Pennsylvania takes the back roads

Even with money due to state and local governments from the Homeland Security Department for first responder needs, it's unlikely there will be a wholesale push to spend funds on multimedia communications networks.

Another way to develop such networks is to back into them. That's the route the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is taking. The department is expected to finish the testing phase for deployment of a portable geographic information system (GIS) by the end of this month.

The system, which uses personal digital assistant devices and Intergraph Corp.'s GIS applications, will be used to map new roads built by various municipalities. The system is needed, said Sandra Renninger, a PennDOT administrative officer, because a portion of the state gas tax goes to municipalities to maintain their roads and streets. That portion is based in part on how many miles of roads the jurisdiction has.

"We have all of the state roads mapped but nowhere near to a complete picture of all of the local roads," she said.

The new system could also be the start of a statewide first responder

network.

"We don't know how it will all tie in yet, but we are hoping we can use this to get into an infrastructure management type of program with the municipalities," Renninger said. "And that's what will

lead into all of the homeland security aspects."

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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