3D Modeling Aids Decision Making


3D mapping is a relatively underutilized aspect of GIS in local government.  The Village of Northbrook was recently able to use 3D mapping when considering two options for an intersection improvement.  One option included the construction of new curbs to adjust the traffic pattern.  The other option called for orange road delineators to direct traffic in place of curb construction.  The road delineators would be the less expensive option but there were concerns from Village staff about the appearance of a permanent road delineator installation. 

This is where GIS was contacted and asked if there was a way to model the intersection in 3D to better understand how the intersection would look with permanent road delineators.  We were able to take advantage of the ESRI 3D Analyst extension, a shared resource available through GIS Consortium, which can be used to create and view scenes in 3D.  Using road delineator specifications and accurate GIS data such as roads and buildings, GIS was able to create a 3D model relatively accurate to scale.  GIS was then able to provide engineers and decision makers with multiple views and angles including bird’s eye and profile views of what the intersection would look like.

The 3D intersection model can now be used by decision makers to weigh the costs and benefits of the road delineator option by comparing both the associated construction or maintenance costs and visual appearances.    

Highland Park Launches Community Portal


The City of Highland Park made a recent addition to the main page of the website; Property Search, also known as Community Portal. Highland Park has long been directing the public to MapOffice Public for their information needs but now the public has another site at just the click of a mouse.

Community Portal makes looking up property information quick and easy.  On the front page of the Highland Park webpage is a "Property Search" widget that directs the public to enter an address for more information.  When an address is entered in, Community Portal launches itself with a "Property Summary" landing page. Multiple tabs of information are provided within Community Portal and it is completely customizable based on the community’s needs. The idea behind Community Portal that makes it so different from MapOffice is that not all information needs to be displayed on a map such as garbage pickup day/time, rather just text information is needed which is where Community Portal steps in. It is the simplicity and ease of use that makes Community Portal so beneficial to Highland Park.

As Highland Park begins to understand what information the public is looking for, Community Portal will be developed further around that. As stated earlier, it is completely customizable based on the communities needs and that is how Highland Park will advance itself in providing need to know information to the public. More to come with Community Portal!

Street Sign Inventory Field Collection


As part of the MUTCD Sign Retroreflectivity program, communities are required to keep an inventory of their existing street signs which they will then use to create a maintenance program for sign retroflectivity.  The City of Des Plaines has a sign inventory that they have created in the past, but they wanted to make sure their inventory was up-to-date.  They determined that they wanted to send employees out in the field to confirm existing sign locations and collect any additional signs or information.

The City of Des Plaines decided to use the ArcGIS Online Collector Application to capture missing sign locations and information.  The Collector Application is a program that can be downloaded to most mobile devices that allows the user to capture GIS field data, such as point locations and attribute information, and then sync the data back with the main database.  The City of Des Plaines is using an Apple iPad with offline editing, meaning that all the changes are stored on the device and then when an online collection is established back in the office, the changes are then synched.  The Collector Application is set up so that the user only has to place sign or post locations and then choose from drop down menus for any of the sign attributes.  This allows the user to quickly place locations and add in the necessary information, without wasting any time.  By using the Collector App and GIS, the City of Des Plaines is quickly revising their Sign Inventory in conjunction with the MUTCD Sign Retroreflectivity Program.

Water Main Break Impact Analysis

Part of the responsibility of the GIS Consortium (GISC) is to collaborate between communities and to obtain shared solutions.  A recent request to estimate the impact of water main breaks was noted as having great potential to be a standard analysis that could be performed for all communities.

Considering this tool could be utilized by all GISC member communities, GISC staff took some time to create a model that evaluates water mains, water laterals, water valves, and addresses to achieve an estimate of households impacted by a water main break and the subsequent repair of that break.  The tool is flexible enough to review the community’s entire water system or just a specific area of interest.


It is expected this will be a powerful tool for Public Works and Engineering personnel to determine areas where they could decrease the number of residents impacted by water main breaks by proactively installing additional water valves.  These new water valves would create shorter sections of continuous water mains and therefore fewer residents would be impacted by future main brakes.

GIS Consortium 3D Mapping Potential


A recent objective of the technical staff in the GIS Consortium (GISC) has been to investigate the potential for 3D mapping and to be sure the GISC’s data model continues to advance and support these new technologies easily.  3D mapping in GIS has been possible for some time now, but it has always been a matter of the ease of doing so.  The value of the 3D products must provide a benefit greater than the time and software costs required to create them.


The GISC’s software provider, ESRI, has an extension called 3D Analyst which provides the 3D mapping opportunities by rendering GIS data that has elevation, height, or level information assigned to it.  A new addition to their suite, called CityEngine, provides for texturing of data to make it appear even more real if needed, but much more time is required to add those components to the map.  These zoning and tree infestation images highlight the kind of maps that can be created and analysis that can be performed using 3D Analyst.  It is quite clear how valuable the third dimension of information is to communicate the volume of infrastructure, natural or manmade, that exists in an area and the impact they have on their surroundings.  GIS is a decision support tool and 3D obviously has a part to play for the GIS Consortium member communities.

ArcGIS Online Finder Application


ArcGIS Online provides many downloadable applications that can be used on smartphones, tablets, and desktops.  This includes web application templates, which are specifically designed to take a web map and then apply graphics, charts, and other related information.  The templates are easy to use and require minimal coding and configuration to get them up and running.  One of these templates is the Finder Application, which is a configurable application template that allows the user to use an attribute search on various feature layers.  This is similar to the Find and Go feature on MapOffice™, but it can be configured to search for any feature attribute, not just address information.

Currently, the GIS Consortium and communities are using the ArcGIS Online Finder Application to create small web based maps that can’t be currently created in MapOffice™.  The Village of Deerfield has put together a web map that allows residents to search a cemetery for specific graves based on the deceased name, and The Village of Lake Forest has an application that allows a user to search for local landmarks.  By using the ArcGIS Online Finder Application, the communities of the GIS Consortium are using new technology to make data querying easier and more efficient.

ArcGIS Online Collector Application

The ArcGIS Online Collector Mobile Application puts mapping in the hands of users out in the field and eliminates the need for paper maps by using Tablets and Smartphones to collect information.  The applications allows users to collect and update GIS data and then sync back with the original GIS databases eliminating the need for the GIS Specialist to enter the data once it comes back in from the field.  The application can be run on either iOS or Android devices and it can use either an internet connection, or the maps and information can be downloaded to the device and the user can work offline before synching back with the database once an internet or WiFi connection is established.


Currently, GIS Consortium communities are using the ArcGIS Online Collector Application to collect things such as Capital Improvement Projects, sidewalk information, and street signs.  The GIS Consortium is looking towards the future by possibly using the Collector Application to track and update utility information out in the field.  By using the ArcGIS Online Collector Application, the communities of the GIS Consortium are using technology to make field collection easier and more efficient.

Tree Asset Ownership Analysis

Throughout the course of the year the Village of Oak Brook, IL receives questions from residents concerning private tree ownership, typically to determine responsibility for maintenance.  Often times these questions can be resolved by a trip to the field by village staff, by referencing building surveys which include tree planting plans, or by utilizing aerial imagery with property lines to see which property the stem of the tree is located on.  If these options don’t yield an acceptable answer to the question, a surveyor needs to be called in to mark property boundaries to determine which property a tree is located.  In an effort to avoid calling in a surveyor for a dead tree removal dispute involving four village properties, village engineers requested that Geographic Information System (GIS) staff use available Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data to determine the location of a tree centroid to help pinpoint exactly who owns the tree.

GIS staff first determined the general location of the tree, under the direction of the village engineer, using aerial imagery.  After the location within the village was determined, LiDAR bare earth elevation points for that area, which represent solid ground around vegetation, buildings, water, etc, were loaded into the GIS software.  Once the bare earth points were loaded for the area in dispute a location in middle of the bare earth point cluster with no data was discovered, representing the canopy of the tree in dispute.  As shown in the associated image, a centroid was then placed in the middle of the approximate tree canopy indicated by the LiDAR point cloud, representing the trunk location, which allowed village engineers to see which property the trunk of tree landed on.  Without GIS, the resolution to this issue would have involved contacting a surveyor to come out, measure each property, and determine ownership.  This process would have taken longer and cost significantly more than the process that was used, which involved leveraging the existing GIS information.

Snow Plow Route Efficiency Analysis

During the record setting winter of 2013-2014, the Village of Glenview, IL snow plows were kept busy with 80 inches of snow falling in the area. Combined with very low temperatures causing icy roads, there were very real concerns about driver fatigue, salt reserves, and snow removal budgetary issues. 

Working together with Public Works, the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was able to simulate the best routes available in the village for use with two scenarios, one with involved 10 snow plows and one that involved 12 snow plows. By modeling the best way to remove snow in the least amount of time through GIS, the Public Works department was able to identify inefficiencies in the existing routes. This tool was also able to provide turn by turn directions to the drivers, ensuring that these new routes would be easy to implement through staff training.

While the increase in route efficiency was one of the desired goals, this project provided results in two other ways. The cost savings associated with a quicker and more efficient snow plow route provides more monetary resources for the Public Works department to provide other quality services to the residents of Glenview.  Safety is also a major consideration, and the less time a snow plow driver is on the road, the safer the roads are for snow plow drivers, pedestrians, and other vehicles.

With the aid of GIS, the village developed a powerful cost saving tools that allow for greater flexibility in winter operations, and better service to village residents.

Updated Photogrammetric Mapping History for GIS Consortium Members

​A proactive approach is taken every year to update GIS Consortium members on how current their spatial data is. The GIS Consortium photogra​mmetric vendor is a nationwide engineering, mapping and survey firm that provides high-accuracy geospatial data that the counties cannot. All available orthophoto (aerial imagery similar to what one might see on Google), planimetric (roads, buildings, rivers) and topographic (elevation) data is visualized by the year it was purchased. Aerial LiDAR coverage is also shown with the topography data. This technology produces surface models from laser pulses emitted from a helicopter or plane. The color-coded maps allow communities to budget for updated data by seeing which areas have been updated in the past and if those areas have seen any significant construction or demolition over the years.

Collecting and maintaining accurate data for a Geographic Information System (GIS) program assures the base map is complete and allows GIS users, municipal employees, and decision makers to consume precise data and make decisions based on accurate, complete data. Commercial mapping companies​s might provide good data from a regional perspective, but their price and low precision are not ideal for local governments. Up-to-date photogrammetric and topographic data is beneficial to both MGP, Inc. employees as well as their clients.