GIS data of the region’s hydrology network in Washington County were supplied to assist the update of watershed road maps in a joint project with the Washington County Watershed Alliance and the Washington County Planning Commission. The updated mapping identifies watersheds and drainage basins across the County and documents watershed monitoring locations in streams and along roads.
  • SPC provided technical support to the Office of Sustainability within the Department of Innovation & Performance at the City of Pittsburgh for their draft Preliminary Resilience Assessment. SPC provided a large collection of GIS data for the City to highlight prioritized action areas. In addition to local areas, SPC provided base data for the entire region to aid in setting context of how the resiliency assessment addresses concerns at county levels.
  • GIS data was provided to the Westmoreland County Conservation District to assist in the creation of an Integrated Water Resource Plan for the County. This multi-year project will aid in prioritizing sub watersheds related to issues of flooding, stormwater, water quality and public water service areas. The District is modeling several watersheds across the counties using data from SPC and other sources. The current version of SPC’s hydrology data reflects updates made by comparing linework against recent aerial imagery and incorporating data collected in the field from SPC’s Local Transportation Asset Management program.

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