C+S May 2020 Vol. 6 Issue 5 (web)

Port Forward Underground tunneling reduces disruptions By Jodie Hartnell

Prior to 2016, the busy Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) had “No enterprise GIS, no GIS software, and no dedicated GIS staff,” accord- ing to Maggie Cloos, Port NOLA GIS Manager. “We then got a grant for port security from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), secured GIS software, and plans were formed to convert disparate legacy records, site plans, and institutional knowledge.” And—most importantly—an initial phase of field asset mapping. Cloos, who began her career at the port in construction projects admin- istration, had completed some GIS courses as part of her graduate stud- ies just as the port was exploring the development of its first enterprise GIS. Cloos chaired a steering committee to do needs analysis. She says the port fully recognized there are three crucial fundamentals a GIS must seek to be an effective tool for operations, planning, maintenance, security, and disaster response: completeness, currency and accuracy. Legacy Records The state of the port’s infrastructure records prior to this initiative was silos of data in each department. This included legacy manual draw- ings (many that had been converted to CAD), engineering plans, site plans—but mostly institutional knowledge. “This is a big challenge for us when people retire or if we need information and someone is not available at the time,” said Cloos. “There are a lot of CAD drawings on certain facilities, but there were no comprehensive maps.” “FEMA grants enabled us to acquire Esri GIS software.” said Cloos. “We worked with Esri’s professional services, who helped us set up the launch kit. But, in 2016 we really didn’t have anything to put into it yet. We really kicked off with mapping in early summer of 2017.” Cloos outlined priorities for asset mapping and records integration: “We had a lot of big site plans for large facilities like wharves, build- ings, bridges. But many of the critical elements were small assets that require regular maintenance, and we did not have good locations for those. For instance, the many mooring bits where vessels tie off: these had to be collected with [GNSS]. Or they could be picked from aerial images—though they would still need to be ground-truthed.” To begin to visualize maintenance routines, the port sought to gather every crane rail, crane tie-down points, container gantry cranes, wharf decks, piles, things used in everyday operations, and disaster response. “Always in the back of our minds is the port security and domain awareness perspective,” said Cloos, “Especially with all the rail run- ning through our port facilities. Say if there were a train derailment, we would need to know the critical utilities in our massive terminals that might be affected or compromised.” A sudden influx of additional records from the Port’s recent acquisition of a shortline railroad exacerbated the challenge of integrating records

into the new enterprise GIS. The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Corporation (NOPB) was established in 1908. Effective February 2018, NOPB became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Port of New Orleans. NOPB is a Class III switching railroad with the primary mis- sion of serving the Port of New Orleans and local industries. NOPB is a neutral carrier with direct connection to six Class I railroads: BNSF; CN; CSX; Kansas City Southern; Norfolk Southern; and Union Pacific. “We did our best to convert all the rail system property records they had: real estate they owned, records of track servitude, easements, things of that nature,” said Cloos. “We had crews walk and map every segment of track and mark all assets. Every whistle board, derail de- vice—every small piece of infrastructure.” The combined records of these two entities, among the world’s busi- est ports and rail hubs, varied in completeness and currency. With the completeness of all the legacy records in question, any effort to inte- grate would require at a minimum substantial field verification, and in many cases new data acquisition via aerial image interpretation and GNSS field mapping. First Phase Mapping Enlisted to help create this new updated and augmented enterprise GIS was the respected local consulting firm, Environmental Science Brennon Albarez (left), field technician, and Andrew Milanes, VP of Es², capturing waterfront infrastructure features along the Nashville Avenue Wharf, such as mooring bits and gantry crane features, using a Trimble R2 and T10 tablet with Esri Collector.



may 2020

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