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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
GITA Geospatial Infrastructure Solutions Conference 31 Report
by Susan Smith
The problem of aging and out of date infrastructure has become of prime importance in today’s world.
What I heard at the GITA Conference 31 (newly named Geospatial Infrastructure Solutions Conference) was a reinforcement of that concern. GITA was even rebranded in response to the industry’s focus on infrastructure, spurred by the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card, which states that an estimated $1.6 trillion is needed to bring America’s infrastructure up to “good” status by 2010.
The concern about infrastructure is across the board, not just a geospatial thing: it touches other industries such as architecture, engineering and construction, obviously, plant and process, even manufacturing. As more professionals share this overriding concern, the dividing lines between technologies must blur to accommodate a growing need for industries and people to work together. Utilities and municipalities are working creatively to find the funding to be able to address their infrastructure issues, for tools that cost less and are simpler to use. The deepening concern about infrastructure is not limited to aging infrastructure, it extends to infrastructure we need to build in order to keep current, to protect our environment, and to protect our country from hostile forces.
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GITA’s conference chair Michael Cerkas
As the technical team manager he also helps to coordinate resource allocation, recruit new staff and external resources, jointly develop training plans with the staff and guide their professional development. Before GeoAnalytics, Cerkas was GIS manager with the Wisconsin Public Service which has since merged to form a bigger entity, the Integrys Group.
Cerkas met the challenge of creating a completely new conference program this year, with the rebranding of the conference to hone in on Infrastructure and Emergency Response.
Industry issues this year revolve around new market sectors driven by the federal government’s definition of infrastructure, which states that infrastructure is basically everything and anything that supports our way of life with communities, i.e. utilities, transportation including air, maritime, rail, trucking, consumer, educational system, medical infrastructure, communications infrastructure, financial and national historic buildings. “We can see where we’re building off utilities, but also want to recognize the fact that we need to change along with industry and expand our focus on infrastructure,” Cerkas explained. “We’re now looking at a system of systems, rather than just looking at geospatial applications.”
For Monday’s Opening Session, Cerkas introduced former Pittsburgh mayor and senior resident fellow of the Urban Land Institute, Tom Murphy, who shared some of his experiences with the need for geospatial and infrastructure.
Murphy’s experience with geospatial may have begun with the purchase of RouteSmart for managing garbage trucks better in the city of Pittsburgh. Knowing where trucks were blossomed into knowing the location of more things, services, people.
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Former Pittsburgh mayor and senior resident fellow of the Urban Land Institute, Tom Murphy
Since 9/11, Murphy said that our need for geospatial has grown. “When I was mayor, we got a call form the FBI that there was a plane that was not responding, a plane coming towards Pittsburgh, it flew within 10 miles of Pittsburgh,” Murphy said. “For 25 minutes it was the worst time of my life. My emergency personnel were all meeting in my office, we notified major buildings to evacuate, we gridlocked the city. People had never done an evacuation of the U.S. Steel building where 10,000 people were. The plane passed by Pittsburgh and crashed in Somerset.”
From that point on, Murphy said we have been working on shaping the ability to respond better.
Murphy said that our “American Dream” has changed, we are no longer in the land of “Ozzie and Harriet.” Four forces have caused this to happen:
- global warming
- competing demand for energy
- lack of infrastructure investment
- unsustainable development trends
Because of global warming, natural disasters are occurring with greater frequency and put more strain on an already aging infrastructure.
65% of our oil comes from foreign oil. “Do you want your economic future depending upon foreign oil?” asked Murphy. China is number two in world car ownership now. “What does that mean as we approach $4 a gallon?”
The 1990s saw more people emigrate to the U.S. than in 1910. In 1903, Horatio Nelson Jackson, a doctor who made the first U.S road trip to go across country to a medical convention in California, debated with other doctors about the impact the automobile would have on society. The other doctors didn’t think it would have much impact; there were 8,000 roads in the U.S. in 1903 and no state highway departments. By 1923, there were 10 million cars, state departments of transportation and many more paved roads.
Murphy talked about how regional government with regional cooperation is a huge issue, citing successful examples:
The Denver-Transit bond issue was successful in raising money to build the Fastrak subway transit system, 120 miles with over 50 systems. In response to the concern that the mountains around Denver would be destroyed by sprawl, the government and citizens brought together 7 countries and 32 municipalities and got $2 billion bond approval to build the subway transit system and control growth.
Since 1971, St Paul-Minneapolis has been involved in tax base sharing, where 188 municipalities and 7 countries share 40 % of their tax.
Five counties in the Cleveland area tax district got together and decided the park system shouldn’t be at the bottom of their list of priorities for communities, and they created Cleveland Metroparks, with an independent funding system for parks.
Seven counties around Orlando developed a GIS map to show alternative scenarios to dealing with their rapid growth rate. The population is expected to more than double from 3.5 million to 7.2 million residents. The Central Florida Regional Growth Vision attracted 20,000 participants to their local meetings.
Murphy also talked about a public private partnership where big transportation arteries like turnpikes are leased, and tax increment financing is used to be able to get financing for infrastructure.
China also recognizes the need for infrastructure which they haven’t invested in until recently, and are now investing approximately $160 billion annually into new projects. In just 12 years, they have completed a 25,000 mile highway system, comparable to the U.S. interstates. The Beijing subway expanded from 70 to 335 miles in little more than a decade. Thousands of miles of high speed rail lines are under construction to speed up travel between large cities.
“The Chinese government has offered to build a rail line from Long beach to Chicago for the U.S. because they know the goods that arrive in Long Beach are going to get stuck in the port there,” said Murphy.
Murphy pointed to the reauthorization of the federal highway trust fund next fall, which will allocate $350 billion for six years in the single largest investment by the government in infrastructure. Some people are beginning to organize a national referendum on how we invest in infrastructure in the federal government.
You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.
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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.