What prompts a DOT to change?

Roads & Highways

By Karen Weiss

RoadConeWhen I first came to work for Autodesk six years ago, only a handful of my highway engineering friends had ever heard of the company. This awareness amongst highway engineers has changed dramatically in the past few years as more and more US Departments’ of Transportation are selecting an Autodesk design software solution such as AutoCAD Civil 3D to replace legacy software.  The latest state DOT in the US to expand their use of Autodesk software is the New Mexico Department of Transportation. So why are DOTs looking to change now?

Most government agencies like NMDOT are looking for ways to save money, and one big way for government agencies to do that is by reducing the number of change orders on projects. Software like AutoCAD Civil 3D, Autodesk Navisworks and Autodesk InfraWorks 360 can help with that.  These government agencies are also finding it more and more important to improve the way they get input from the public and want to use model-based visualizations. Again, Autodesk has the solution. NMDOT cited these benefits, as well as the need to accelerate construction using BIM solutions to support machine-controlled grading, as reasons why they made the switch.

It is interesting to look back and consider how much has changed from when I started my engineering career at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in 1989. We thought we were cutting edge, and not because we stopped wearing pocket protectors. We had moved away from relying on drafts people and Mylar and instead used computers and took advantage of computer-aided drafting software to complete projects. Looking back, of course, I realize that all we were doing was taking old practices and simply duplicating them on a different platform. Sure, we could grab a cup of coffee while we waited for simple things to process on the computer, but overall we saved time. While we were changing the way we produced paper documentation, what we didn’t change was the way we planned and designed highways.

Today my civil engineering friends complain about having to deal with bigger amounts of data, bigger and more complex projects and the need to reach a bigger group of stakeholders. These new problems are demanding a real change in the way they work, and fortunately Autodesk is providing the solutions they need. With my ties to the DOT in my own state, I think it very exciting to see the growing number of DOTs tackling current challenges with a fresh approach and embracing truly new ways of working.

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