MAPPS Sends Letter to Iowa Governor, DoT with Concern for Laser Scanner Solicitation

MAPPS has sent a letter to Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad and state department of transportation director Paul Trombino in response to a published solicitation for a high-speed laser scanner with survey grade accuracy and field-of-view integrated camera.

MAPPS concern is based on the fact that such services are currently provided in the commercial market by professional surveying and mapping firms. There are numerous scanner/camera systems owned and operated by private surveying and mapping firms across the United States. These firms have invested heavily in this technology, not only in capital, but in training and development of their personnel as well. Many of these firms have provided mapping, surveying, and geospatial services to the Iowa Department of Transportation for many years. Services such as aerial and ground-based surveying and mapping (commonly known as photogrammetry), aerial photography, land surveying, GIS, and scanning and imagery for mapping have long been contracted to the private sector by federal and state agencies, and many of these services have been contracted to the private sector by Iowa DoT.

Historically, private firms have proven to be more cost-effective in providing surveying and mapping services than in-house DOT production. Scanning and imaging services should be regarded in the same manner, and should be contracted as part of a QBS selection for professional services.

Federal law, which encourages the use of the private sector for highway projects (See 23 USC 306), may prohibit the acquisition of such a unit. Since 1956, the national highway law required the Secretary of Transportation to, "wherever practicable, authorize the use of photogrammetric methods in mapping, and the utilization of commercial enterprise for such services”. The law was amended in the National Highway System Act in 1995 to require the Secretary to "issue guidance to encourage States to utilize, to the maximum extent practicable, private sector sources for surveying and mapping services for projects”.

MAPPS said in an economy where States are finding it difficult to fund basic services and face financial difficulties due to high unemployment rates and reduced tax revenues, it does not appear wise or prudent to waste taxpayers’ money on equipment for government operation of an activity when there are private firms that already have such equipment and can be utilized through a competitive procurement process.