Austin Peay State University (APSU)
Clarksville, TN – When the City of Clarksville launched its new website on April 8th, 2019 that day’s news release lauded “a fresh, easy-to-navigate and more powerful website that will enhance the city’s ability to engage and serve its citizens.” Austin Peay State University’s GIS Center helped create one of the engaging elements that lives on the city’s new homepage – an interactive map that continuously updates with road maintenance and closure information.
That map – which will allow city and county agencies to communicate to each other and to the public about such everyday hindrances as road repaving and water outages – was the creation of Austin Peay student Bryndon Rhoton, a computer information systems junior.
Rhoton led the project from its genesis in January, creating and designing the map from scratch and communicating with several city and county departments, such as the Clarksville-Montgomery County E-911 Center and the Clarksville Street Department.
“It’s daunting to think about it because everybody in Clarksville-Montgomery County can see this,” Rhoton said. “But a map like this matters to all of us, it gets information out to the public a lot more quickly than conventional ways. I just click, and the information is there.”
How We Got Here
The story of this city-county-university partnership begins as most stories do – with parking. Rhoton has been working with Austin Peay police on a tool to more clearly communicate parking lot and road closures on campus. That project is still in development.
“We mentioned to (city and county officials) we’re doing this thing, and something bigger came from it,” said GIS Center Director Mike Wilson. “‘If you’re doing that for campus, can you do that for us?’ Initially, we were thinking just about parking lots.”
“What they liked was the simplicity and efficiency of relaying information to the public such as road closures, road work, service outages,” Rhoton said. “From this idea, we created a dashboard so the public could easily access information by clicking on some of the features.”
Rhoton has worked on the map about three months, and he spent most of the time talking with various departments about getting information onto the map. He needed about two weeks to build the web application and dashboard.
What’s On The Map
“The (city and county) departments are actually running the site,” GIS Center Project Manager Doug Catellier said. “They have access to put the road closures in there, to put in future work projects.”
Currently, the Clarksville Street Department, the Montgomery County Highway Department, Clarksville Gas & Water and the E-911 Center are providing data for the map. The map tracks city and county road closures, road blocks, road work, problems at intersections, water outages and wrecks. Catellier and Wilson expect to add more departments and information to the map.
And a street department worker easily can add road maintenance information.
“With two or three button clicks, they can have the road closure drawn out on the map,” Rhoton said. “I tried to make it as painless as possible.”
For Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, the map is good way to extend services to residents.
“Governments have invested a lot of money in mapping technology, so if we can find ways to share this kind of information with citizens, I’m all for it,” Pitts said. “If we can save people time and money by sharing a road closures map to their phones, then by all means, I want that on our website.”
Everyday Use, And For Emergencies
The map is useful to government agencies, such as local law enforcement, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and the Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency.
“It gives them one main source to find this information, not only for these departments to know when these roads are closed, but also the public,” Catellier said.
City and county agencies will use the map most initially, Wilson said, but he expects the public will use it as more features are added.
“Most likely, the map will be used during flood events, during emergencies,” he said.
“We’ve been looking for ways we can do more for the community,” Wilson added. “We do so much for the city and the county, and other government agencies, but we’re trying to do more that the public can see.”
Rhoton is proud of his work.
“I try to make these maps the best that I can to represent the GIS Center,” Rhoton said. “I tell Doug and Mike all the time, that’s my job. I want to make a good product.”
To Learn More
- To see the road closure map, click here.
- To see the City of Clarksville’s new website, go to www.cityofclarksville.com.
- To learn about the Austin Peay GIS Center and its projects, visit www.apsugis.org.
- For more about the APSU Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, go to www.apsu.edu/csci.