Insights

Do This, Not That: OpenRoads Best Practices

Lately, there have been significant discussions within DOTs and FHWA to adopt OpenRoads technology and 3D models in the development of roadway transportation construction plans. If you’ve been reluctant to make the jump from SELECTseries 2 (SS2) to SELECTseries 4 (SS4), you aren’t alone. The introduction of OpenRoads technology in SS4 is a significant change for users – enough so that many are hesitant to learn and adopt the new technology or have no idea where to start.

If that sounds like you, take my advice: don’t wait until you have to use OpenRoads technology to learn how it works. Avoid putting yourself in that situation by learning OpenRoads technology now with SS4, before the more significant leap in technology arrives with OpenRoads Designer/CONNECT edition.

When you’re ready to take the first steps, here are the top three lessons I’ve learned on my OpenRoads journey:

1. Design with Intent

OpenRoads technology stores information and associations between linework drawn within the design file. These parent-child linework associations preserve the original design intent and store information throughout the development of the design. As a result, how you create geometry and offset lines is vital because it can significantly impact your ability to troubleshoot effectively and make updates efficiently. While you can produce plan view linework with only a baseline/profile, it doesn’t mean you should; laying out the horizontal linework first adds another dimension of quality control to the design and allows for more efficient 3D modeling.

Another common issue I’ve seen related to design intent is the use of multi-snaps (e.g., keypoint plus perpendicular snap). Placing two constraints on a child element creates an error since OpenRoads does not know how to update the line should the parent element be revised. 

For the best results:

  • Do this: layout your horizontal linework first and use that to drive the horizontal control of any 3D model(s) using only single-snaps for control.
  • Not that: use the plan view 3D model linework without developing the horizontal linework first.

2. Prepare for the Unexpected

There’s always a chance that a project’s work limits will be modified or expanded after the design is already underway. There’s also a good chance that different individuals and disciplines on the project team will have varying needs for their part of the design – including how far baselines extend, which gets increasingly challenging to change the further the design has progressed. 

To prepare for the unexpected and set up the whole team for success:

  • Do this: be liberal when setting baselines at the start of a project.
  • Not that: constrain your baselines, and design as a whole, to just the project limits.

3. Divide and Conquer (Where Possible)

Working in slow and poorly performing software can be one of the most frustrating parts of anyone’s job. When it comes to design software, we all know that the size of a file can be the most significant drain on computing performance, speed, and the ability to troubleshoot effectively. While OpenRoads can significantly increase computing speed itself, it’s still a good idea to break up the design into multiple files to further enhance computer performance.

To maintain optimal performance: 

  • Do this: break the project into multiple basemaps – such as one for the survey basemapping/terrain model, horizontal linework, one for superelevation, and one for the proposed 3D model.
  • Not that: overpack all of the project data into a single file and assume it can handle all the data.

Have No Fear – OpenRoads (and I) Are Here

There will always be a learning curve with new technology, but it doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. When you start using OpenRoads technology, set yourself up for success by doing some research and best practices to follow. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll likely find the benefits of designing with the 3D modeling and smart tools within OpenRoads/SS4 far outweigh the associated learning curve. And, if you need help at any point on your OpenRoads journey, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Mike Taricska, PE, Transportation Engineer
Mike Taricska, PE
Transportation Engineer