PennDOT gearing up for 3D design, digital bids on construction projects

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Updated Aug 31, 2020
Credit: PennDOTCredit: PennDOT

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to allow three-dimensional designs and digital bids on transportation construction projects by 2025.

PennDOT joins a few other DOTs around the country that are studying building information modeling, or BIM, versus the current 2D computer-aided design and draft (CADD) method.

The agency says 3D plans are already being developed for the reconstruction of the Eisenhower Boulevard interchange with I-83, I-283 and U.S. 322 in Dauphin County.

The initiative, called Planless 2025, would eventually lead to 3D plans for the agency’s road and bridge network. “Inspectors would work with iPads and see all road or bridge details in 3-D, aiding in their work,” the DOT says.

It would also lead to a paperless design, bidding and construction process. “The 3D models will have details for all elements to be built and serve as the ‘document of truth’ from which the contractors will work,” the agency says.

Several other DOTs have been performing BIM pilot programs.

The Iowa DOT used 3D modeling on one of the ramps for the reconstruction of the I-80/I-380 interchange near Iowa City. The DOT worked with HDR Engineering to use OpenBridge Modeler V8i and ProStructures V8i software to design the curved steel plate girder bridge.

IDOT declares it to be one of the nation’s first bridges built through a 3D design, bid, build contract.

The Utah Department of Transportation has also been moving toward 3D digital delivery and has said it plans to become the first DOT in the country to convert to a completely paperless concept. It has set up several digital delivery projects, including for the construction of a new section of I-80 in Tooele Valley.

The New York State Department of Transportation has used 3D modeling for the third phase of its reconstruction of the Kew Gardens Interchange in Queens.

The Federal Highway Administration says BIM can provide such benefits as increased revenue for contractors, fewer errors, increased worker safety, improved project communication, better cost forecasting and improved efficiency and design.

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As PennDOT progresses down the 3D road, it has hired HDR, which worked on Iowa DOT’s pilot.

“Adopting a complete digital delivery approach positions PennDOT as a national leader in infrastructure planning and delivery, and we’re excited to partner with the department to put it into action,” said Dan Giles, HDR project manager.

PennDOT says it is also reaching out to Iowa and Utah DOTs for its 3D efforts, and it plans to help lead the way for others.

“It’s a different way of doing business,” says Allen Melley, PennDOT civil engineer manager who heads the agency’s Digital Delivery program. “… We are moving to be a leader.”