Infraworks. Wow. What a great program. I love this thing, I truly do. If Autodesk keeps up development on this, it’s going to rock the industry. The problem with it as it stands today is, there are four different versions of it. That’s right, four.

Infraworks – Comes with the Infrastructure Design Suite Premium
Autodesk InfraWorks 360 Pro – Available to lease
Autodesk Roadway Design for Infraworks 360 Pro – Available to lease
Infrastructure Design Suite Ultimate – This pretty much tells you what it is.

So, what’s the difference? In short, if you want ALL the tools, you’ll need the Autodesk Roadway Design for Infraworks 360 Pro. It has tools that the Ultimate Design Suite doesn’t have, such as Sight distance analysis and Documentation services. The Documentation services is a cloud service that will allow you to create plan and profile drawings in Civil 3D without needing to open, or even install, Civil 3D (sounds pretty cool to me).

You can find a matrix that shows what each version has HERE. In case the website has changed, I’ve printed a page of the Autodesk website and included it HERE for you to download.

<UPDATE>
This life of this tool has been extended to August 12th 2013 so get back out there and start using it some more!
</UPDATE>

Do you like using aerial imagery while working in Civil 3D? I know it’s always helped me when I’ve had access to it. You could use Google Earth but it has issues (see why HERE) and there are other alternatives to getting the imagery but they are all pretty tedious. Well, just announce is a new and very simple way to bring aerial images into your drawing.

Just announced is Project Basejump. This is a new product available at Autodesk Labs. This tool will allow you to easily bring in maps from Microsoft Bing. These maps are brought in via the Map 3D FDO tools. Don’t worry if you’ve never used FDO, it’s REALLY easy!

After you install the add-in, simply open up the Map Task Pane. You can access this by typing MAPWSPACE and then choosing the ON option. If you are using Civil 3D 2013, there is a button on the Palettes panel on the Home tab. This button basically runs the MAPWSPACE command so you’ll still have to tell the program you want it ON.

One thing you must do is assign a coordinate system to your drawing. If you don’t do this, your images won’t work. If you aren’t familiar with this, simply right click on the drawing name on the settings tab of the Prospector and choose Edit Drawing Settings. On the Units and Zone tab, assign an appropriate coordinate system to your drawing. If you aren’t sure what to use here, check with your surveyor on the project.

Assign Coordinate System

In this example, I’m using a Colorado state plane coordinate system and I’m in a blank drawing.

If you haven’t done so yet, go install the tool. You can find it HERE. Once installed, go to your Map Taskpane and select the Data button and choose “Connect to Data…”

Connect to Data

This will then bring up the Data Connect panel, also known as “FDO”. If you are familiar with this tool, you’ll notice a new option (in my case it’s the second one listed), “Add Basemap Services Connection”. If you aren’t familiar with this tool, just trust me that it’s new. Select the new connection type, on the right hand side give it a name (I called mine “Bing Maps”),  and then select the Connect button.

Creating the Connection

After selecting the button, you’ll be presented with the available data sources. Simply toggle on the ones you want (go ahead and select them all, it’s easy to toggle them on and off afterwards) and then hit the Add to Map button.

Select the Data

Civil 3D (or Map 3D) will then go out and query the data source and bring in the imagery for the coordinate system you assigned. As you can see in the following image, it brings in data for the entire defined coordinate system (Northern Colorado in this case).

Image Imported

This is a very low resolution image but as you zoom in, you’ll see more and more detail. You can also easily toggle on and off the images using the Map Taskpane. Simply hit the check box next to the image you want and deselect the images you don’t want (I can’t think of any advantage of having more than one turned on at any time). Personally, I kind of like the “Aerial with Labels” map.

Choose Your Image

When you zoom in, Civil 3D will continue to check with the Bing servers and get the best image it can for that specific zoom level. Here’s a picture of my house:

The image is about a year old as we now have grass in our yard and there are several more houses built in the area (we built our house, doing our part for the economy). We don’t live in a big city so the imagery isn’t quite as detailed. If I go check out someplace in Denver, the image is much higher quality:

Home of the Colorado Rockies

Go check it out! Let the developers know what you think. If you have any issues or problems or wishes or complaints, let them know. I’m pretty excited about where this is going.

One thing to note, this is a “Labs Technology Preview”. What this means is the technology might not ever actually make it into the program. In other words, check it out, give your feedback, and do everything you can to let Autodesk know that this is a good tool and they should continue to work on it and eventually make it a part of the program.

Now if they could just get it to bring in DEM information as well…

Note from Brian: There’s some new functionality in the 2015 release regarding images. Check it out HERE.

I’m constantly amazed at how many people import data from Google Earth into Civil 3D and then complain about how horrible the data is. There are two primary issues that I’ve seen when importing data from Google Earth. First of all, the imagery is inconsistent at best. The guys over at Being Civil wrote up a nice post about this issue HERE if you are interested (also, the images come in black and white). The surface data that you bring in is very limited. Sure, you can pick anywhere you want but you are limited to importing 5,000 points and, if you have a large area, that’s not very much data at all (I recently downloaded a DEM file with over 2.5 million points, now THAT’S data!). So, instead of relying on Google Earth, go out and get the data yourself! You’ll be much happier with the results.

For those of you with projects in the United States there is an amazing resource that I was familiar with but never really investigated much, the USGS Seamless Data Warehouse (I was playing around with the Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler and looking for data). You can find it at seamless.usgs.gov. Here you can browse a map to find your project location and download orthoimagery (i.e. aerial images) as well as surfaces (DEM files). You’ll need to create an account to download the data but it’s free.

Using the Seamless Viewer

When you get to seamless.usgs.gov, on the left hand side, there is a panel and on this panel, is a link to the Seamless Viewer (you can access it HERE if you like). It looks a little something like this:

Seamless Viewer Link

Once you click on this, it will take you to a map showing the entire United States (well, most of North America actually). Draw a rectangle around where your project is (you’ll see the state boundaries so use that as a guide and zoom in on the state the project is in). Once at the state level, you’ll probably need some assistance locating your project area. On the right hand side of the map, you can change what is being displayed in the map. By default (at least for me) all it showed was the digital elevation data. That really didn’t help me find the area I was looking for (Colorado is a big state, not as big as Texas of course, but still big) so I toggled on a few options to help me locate my project. The ones that seemed to help me the most were the Orthoimagery, the Transportation, and the Places (Names). As you can see in the following images, it makes a huge difference.

Before Editing the Display Options

After Editing the Display Options

Once you get zoomed in on the area of interest, you need to tell the Seamless servers what it is you want to download. On the right side of the map where the Display options are located, switch from Display to Download.

Download Options

In this case, I chose to download the NAIP (National Agriculture Imagery Program) Orthoimagery as well as the 1/3 second DEM from the National /Elevation Dataset. Once you’ve set what it is you want to download, you need to specify what part of the map that you want the data for. To do this, use the tools on the left side. I chose the “Define Rectangular Download Area” option.

Download Selections

A new window will pop up with links to download each file. The files you’ll get are simple .zip files. Once you unzip them you’ll get a ton of data. For the DEM, the files you need are the ones that end in .adf. Just keep all these files in one location and you can then create a surface from them in Civil 3D. The images will have a lot of files as well but really the only ones you need are the .tif file and the .tfw file. The .tif file is the actual image itself and the .tfw file is the world file. The world file lets Civil 3D properly locate it in your drawing. And honestly, I don’t think you really need the .tfw file as .tif files can have coordinate information embedded into them (aka GeoTIFF). I would still just leave them together to be safe.

Download Files

Using the Data in Civil 3D

Once you have the data, you need to add it into Civil 3D. First thing you want to do before adding in this data is to make sure your drawing has a coordinate system assigned to it. If you aren’t familiar with this, simply right click on the drawing name on the settings tab of the Prospector and choose Edit Drawing Settings. On the Units and Zone tab, assign an appropriate coordinate system to your drawing. If you aren’t sure what to use here, check with your surveyor on the project.

Coordinate System in Civil 3D

To bring the DEM file into Civil 3D, create a surface and add the DEM file as data. I’m not going to get into the details in the post as I’ve already talked about how to bring DEM files in to Civil 3D. You can read it HERE if you like. When you add the DEM file, use the coordinate system code LL83. Also make sure you read the comments as you’ll need create the surface in a metric drawing and use LandXML to bring it into a drawing that is in imperial units.

To bring the images into Civil 3D, use the Map Image Insert command MAPIINSERT (yes, two I’s in there). This will bring the images in georeferenced.

Conclusion

Sure this process takes longer then importing from Google Earth but think of it this way, “You get what you pay for”. In this case, you’re paying with time. Importing from Google Earth is fast but you get very poor data. Getting the data yourself takes a bit longer but you get MUCH better results. Check out this example, in the following image you can see where four of the images downloaded from the Seamless server line up and it’s REALLY close to being exactly matched up (I can’t see any offset or other error personally). Compare that with what you get out of Google Earth.

Image Overlap

If anyone has data sources similar to this for other countries, comment here so others can find them.

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.

Discharge

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.

Viaduct

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

As I’m sure most of you know, today is 4/20 and the number 420 has certain meaning in certain walks of life. Now, I’m not going to comment on the legality of marijuana but I did find something the pertains to engineering on this topic.

I-70, the major east-west corridor through Colorado is close to 450 miles long. This means that somewhere along the highway (out near Kansas) there should be a mile marker 420 but there isn’t. As you travel along, you’ll see mile marker 419 and mile marker 421 but no mile marker 420. Why? Well, I can only assume that CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) has had issues with that particular mile marker disappearing. You will, however see a mile marker 419.9! One of these days, I’m going to pull over and put a little line over the 9 to indicate it is a repeating number as 419.999… is exactly the same as 420.

p.s. On the same highway, there is also a mile marker 68.9…

So, there are some changes coming to the Civil 3D world.  In the next release, there will only be one program and no longer two.  Returning with the 2011 release, you will no longer be able to purchase AutoCAD Civil any longer.  Want to learn what this means to you?  Well, read on… (more…)