And they said it could never happen…

I am married to a DOT engineer.  He can be quoted as saying “No DOT will ever consider a move to Civil 3D”

Louisa Holland would beg to differ. The Wisconsin DOT has just made an announcement that the WISDOT Technology Committee had made the recommendation to move to Civil 3D.

Is this the dawning of a new age? 


  1. mbickford says:

    It’s about time! I know our county engineers (here in the good ol’ middle-of-nowhere Nebraska, HA) have implemented the program and are now MAKING businesses submit roadway projects through C3D, while at the same time pushing to move our DOT into implementation as well. I’m sure it’ll just be a matter of time before more government bodies begin to adapt. I guess they’re finally seeing it for it’s true potential!

  2. Rad Lazic says:

    Yes! Australian DOTs will follow the suite. Stay tuned…

  3. Louisa says:

    I quote Flava-flav when I say, “YEAHHH BOIIIIII”

  4. JG Gerth says:

    Not to disparage Wisconsin DOT (hey, a lot of my siblings are cheeseheads) but this is a step sideways, not a step forward. Heck, in many ways it’s a step backwards to the 1980s of computers, and user-hostile vendors.

    While the technology is kewl, the problem is that Autodesk’s file formats and design objects are proprietary formats, subject to change at the whim of the vendor, and seriously intended to fuel vendor lock-in. Private organizations certainly have the right to choose that type of lock-in, but a government agency? If the only way for a member of the public to access the design information is to provide a specific vendor with many thousands of dollars, is the public interest being served?

    Microstation V7 and earlier had the sovereign virtue of a stable, static, and very well documented file format. Effectively any interested party could devlop independent tools to access the data stored in those design files, and many did. Autodesk on the other hand, treats the DWG format as though it were their crown jewels, even suing to protect it.

    Again, privately held data can properly be handled using proprietary formats, but it’s hardly in the public interest for public data, that the public has already paid for via taxes, to be locked in a Vault, and only accessible by paying Autodesk large license fees.

  5. Louisa says:

    Well, you make an interesting point, JG…however I have a few counter arugments to consider.

    1)All CAD formats are proprietary. Microstation V7 is no longer Bentley’s standard, and was never “open”. Autocad has always had an analagous development format to the MDL – you may have heard of ARX? Bentley has also blocked companies from using it’s format – as seen when ACAD 2007 was released.

    Show me a Windows-based, open-source CAD format appropriate for civil engineers, and I’ll eat a box of CD’s.

    2)LandXML. Land XML can communicate with In-Roads, Caice, Eagle Point, Civil 3D and many others. The onus is truly on the organization itself whether or not it chooses to make this data public.
    I guess my bottom line here isn’t that Autodesk is more awesome than Bentley or anything. My point is that the state WAS locked into Bentley products for 20+ years with the same data sharing difficulty JG is worried about going forward with Civil 3D.

    It will happen no matter who the vendor.

  6. JG Gerth says:

    OK, there are some good points. But, also some confusion between ‘open source’ and formats. A file format per se can’t be open source, under any of the FOSS definitions I’m familiar with. Tools to read/write that format can be open source, or closed source, mixed licenseing, or public domain. The design data files themselves are the property of the designer, not the application vendor, be it Adesk, the Bros. Bentley, or Mr Lazear at VersaCAD

    So by definition, there is no such beast as a “Windows based open source CAD format”. (dunno why Windows based matters to this discussion, file formats don’t care what OS they are on, & I don’t own any MS or Apple stock :-). The closest approximation is probably the Autodesk proprietary but publicly documented DXF, and since R12 it’s had …issues?.

    There are a lot of 3rd party programs written to process DXF files, not all Windows based. Some of them are even open-source, and run under non-MS operating systems. (A former employer used Dec VMS workstations running Fortran apps to work with DXF files.)

    However, there is proprietary, and then there’s proprietary. V7 and earlier DGN formats were static for years. The file format and structure were well documented, and non-Integraph tools were written by non-Integraph people. (If I recall correctly, that’s how Microstation came into existence, as a PC program written to handle DGN files without paying Integraph for their dedicated terminals and software.) Axiom is today an exaple of such a vendor.

    V8 DGN files are not publicly documented AFAIK, BUT, and it’s a huge but, both the file format documentation and software to access, read, and write uStn V8 are available under RAND terms from the Open Design Alliance. (Autodesk has a RealDWG API available for license, but the license terms are not Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory.) As far as Bentley blocking use of their format in the 2007 product, according to the information I’ve read it was a question of Adesk using ODA libraries and not licensing them (see ODA website for their take on the issue.) Clean-room reverse engineering, as Adesk has done (very well too!) for 2008, is something that any vendor can do – if they have deep enough pockets to do so, and don;t mess up and get sued.

    LandXML — wonderful! I applaud it whole heartedly. It’s the best thing to happen in civil software since the invention of the DTM. Heck, it’s even more important than TINs. After all the vendor hype about ‘interoperability’ back in the last century, it’s really great to see at least one of those efforts succeed. It would be even better if that effort was extended to other design and drawing elements but I’ll clap and cheer for what we got so far.

    Vendor lock-in is something we are still dealing with today in the design world, just as more mainstream computer tools dealt with it back in the day. (Can you imagine paying $20K today for a full-text search engine on one computer to index your documents? That was what it took back when to do a full-search of DEC WPS, and that’s a smidgin of the real cost of vendor lock-in)

    The rest of the computing world is moving away from that kind of lock-in. When will we insist to vendors that open access to our data has to happen? Heck, keep the format proprietary (since that can be a really good thing), just publicly document it, and offer to license us tools under RAND terms.