Rendering of a plan for Doyle Drive.
Rendering of a plan for Doyle Drive. (Provided by doyledrive.org.)
Marin drivers won't have to wait until 2013 to see what the new and improved Doyle Drive will look like.

They can see it right now in 3-D, and no funny glasses are required.

San Rafael-based Autodesk has developed software that is being used by the California Department of Transportation that gives the public as well as contractors, engineers and others working on the major San Francisco highway project a critical preview of the work.

"It helps the agency, officials and stakeholders see what they are getting ahead of time," said Doug Eberhard, senior director at Autodesk. "They are

getting a look at actual design models. It also allows you find problems and fix problems.

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The software has been used to develop video that provides an opportunity to see the design of the new Doyle Drive, including the new divided roadway, landscape medians, and tunnels that go under a park area in the Presidio. Caltrans had previously bought the software from Autodesk so the cost to produce the actual video was nominal.

Generally called building information modeling or BIM, the technology gives the public, which is funding the $1.1 billion project, the opportunity to see where their money is going on 3-D and even 4-D.

"It gives taxpayers transparency and there is what I like to call an 'assurance policy' that what is being built is proven," Eberhard said. "The technology is now here to work smarter.


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Beyond the general imagery of the external construction, the Autodesk tools Navisworks, Revit, Civil 3D and AutoCAD allows projects engineers and designers to see the internal workings, including where walls begin and end, and the positioning of pipes and electrical wiring.

"You can see the results by bringing several models together, and you can see where clashes might occur, where a pipe might hit a structure," said Eberhard, adding the Autodesk technology has been used on the Bay Bridge and new World Trade Center projects. "These infrastructure models help people make smarter decisions by allowing them to see things ahead of time."

And instead of taking weeks to modify plans, the work can be done in minutes by reformatting the computer models.

That helps those on the front lines who will build the project.

"This type of value engineering saves dollars for the state and the contractor," said Mike Ghilotti, president of San Rafael-based Ghilotti Brothers Inc. , which has the $19 million first phase contract for Doyle Drive. "The greatest thing about this 4-D program is it will pinpoint more clearly where there are conflicts in different stages of work, and you save a lot of time and money. It's a really unique tool."

Construction of the new Doyle Drive, the 1.

5-mile stretch of highway that is the southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, will begin in weeks and could be open in early 2013.

The "seismically challenged" structure was built in 1936 and had been given a safety score of 2 out of 100 in a state rating system, reflecting its poor condition.

Since that determination several years ago, Caltrans has spent $35 million to strengthen the structure, significantly improving its safety. But planners say it remains vulnerable in a large earthquake. Recently received federal stimulus money has completed funding needed for the work.

"We are extremely pleased that after years of intensive public and agency coordination construction on this project of regional importance is ready to begin," said Jose Luis Moscovich, San Francisco County Transportation Authority executive director. "The receipt of federal stimulus funding has provided the catalyst to expedite the replacement of Doyle Drive - providing us with the opportunity to not only make the roadway structurally and seismically safer, but to implement a world-class design that is more context sensitive and improves the connectivity of the area for traffic as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit."

Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@marinij.com