Use Interactive Mapping to See Construction and Build Relationships

The City of Lake Forest, IL developed an intuitive application that lets the public and staff see where construction projects are occurring throughout the year. With the assistance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the City Manager’s Office and Engineering departments created a map application that will display the location of all construction sites in the city. Each site has a short project summary, along with photos and site plans. Information will be updated on a weekly basis.

The first step for GIS staff was to acquire all locations and related information. Construction sites were mapped and project details and photos were populated. Data was loaded into an online map environment, called Story Maps, powered by Esri’s ArcGIS Online application.  Story Maps enable a user to host an inactive map showing localized data, such as construction sites. The end result is a URL web link embedded on the city’s webpage. Once the Story Map is published, users can view construction sites and related information. When a site is selected, additional details are displayed in the left-hand panel of the webpage. 

Creating an interactive map gives Lake Forest residents a convenient source of information. They can browse construction sites and consume the most current project updates. Delivering data like this in an intuitive format and streamlined fashion is a valuable resource for building community relations.

Using GIS to Find Population Affecting Outfalls

The Village of Morton Grove, IL was required by the EPA to conduct an analysis of the population affecting the sewer outfalls in the village. The EPA needed to know how many people contributed to each outfall through the village sewer system. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a study was done to find the sewer system pipes that connect homes to each outfall and then compare this to the population of the village.

First, census data was used to find the population of Morton Grove by census block. Then, because the sewer system is connected throughout the village, desktop GIS software was used to derive which homes and areas were connected throughout this system to each outfall. Comparing these two yielded the population that contributed to the drainage from each outfall.

Morton Grove was able to accurately respond to the question posed by the EPA and deliver a map and analysis along with their report. Having an accurate and connected sewer system through GIS was an important aspect to allow this kind of analysis to take place.

Collecting Road Improvement Information in the Field

The City of Lake Forest, IL Engineering Department manages reported potholes on an annual basis. After the winter months, the streets become damaged from freezing and thawing and regular snow plowing efforts, resulting in potholes and other road repair issues. Historically, engineering staff would field survey reported pothole locations and pothole measurement and condition assessments would be made.  Those assessments would then be put into a spreadsheet with an associated address and that spreadsheet would be given to a village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist to map the pothole locations. These methods proved to be inefficient and commonly resulted in data lose. To help streamline this process and remove some of the steps involved, the pothole inventory is now performed using a mobile application called Collector.

With the use of the Collector application, staff can now perform their pothole assessments using just a tablet or smartphone in the field. This method eliminates the need to hand write pothole details and have a GIS Specialist manually plot the potholes locations. Using Collector, staff can create a point at a desired location, define attributes associated to that point, and capture a related photo. The captured pothole data is then extracted from the tablet or phone onto the engineering workstations. The data can now be exported in a spreadsheet form and the locations captured in the field are ready to be mapped.

The process introduced by using the Collector application can be replicated to field capture any location inventory. Utilizing a tablet or smartphone is a more convenient platform for use in the field. The intuitive functionality of the mobile application reduces training time and reduces the need to have multiple people working on one project. The ability to capture the inventory without having to manually plot the location later provides the city with the flexibility to replicate the process for collecting other asset information in the future.

Using Interactive Mapping to view Capital Improvements

The City of Lake Forest, IL has developed an intuitive application that allows the public to view ongoing capital improvement projects and related project information. The Engineering department requested a method for residents to be able to quickly view capital improvements throughout the city. With the assistance of staff from the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department, the Engineering department hosted a map application that displayed the location of each project. Each project will have a unique photo, as well as a comprehensive list of related information.

The first step was for GIS staff to acquire all of the project locations and information. The capital improvement projects were then mapped and the related information populated. The data was then loaded into an online map environment, called Story Maps, which is powered by Esri’s ArcGIS Online environment. The Story Maps interface provides a user the ability to host an interactive map showing localized data, in this case improvement projects. The end result of this project was a URL web link that is embedded on the city’s webpage. Once the Story Map was published, users could view the current construction projects. A user could select a property on the map and additional information, including a photo, is displayed in a pop-up dialog box.

Creating this interactive map provides residents with a streamlined source of information. Users can be able to browse city capital improvement projects without looking through a cumbersome word document or spreadsheet. Having this information in an intuitive format and in accessible location has proven to be a valuable and time saving resource.

Importing Data from CAD into GIS

The City of Des Plaines, IL is fortunate to have a talented in house engineering staff that designs and manages many of the city’s infrastructure projects.  As a part of the construction process the engineers create plans using CAD (Computer Aided Design).  These plans show what is being constructed and also details about the pipes and structures being installed.  In addition to these construction plans, the city’s utility system information is also inputted and tracked in the city’s robust Geographic Information System (GIS).  This allows all staff to view the utilities in a web-based mapping application called MapOffice™ and also be used for analysis in the GIS desktop software.  The current process of inputting data into GIS is slow and inefficient.  Once the engineer completes their plans they are given to the GIS Specialist, who then draws the data in GIS.  This current workflow has a duplication of efforts, and the turnaround time can be quite high. 

To alleviate this slow turnaround time, a city engineer and the GIS Specialist worked together to determine if there was a more efficient workflow that could be used to get the location information and data from CAD to GIS.  It was determined that that if the engineer was to use a pipe network, which is a component of the CAD software, when entering their plans that data could easily be moved from CAD to GIS with little to no manual effort needed on the GIS side.  Pipe networks allow engineers to utilize what’s called a part catalog, which stores more information about the features being installed than if they were simply drawn in.  Using the pipe network allowed the GIS staff to export the network using a process provided by the CAD environment and then import the data directly into GIS. 

This process saves a significant amount of time and also removes the duplication of effort since the utility information is only being drawn once.  To further improve this process GIS staff will collaborate with all the city’s engineers to build their pipe network catalog to contain as much useful information as possible, which will allow it to integrate seamlessly into the GIS database structure. 

Modeling Retention Pond Capacities

Managing storm water is a major issue for all GIS Consortium communities.  When a recent home improvement was proposed in a small subdivision of the Village of Northbrook, engineers were concerned about the ability of the retention ponds for that subdivision to hold increased storm runoff.  Engineering contacted GIS to help determine the capacity or volume of water the two retention ponds can hold.

GIS was able to used contour data and as-built drawings to model the slopes and depths of the retention ponds.  That data was then converted to a Raster, a GIS feature used to model elevation as seen in the image above, which can then be used to perform complex analysis.

Using the GIS Consortium shared resource, Spatial Analyst Extension, GIS was able to utilize tools that analyze the elevation raster and calculate volumes and surface areas at given elevations.  GIS was then able to provide engineering staff with the retention pond capacities (volumes) at many different elevation levels.  The retention pond capacities could then be compared with impervious surface calculations and projected runoff volumes to determine if the ponds can handle the additional water load. 

The retention pond capacity study completed by GIS provided engineering with useful and accurate information that otherwise would have been taken many hours of hand calculations perform.  The data provided allowed engineering staff to make the best possible decisions regarding home improvements and storm water runoff.

ArcGIS Online Pavement Marking Collection


The City of Des Plaines has been looking to create an inventory of the city owned pavement markings.  In the past, they’ve had workers use aerial imagery in the office or paper maps out in the field to update the information.  Unfortunately, the aerial imagery is not always current and sending people out in the field with paper maps can be time consuming when the data is brought back into the office and has to be implemented into the database by hand.  The Engineering Department has been looking for a way to collect the information out in the field and update the databases without having to use paper maps.

A project was created in ESRI’s ArcGIS Online program that allows the user to collect pavement marking information in the field using the Collector Mobile Application.  The Collector Application allows the user to add in pavement marking lines and accompanying attribute information in the field using a mobile device like an iPad or Android Tablet.  The application has the aerial imagery and base map data for the city, so the user can place pavement marking features in the exact location regardless of imagery vintage.  This eliminates the need to collect the information in the field on paper and then bring it back into the office to have someone manually update the information in the GIS system.  With the Collector Application, the updates are either synched in real-time out in the field or loaded into the system in a one step process in the office.  By using GIS, the Engineering department was able to come up with a solution for updating pavement marking data in the field, eliminating the need for someone to collect the information in the field and then manually update the information.

Business Intelligence Launches in Northbrook


The Village of Northbrook has recently launched the MapOffice Web Access tool called Business Intelligence.  Business Intelligence is a tool that allows users to filter and display live data from community or custom databases. 

Three attributes of Business Intelligence, filtering, visualization, and live data, make it a very powerful tool.  Business Intelligence allows users to visualize data on a map by plotting that data by address or XY coordinates.  Many times, community databases or software do not have great ways to display the wealth of data they hold.  Business Intelligence helps solve this problem by connecting to those databases and displaying the data on MapOffice so users can gain further incite about the data or look for trends.

When looking for trends it is sometimes necessary to manipulate how you view the data.  Business Intelligence permits the user to filter the data by date and/or a field within the data.  For example, Northbrook has set up a connection to a custom home foreclosure database that allows users to filter foreclosures by date and the foreclosure status.  Now the user can narrow the data that is displayed to show only what they are interested in.

Finally, Business Intelligence offers live connections to the databases.  This can be extremely powerful as users can view and analyze data held in the database as it is updated without having to wait for data to be uploaded to MapOffice.

The Village of Northbrook looks forward to taking advantage of this useful and powerful tool by connecting to community databases and software such as FireHouse, an ERP system, and many others to come.

Water Main and Bike Path Improvement Support

A small portion of the Village of Glenview’s 2014 capital improvements budget was allocated to pave a dirt bike path located in a public right of way between the backyards of two neighborhoods.  Once the village engineers began planning the paving project, they realized it would be advantageous to also replace an aging water main that runs adjacent to the bike path in an effort to minimize construction costs and the frequency of construction in the area.  Since this was somewhat of a last minute project, engineers decided to do all planning and construction internally, rather than using an outside contractor.  Engineers were able to field check a quick plan that seemed to fit in the small area, but in order to verify the plan would work prior to surveying the area, they asked the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff to create a map displaying accurate measurements to verify that their field checks align spatially with the surrounding infrastructure, fences, and private property.

To ensure the mapping for this project was accurate, GIS staff located and digitized existing water infrastructure, fence lines, private property, and the existing bike path using multiple sets of aerial imagery from various years.  Once these fixed points were identified, the GIS staff used the field measurements provided by engineering staff to create a map displaying the proposed new water main in the exact location it would be at when installed in the field.  Without GIS, village engineers would not have been able to mock up the project beforehand and would have needed to survey the project right away, without the guarantee that their plan would work.   This would cost a considerable amount of money, both in initial costs and in potential redesign costs if the project did not work as planned.  GIS was able to quickly turn around a map that was used as both a planning tool by village staff and a tool to inform residents where work would be done near their homes.

GIS Assists with Capital Project Public Outreach

​The Village of Deerfield, IL prides itself on operating in an accessible and open manner with full transparency to its residents and those interested in learning more about the village.  In keeping with these values, the village Engineering department approached the Geographic Information System (GIS) staff with a request to help make progress of seasonal construction projects more visible to the public, highlighting how the project develops over the construction season.

In 2015, the village embarked on large scale resurfacing, replacement, and reconstruction projects of seven major roads.  By utilizing GIS, an online map was created for the village website that displays each project area and pictures showing the before condition of the road to be replaced.  By clicking on each picture, more information about the details of each project can be learned, including appropriate contact information for village staff in case any questions or concerns may arise from the work being done. Additional links located in the map allow village residents to subscribe to a given construction project and receive emails at regular intervals providing progress updates for that project.

The future of this online map is to create a before, during, and after display of pictures that shows the gradual progression of each active project.  Eventually, this product will also contain a repository of all documented historical construction projects in the village and provide employees and residents with an easy-to- use tool to search construction history.