GIS leaders push National Address Database program forward without funding

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INDIANAPOLIS — Even though the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Address Database pilot extinguished its funding and concluded its official run earlier this year, the agency’s chief geographic information officer announced Wednesday the effort will continue through a “coalition of the willing.”

Even without funding, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Ohio, Utah and Virginia committed to completing their own databases and sharing them with DOT, said Steve Lewis, the department’s chief geospatial information officer.

“We’re going to continue that coalition of the willing until I find that magic pot of gold. We have some volunteers waiting now and we’re going to look for other states. I think this is progress, and I hope you’re all as proud of this work as I am,” Lewis told an audience at the National States Geographic Information Council 2016 annual conference.

The Transportation Department kicked off the National Address Database program last fall with pilots in Arizona, Arkansas and Jackson County, Mo. During the pilots, officials developed a minimum content guideline to establish what data would be included in the database, centered around addresses, geographic location and address metadata. The National Address Database will eventually be opened to the public and is expected to be used by first responders, the public safety community, the U.S. Postal Service and the Census Bureau to streamline processes.

While 31 states and the District of Columbia have address database programs with varying levels of completion, the remaining 19 states don’t have a formal program, according to 2015 data from NSGIC — which came out in favor of the database’s creation.

To supplement the database, the pilot group looked to resources like OpenAddresses.io and Census Bureau’s Community TIGER database for help, though neither of these were fully included in the pilot, Lewis said.

After the completion of the pilot, the database has almost all of the data for Arizona, Arkansas and several counties in Missouri after the effort spread from Jackson County, Lewis said. Montana, Mississippi and North Carolina submitted their data to DOT, but they have not yet been added to the full database. Altogether, the database has approximately 17 million addresses and no personally identifiable information, Lewis said.

The database will be housed in Microsoft’s Azure Cloud and visualized in a geospatial data platform. Even with that end vision in mind, Lewis said he isn’t sure if he and the department should make what exists of the National Address Database available to the public now or wait for additional data from other states.

To help fill in the gaps — especially in the cities and counties without a formal address database program — DOT is considering launching a data challenge to develop a crowdsourced app that would be used to collect address points using the data scheme developed for the pilot.

The hypothetical app would be available for local public safety officials, real estate agents, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Federal Emergency Management Authority officials and the public.

“This is probably not going to get a huge amount of data for us, but it’ll help,” Lewis said.

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