Every Innovation Starts With A Conversation

The team bringing Caltrans out of file boxes and into the cloud shares their journey.  

By Angie Schmitt 

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How many state DOTs are still storing their files in a warehouse full of boxes? 

That was a question posed by Aaron Chamberlain, a senior transportation engineer at Caltrans, during a webinar on Digital As-Builts hosted by the Federal Highway Administration last month. 

Caltrans has a warehouse full of file boxes like that, he said, full of paper tickets from projects and voluminous records that accumulate when managing transportation for a state of 40 million people.  

“We know this isn’t the way moving forward,” Chamberlain told listeners. “And this is what we’re trying to replace.” 

California has been using Digital As-Builts for close to a decade now, he said. (Although many of the files are not geo-referenced.) However, as of July 2021, the agency has moved away from paper records entirely. 

Creating the digital infrastructure to seamlessly network the various management programs, with different suppliers from ESRI to Trimble is a huge undertaking.  

“We’re trying to set ourselves up to work smarter, not harder,” said Mark Counts, chief of office surveying systems for Caltrans. “This is an infinite game and for us the game is, how can we be most efficient, for the longest period of time to benefit basically our taxpayers, our constituents.” 

Transforming the way Caltrans — an agency with 22,000 staff — delivers projects is not as simple as purchasing and installing the required software, Counts and Chamberlain said.  

“There was a lot of work to do with public and private partners connecting all the programs and technologies,” said Counts. Many of the programs don’t “work straight out of the box,” and Caltrans has had to work closely with the software company vendors to help integrate the software within the larger system, he said. Fortunately, he said, with suppliers like Trimble the relationship has gone beyond a typical vendor, customer situation.   

“You’re going to dream a better tomorrow and you’re going to create it together,” said Counts. 

To view the view the entire webinar visit and use the password below.  

Passcode: @pQy61k1