City to spend $50k to create 3D Island maps, not $100k

A couple of online stories datelined Orlando, Fla., surprised Mercer Island city and Reporter staff members last week in their statement that Mercer Island had awarded Data Transfer Solutions, an Orlando-based technology services company, with a contract worth more than $100,000 to provide road data and scanning systems.

An excerpt from one article, published by on Sept. 4, read, “[DTS] also received a contract worth more than $100,000 from Mercer Island in the state of Washington to provide data and scanning systems used to develop and analyze 3D models of highway right-of-ways.”

Because the city of Mercer Island has no authority over state highways, even the I-90 corridor that passes through the Island, the statement by raised eyebrows among Reporter staff.

A second online article, published by Directions Magazine on Sept. 3, reported differing facts. According to its author, the DTS contract was for “more than $100,000” and would go toward “asset and pavement data collection utilizing the DTS Mobile Asset Collection Vehicle.”

When asked about the two online stories, City Information Services Administrator Mike Kaser said that they were only partially true. The city did sign a contract with DTS to use its Mobile Asset Collection Vehicle, he said. However, the contract was for $50,000, not $100,000, and the equipment would be surveying Mercer Island streets rather than developing “3D models of highway right-of-ways.”

“It seems that the company has an over-zealous PR writer,” Kaser said with a laugh.

The street surveying project, which is part of the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), was approved by Councilmembers earlier this year. Beginning this week, a car equipped with cameras and GPS equipment will drive every public street on Mercer Island, collecting “right-of-way” data, from the number of neighborhood fire hydrants to the quality of Mercer Island’s storm drains.

“It’s similar to the Google Earth cars with GPS and camera equipment mounted on them,” Kaser said. “The equipment takes in all of the pavement conditions: street markings, fire hydrants, street lights and storm drains — anything that’s in the right-of-way.”

The vehicle will spend approximately one week cruising the Island neighborhoods. Once all the streets have been filmed, DTS experts will compute the data and update the city’s geographic utility maps. This, Kaser said, is what most of the $50,000 is going toward.

“They come out and operate the equipment. They process the data. They give us information that allows us to update our maps and see what streets need improvement,” the information services administrator said.

This will be the first time that the city of Mercer Island has worked with DTS. In the past, Mercer Island street surveys were conducted manually by hired professionals.

“This [DTS] contract allows us not to have to pay anyone to do that. The car drives around the Island and the computer updates all of this stuff,” he said.

Kaser said he has confidence in the DTS experts hired for the job. As for the company’s PR writers, that is another matter.

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