How Quickbase saved the Oregon Department of Transportation millions of dollars and countless hours of data digging
In 2017, a bill was passed by the Oregon State House that had the potential to generate additional revenue for the state, while also giving Oregon citizens the ability to develop land that at the time was just sitting idle with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).
Seems like it would be a simple win-win, right? Not quite.
The bill required that the Oregon Department of Transportation review the properties currently under its ownership to identify which were actively being used by the agency and which were “excess” to its current and future needs. The information generated by this review would then provide an up-to-date account of the state’s idle properties and reveal opportunities for the state of Oregon to offer those properties for sale to the public.
Turns out, compiling this data posed a particularly difficult challenge for ODOT due to decades of data chaos.
Data shouldn’t hold you back, it should power you forward
The state of Oregon’s land acquisitions dated back more than 100 years and included frontier trails and former sites for material excavation. Due to this extensive history and past migrations of data between databases, there were over 100,000 records within ODOT’s historical databases stored throughout different divisions that each had their own databases for tracking facilities and uses of ODOT-owned property. Determining which properties were not in use was not going to be an efficient or cost-effective process.
Cuong Nguyen, an Operations and Policy Analyst with ODOT, quickly realized his team would need a data platform that could bring this complex report to life on an expedited schedule.
“We couldn’t spend two years going through procurement and then development, and then rolling out the system,” he shared when discussing ODOTs tight deadline to deliver the report."
I needed to find a program that would allow us to build something fast so that we could create the inventory list, and have staff begin reviews as soon as possible.
After studying how other DOTs developed their inventory systems and reports, he noticed that they’d often put the cart before the horse and build something that would house the final data, but that couldn’t be used to compile all the disparate sources of data needed for analysis and knowledge sharing. So, when looking into potential program options, Nguyen and his team made sure to place high value on the following three requirements:
- Must offer an efficient way to coalesce different source and types of data
- Information is presented in an easy-to-understand format for stakeholders
- Updates can be made in real-time without any prolonged downtime
With streamlined processes, accessible data, deeper analysis, and big savings, Quickbase was the clear choice.
“We opted to use a “design-build” strategy, because in a high profile, high stress, high pressure environment, we felt confident that whatever it was that needed to be built, we could build it with Quickbase,” revealed Nguyen.
He was familiar with Quickbase from his time working as a right-of-way consultant for another transportation agency in the state of California and saw the benefits the platform provided when faced with unique challenges and tight deadlines.
“As the ODOT land inventory project continued to evolve, I knew I could build exactly what we needed as we went along,” he said.
Flexibility was something I knew I needed and I knew I could get out of Quickbase.
"Doing it the old-fashioned way would have meant change order after change order, as new information was discovered, and new tables, fields or workflows were needed.”
With Quickbase in place, the team got to work:
- Creating a centralized source-of-truth from the many different databases containing crucial property information. The ability to create table-to-table relationships in Quickbase made it much easier to review data with stakeholders, speeding along the entire process.
- Confirming the validity of their initial dataset with stakeholders and then using Quickbase to create an intuitive user interface combining that information with data on current and future ODOT projects. They were able to determine and share what properties were being used for in the present, and any future project that were lined up as well.
- Integrating GIS data with the Quickbase application to create a visual representation of all their properties, including where they were located relative to current construction project footprints.
- Taking STIP project data, data on storm water management facilities, stockpile sites, slide hazard areas and correlating it to the inventory using geospatial analysis, and then importing those correlations into the centralized database. Using embedded tables and presenting it in a form that could be easily digested by staff really expedited reviews.
“The table-to-table relationships and embedded tables feature provided a really useful user interface for when we sent out these properties to our various regions and district staff to say, ‘here’s our inventory, we need you to confirm that it is or isn’t being used for these purposes, and whether they will be needed for these future projects within the vicinity of this property,'” Nguyen went on to explain.
And the results are in…
Using Quickbase, ODOT was able to save more than a million dollars of the budget that had been allocated for a database system. In fact, it raised a few eyebrows when it was shared with stakeholders that the team could build something for less than 1/10th the original cost estimate. Nguyen stated that he could see ODOT using some of the newer Quickbase features to further improve how they automate delivery of these types of report in the future, with real-time reporting to the public for further cost savings.
“There were many software options available, but Quickbase was the only solution we found that could handle the large scope of this project and deliver it on time and under budget,” concluded Nguyen.
The bottom line is: We wouldn’t have succeeded in this project without Quickbase.
ODOT published their Excess Land Inventory report, which concluded there were over 800 parcels of land were no longer needed — each an opportunity to bring in revenue for the state.