States clamor for civilian GPS
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Sep 19, 2000
Federal officials and representatives of a dozen state departments of transportation
on Sunday proved there's momentum behind expanding a satellite positioning
system that garners little support from Congress.
An aggressive schedule would expand the Coast Guard's Differential Global
Positioning System into a Nationwide Differential GPS (NDGPS) by the end
of 2003. However, funding is continually a roadblock, said representatives
from the Coast Guard and Federal Railroad Administration during a meeting
of the Civil GPS Service Interface Committee in Salt Lake City.
NDGPS is used by states for precise mapping and surveying and is being looked
at as an aid for intelligent transportation systems. Farmers use the system
for precision agriculture. The railroad industry is counting on NDGPS for
train control, which would provide precise location information during travel.
The Coast Guard operates a network of DGPS stations along the coastal United
States. To serve inland states, the Air Force gave DOT 60 Ground Wave Emergency
Network stations to be converted to NDGPS towers. It costs about $200,000
to convert the GWEN sites, said Richard Shamberger, NDGPS program sponsor
at the Federal Railroad Administration.
The U.S. Transportation Department's fiscal 2001 budget request includes
$18.7 million for NDGPS. But the House did not recommend funding NDGPS,
and the Senate proposed putting the money in the Federal Aviation Administration's
pot with GPS augmentation systems designed for aviation. House and Senate
conferees are expected to take up the matter within the coming two weeks.
With about 10 GWEN sites already converted, Lt. Cmdr. Gary Schenk, who leads
DGPS operations for the Coast Guard, said he plans to use the rest of his
fiscal 2000 funds to convert six more sites. If DOT gets the $18.7 million
it requested for fiscal 2001, $13.2 million would be used to buy equipment
and convert more sites. The rest would be used to operate the existing network.
The last part of the project is to build new sites. However, without more
resources earlier in the program, Schenk said he doesn't think 2003 is a
realistic date for completion.
Some states that were supposed to get NDGPS stations already are feeling
the pinch. For example:
* Wyoming's government had participated in meetings that would help it get
an NDGPS site, "but we still have a black hole sitting right in the heart
of the country," said Curtis Clabaugh, Wyoming photogrammetry and survey
* Vermont's only NDGPS coverage will come from a soon-to-be-operated station
in Hudson Falls, N.Y.
* North Dakota has a hole in the northwestern portion of the state, where
farmers are eager to use the technology, according to DeLane Meier, surveys
and photogrammetry manager in the North Dakota DOT. The closest stations
are in South Dakota and Nebraska, which makes it difficult to use GPS for