March 2011

Yes, I know Civil 3D 2012 is coming out soon and yes, I’ll probably post about the tools that I think will be the most beneficial (I’ll let everyone else post the “Hey! Civil 3D 2012 is coming out!” posts) but sometimes things slip through the cracks and you find out there are cool new things available for what you already have.

Now, my question is; How did I miss this? Did this just come out? I did a search online and I can only find one reference to this outside of the Autodesk website so I’m assuming this is something really new (please correct me if I’m wrong). I probably missed it because of all of the focus on the announcements of the new AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 that will be coming out soon.

One of the fine folks I follow on Twitter just posted a link to the Transportation Extension for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011. I had never heard of such a thing so I went investigating and I found some really cool tools are available to everyone that has Civil 3D 2011. It’s not on the subscription site so I’m pretty sure it’s for everyone. Go to the home page for Civil 3D ( and click on the Support link, and then the Utilities and Drivers link (a direct link to the page can be found HERE). Under AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011, you’ll see something called, “AutoCAD Civil 3D Transportation Extension”.

“What is this?” you may ask yourself, well, let me tell you what I’ve found out so far. It seems to be a bunch of additional tools that will run on top of Civil 3D 2011, and there looks to be some great tools in here. Allow me to list them for you and then later I will get into greater detail about them (at least the ones I’ve figured out so far):
1) Check Alignment Geometry
2) Quick Cross Section
3) Surface High/Low Points
4) Import Raw Data
5) Create Surface from Photogrammetric Data
6) Export Civil Data
7) Show/Hide Labels
8) Export Layout to DGN
9) Eleven New Reports (according to the readme)

Transportation Extension Tools

That’s a lot of cool stuff they’ve given away for free (remember, this isn’t on the subscription website). So, let’s take a peek at what these tools will do.

1) Check Alignment Geometry

Have you ever created an alignment from existing entities and later found that those lines and curves that you received from the planner or surveyor or whoever weren’t tangent? Well, worry no more. This is a great little tool. In testing it, I created a polyline with a line segment, a tangent curve off the end of it, and then a line from the end of the curve that I drew so it looked tangent to the curve, but wasn’t actually tangent. I created an alignment from this polyline and then ran this tool on the newly created alignment. After running the command, it prompts you to select the alignment and then asks you to “Enter gap tolerance”. I’m not exactly sure what the gap tolerance is but probably has something to do with gaps in the alignment. There is no help so I can’t do any research on it and the little bit of testing I’ve done has helped me figure it out either. Next, it’s going to ask you to “Enter angle tolerance”. Again, I’m not exactly sure what the angle tolerance means but every time I’ve run it, I’ve used the default setting and it does something. So, what does it do to our example of a non-tangent line connected to an arc? Well, it makes them tangent. In addition to that, it place a PI at the point of intersection of the two lines (very convenient).

Alignment Check

2) Quick Cross Section

This is an interesting one and I’m not sure how useful it will be but, I’ll explain what I know about it. The Quick Cross Section command works very similarly to the Quick Profile command. I want to see what my cross sections will look like (real quickly) created from a line between here and there. Well, run the command and it will create them for you, all you need is a drawing with a surface in it. Once the command is run, it will prompt you for the surfaces you want to display in the sections and then it will prompt you for “Enter an option [3p/Multi]”. I haven’t tested the 3p option yet but Multi will allow you to pick points on the screen that will basically define the alignment you want to create the sections for. It will then prompt you for the sampling interval, the left and then the right swath width and where you want the sections to be displayed in the drawing. After you have entered that, a dialog box will be displayed that will ask you for the appropriate styles, Section Style, Section View Style, and Band Style Set (apparently there is no option for labels). Once you hit OK, the sections will be displayed in your drawing. Like a Quick Profile, the Quick Cross Sections are temporary. Unlike the Quick Profile, the Quick Cross Sections will immediately disappear when you end the command, rendering it (in my opinion) fairly useless.

Quick Cross Sections

3) Surface High/Low Points

This command looks pretty cool. It will analyze a surface and place points at the high points and at the low points. You can then use the Low Point points as the starting point for the Catchment Area command. Basically, just run the command, and then select the area of the surface you want to be analyzed (if you want it to analyze the entire surface, just hit enter). It will also create two point groups, one for the high point points and one for the low point points (pretty convenient, huh?). You can then use these point groups to control the display (as well as the description) of the points.

High/Low Points

High/Low Points

4) Import Raw Data

I wasn’t able to test this one out as I didn’t have any file types that would be needed for this command to work but, here is what I THINK it will do. It will take a Star*Net .dat file and convert it into a fieldbook file (for more information on Star*Net click HERE). From the import dialog box, there seem to be quite a few options.

Import Raw Data

5) Create Surface from Photogrammetric Data

This one looks cool. I haven’t tested it out completely yet but, basically run the command and it will ask you what layer your data is on. Select the layers for both the linework and the point data (you have to give them names), select the surface you want to add them to (or have it create a new surface for you) and you’re done. I tested it with a bunch of contours and it didn’t give me the option to minimize flat faces (apparently they didn’t think that you could use this for contour data).

Create Surface from Photogrammetric Data

It appears there seems to be a slight issue with the dialog box. The bottom of it is cut off and no matter how you re-size the dialog, it doesn’t seem to fix it. If you are familiar with creating surfaces in Civil 3D, you shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out what is being cut off.

6) Export Civil Data

This is another one that I haven’t been able to test out as I don’t have any survey equipment. According to the readme file that comes with the extension, “Export Civil Data (to survey formats – RD5 and TP5) – enables users to export Civil 3D alignments, profiles, and corridors to a TDS .rd5 roadway file and/or .tp5 template file.” The dialog box asks you to select the Alignment, Profile, and (or?) the Corridor and it will create the .rd5 and the .tp5 files for you.

Export Civil Data

7) Show Hide Labels

This is another one of those tools that looks pretty cool. Have you ever been looking at a drawing and though to yourself, “Man, I wish I could just get rid of those labels temporarily. It sure would make it easier to see what was going on!”  Well, now you can. Simply run this command and the select the label types you want to hide and the ones you want to no longer be hidden. There’s even an option at the top to hide all labels or show all labels. Pretty slick in my opinion.

Show/Hide Labels

8) Export Layout to DGN

Pretty self explanatory here I would assume. It allows you to export a layout tab to a .dgn file. Again, I can’t truly test this one as I don’t have Microstation installed and I don’t have a “seed file”. It seems straight forward though. It will export each sheet (or just the ones you select) from a Sheet Set Manager file (.dst) to a .dgn file

Export Layout to DGN

9) New Reports

According to the read-me, there are 11 new reports. Well, I have no reason to doubt that but, when you install it, there is a new report category and it only shows one new report so the other new reports must be included in the other report categories somewhere (I don’t have a list of them or of the originals that come with C3D to compare my current list to). The one that does show up (Corridor->Slope Stake Report) is pretty slick as it will actually display the cross sections in the report for a visual confirmation of the data.

Slope Stake Report

Wrap Up

As I said, there are some pretty cool new tools here so go out and try it for yourself. Let me know what you think, what reports you like that are new with this, etc. Also note that when you download it, you can also download the CalTrans Content Kit after you install these tools. Looks like I may have another post to write up about that.

A while back I went to Grand Junction, Colorado to do some training. It’s a long drive from the Denver area, about 5 hours, but it has to be one of my favorite drives. The scenery the entire way is just breath taking and you get to see some pretty cool things, especially in Glenwood Canyon. For those of you that are regular readers of my blog, this one will be a little different (hey, it’s my blog). It doesn’t have anything to do with Civil 3D directly but, it does have some pretty cool civil engineering designs in it. If you are a civil engineer, read on, you’ll like it.

I’ve traveled this road many times before and each time I do, I’m just amazed as I drive through Glenwood Canyon. US Interstate 70 (I-70) runs through the canyon alongside the Colorado River. This is some pristine wilderness area and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has done an amazing job in preserving the natural beauty of the canyon while building a four lane interstate. On my way back from Grand Junction this time, I decided to stop as often as I can along the canyon and take pictures. Now, as a disclaimer, I do not claim to be a photographer. In fact, I took all these pictures with my phone (Motorola Droid).

Heading East on I-70, you run into the Town of Glenwood Springs. This town marks the West entrance to the canyon.

Glenwood Springs

The town is known for a Hot Springs. I’ve never been there but growing up, we always heard they had a “clothing optional” area. This is also the gateway to several mountain towns and the Aspen Ski Resort.

Once in the canyon, you’ll be driving along the Colorado River as well as a set of train tracks. The tracks were part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad but are currently operated by Union Pacific. Shortly after entering the canyon, the tracks go through a tunnel.

Entering The Canyon

In the picture above, you can see the railroad tracks on the opposite side of the river as it enters into a tunnel. Shortly after the railroad tunnel, the highway goes through a set of tunnels. These first tunnels are fairly short.

First Highway Tunnels

In this picture, you can see a bridge passing over the highway. This is a pedestrian and bike trail that continues the entire 12 miles of the canyon. After the tunnel you travel a while through some amazing scenery.

Canyon Scenery

After a bit, you come to the first place that you can pull off the highway. This is the No Name rest area, named because of the No Name Creek that discharges into the Colorado River here.

No Name Rest Area

If you enjoy hiking, you can hike up along the No Name Creek. At the end of the trail, you’ll come to a water diversion structure. This diverts some of the water from No Name Creek for the Town of Glenwood Springs. You can even see some of the old wood stave pipe. I didn’t hike the trail this trip but I have in the past. It’s a pretty easy hike until you get to the end of the trail. If you wish to keep hiking, you’ll have to go cross country and that’s when it gets pretty tough.

No Name Canyon

The above image is taken above the interstate looking north to the No Name Canyon.

At the No Name rest area, get out and stretch a bit and look at some of the educational material they have. You can read up a bit about the construction of the highway, the wildlife of the canyon, as well as some of it’s history. You also get a great view of the approach the designers of the highway took to minimize the impacts the highway would have on the canyon. Instead of separating the highway horizontally, they decided to terrace the highway in places, allowing them to minimize the disturbance of the natural area.

Terraced Highway

After moving on from the rest area (don’t rush, enjoy your time there) you’ll get a chance to see the terraced highway up close and personal as you drive along the highway.

Close Up of the Terraced Highway

Once again, as you travel down the highway, you get to see some of the most amazing scenery in the world!

Amazing Scenery

Travel a bit more and you’ll come to the Grizzly Creek rest area. This is quite the amazing rest area. It feels like a lot of the rest area is under the highway (some of it is but most of it is adjacent to the highway). Being able to put a rest area at this location was an amazing design accomplishment. In the narrow canyon, there is a four lane highway, a river, a stream, a railroad, and a complete rest area! I wasn’t able to get an overall picture of the rest area, you’ll just have to see it for yourself.

Grizzly Creek runs right through the middle of the rest area (hence its name). If you are looking to do some Rocky Mountain fly fishing, this is a great stream to do it.

Grizzly Creek

In the picture above, you can see two bridges crossing over the creek, the upper bridge is the highway itself and the lower bridge is the one for the roads within the rest area. This really is a great stream for fishing. I’ve stopped a couple times in the past and fished it. And, yes, I have fished it in weather very similar to what is pictured here and I was wading while wearing shorts (my wife thinks I’m crazy). Here you can see the confluence of Grizzly Creek and the Colorado River.

Grizzly Creek and the Colorado River

Because of the very steep canyon walls on the south side of the rest area, this part of the canyon does not get much sunlight so if you visit in the winter time, make sure you put your jacket on when you get out to walk around. Another thing, if you plan on stopping at the Shoshone Power Plant or Hanging Lake exits, don’t worry about stopping here first because, You’ll Be Back!

Moving on from Grizzly Creek, once again you travel through some of the most amazing scenery on your way up to the Shoshone Power Plant.

Heading to the Power Plant

This is another excellent example of the terracing of the highway through the canyon.

The next exit is the Shoshone Power Plant. This power plant, established in 1909, is virtually under the highway. In fact, the restrooms here are literally under the highway.

Rest Area Under the Interstate

The pedestrian/bicycle path will allow you to get a really good view of the power plant and it’s penstocks.

Shoshone Power Plant Entrance

Shoshone Power Plant Penstocks

As you walk around the power plant, there is another pipe type of structure that almost looks like a penstock but is definitely different from the other two.

Discharge Pipe of Some Sort

As you can see from the image, the pipe is open at the bottom and it discharges directly into the river.


I wasn’t able to find any information on what this is but it appears to be some sort of emergency spillway. If anyone knows for sure what this is, please leave a comment letting me know. I wonder if they ever give tours of the facility?

If you walk up along the river, you can see the discharge location below the turbines.

Discharge Point

I don’t know what the working capacity of the plant but, it does take up a considerable amount of the water from the river this time of year. If you look upstream of the discharge, you can see the river is barely flowing and downstream of the discharge, it’s the Mighty C0lorado once more.

Plant Discharge meets the Colorado

When leaving the power plant, there is no way to get directly back on East Bound I-70. I had to go back west and turn around in the Grizzly Creek Rest Area. This is why, if you plan on stopping at all the available points to stop, don’t stop at the Grizzly Creek Rest Area when you first get to it.

Heading back East from the power plant takes you to the next area (once again, after passing amazing scenery). The next place you can get off the highway is at the Hanging Lake Rest Area. This is one of the most scenic parts of the canyon. In fact, in order to preserve the beauty of this area, the highway goes through a tunnel to avoid disturbing this part of the canyon.

Hanging Lake Exit

This rest area is also the trail head for the Hanging Lake Trail, a very popular trail in the canyon. I haven’t had a chance to hike it myself but one day I do intend on stopping and hiking it. The rest area is great because right after the exit, the highway enters into the tunnels that bypass this area. This is also the location of the diversion structure for the Shoshone Power Plant. In addition to these two very cool things, the railroad tracks pass right under the highway, in a tunnel, as the highway itself goes into a tunnel right next to the diversion structure for the Shoshone Power Plant and, just my luck, a train passed by while I was there. Talk about being in a Civil Engineering Geek Nirvana!

Train, 2 Tunnels, Diversion Structure, Heaven

If you stop at this rest area, make sure you walk along the pedestrian path a bit. On the opposite side of the river (that would be to the south), up in the hills a way you can spy a structure. This is a part of the tunnel infrastructure. I’m not exactly sure what it’s role is but I know it has something to do with the tunnel.

Tunnel Facility

(The picture didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, poor lighting and I was using the zoom feature on my camera which is a digital zoom).

As I said before, this is one of the more scenic areas of the canyon. Get out, look around, take some pictures, and just enjoy the wonderful outdoors!

Hanging Lake Scenery

Hanging Lake Scenery

As mentioned before, at this rest area is the diversion structure for the Shoshone Power Plant downstream. There are six or seven gates (didn’t get a picture of them all and I can’t recall the exact number) that allow the Colorado to bypass the diversion during higher flows. This time of year, the river is flowing very slowly so I suppose it’s a good time to do construction as well.

Shoshone Diversion

Construction at the Diversion

In the last picture, you can also see where the highway tunnels begin.

Leaving the Hanging Lake rest area, just like the Shoshone Power Plant exit, there is no way to get directly back onto Eastbound I-70. You have to go west, back to the Grizzly Creek Rest Area (that’s the third time this trip) and turn around.

Going back East again, after passing the exit for Hanging Lake, you enter into the twin bore tunnel.

Approaching the Tunnels

The tunnels are just under 4,000′  long and bypass the Hanging Lake area. In comparison, the Eisenhower and Johnson Tunnels, the longest and highest tunnels in the US highway system (also on I-70), are over twice as long.

After traveling through the tunnels, the highway once again separates itself vertically but this time, instead of a terraced approach, the designers went with a viaduct for the Westbound traffic.


As you can see from the picture, the Westbound lanes are elevated above the ground the entire length of the highway that is visible in this picture. Around the corner a little ways, the Westbound lanes travel through a tunnel and the Eastbound lanes do not. This is known as the Reverse Curve Tunnel, presumably because there is a reverse curve either in the tunnel or near it. I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the tunnel as I didn’t travel through it this trip and there was no place to pull over for pictures but you can see it a little in the following picture:

Reverse Curve Tunnel

There are several miles of scenic driving alongside the Eastbound Viaduct that is just absolutely breathtaking! It amazes me to see how many people drive through this canyon as fast as they can without slowing down to marvel in it’s beauty.

More Amazing Scenery

The last place you can stop within the canyon is the Blair Ranch Rest Area. This is a wider portion of the canyon and isn’t quite as dramatic so if you are looking to skip a stop, I would say this would be the one to skip but, it is worth stopping at if you have the time. There are some fantastic views along the Colorado River.

Peaceful Colorado River

And if you get lucky, you just might get to see some wildlife. While walking around the rest area, I spotted what I thought was a bunch of geese, but they just didn’t seem quite right. I walked up a bit closer and it was a rafter of wild turkeys! (Yes, rafter is what you call a group of wild turkeys. I had to look it up myself). I wasn’t able to get close enough to get a real good picture but, here you go.

Rafter of Wild Turkeys

After the Blair Ranch is a couple more miles of scenic driving, nothing quite as spectacular as the rest of the canyon but beautiful in it’s own way and then, you leave the canyon.

No More Canyon

If you would like to take a virtual scenic trip of your own through Glenwood Canyon, just open up Google Earth and get driving directions from Glenwood Springs, CO to Dotsero, CO and play them. The following image will walk you through how I set up Google Earth to view it. Please click on the image so you can see the different steps.

Click Image for Full Instructions