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MALSCE Members and Massport Applying New Surveying Technologies to Improve Infrastructure Design

Type:  Featured News  

President's Message
by Sean M. Ewald, PLS

2015-2017 MALSCE President


It’s a building boom in the Great City of Boston and in several other key locations across the Commonwealth. In the middle of this boom is the Massachusetts Port Authority with its runways at Boston Logan International Airport, Hanscom Field, and Worcester Regional Airport; developments around the Boston Harbor in South Boston, East Boston, and Charlestown; as well as significant port changes at both the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal and Conley Container Terminal, to name a few. Importantly, supporting all of this progress throughout these diverse facilities is the land surveying industry and Massport’s own survey team, along with many MALSCE members providing precise land area information forming the basis for engineering and architectural design services.


We spoke with Dan MacIsaac, PLS, new Survey Unit Manager (since July) with Massport’s Capital Programs Department. Dan indicated that there is no one survey method of choice at Massport that delivers the accuracy to keep up with all of this growth. “Just like the city skyline is changing there are many new technologies promoting how we survey today. Keeping pace with these new technologies is important to serving Massport. One of the most challenging aspects of my position is deciding what projects to undertake internally with our survey team versus contracting projects to outside consultants. Project timing is often a big driver and when there are projects queuing for construction, the team is in high demand, and the varied skills needed are deep. For example, with respect to the runways, we’re looking for very detailed existing conditions, plans with topographic and utility information, primarily performed using Leica instruments. When construction kicks off, we’re out verifying quantities, checking the excavation then inspecting final pavement grades. We use levels to verify how close the contractor got to the finish grade. Drones are ‘persona non grata’ at the airport and, if under some type of special circumstance, they might be used, drones are still not generating the product we need right now.


While the standard survey deliverable for Massport projects is typically an existing conditions plan showing topography, boundary lines, and other property rights, there is also the need for hydrographic survey of the sea beds to support such seaport projects as harbor dredging enabling larger Panamax ships to reach Boston’s port. We also work regularly on licenses, leases, easements and other types of surveying.


The various types of Massport projects benefit from a combination of standard total stations to newer technology such as laser scanners. In fact, some technology is no longer a luxury; it is a requirement to get jobs done on time and within budget. If there is one message to the survey community, it is to stay up with the hardware and software technology, Lidar and BIM today, who knows what's next. Who would have thought 20 years ago that we would be building computer models to the level possible today?”



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