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Dongming Fan1 and Guoqing Zhou2

School of Civil Eng., Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu, 610031, China

Tel: +86 28 87602190; Fax: +86 28 87602190; E-mail:


Laboratory for Earth Observing and Spatial Data Processing

Old Dominion University, 214 Kaufman Hall, Norfolk, VA 23529 USA

Tel: (757) 683-3619; Fax: (757) 683-5655; E-mail:

In the design of highway, the cross-section mapping and the computation of earthwork are needed. This paper
first presents the design and implementation of a software system for road cross-section mapping and earthwork
calculation based on AutoCAD software, and then presents how to automatically determine the boundary of
earthwork, automatically map the highway cross-section in AutoCAD, automatically detecting the area of filling
and cutting earthwork, and automatically calculate the volume of filling and cutting Earthwork. Finally, this
paper describes the implementation of this system using AutoLISP based on AutoCAD. The project was
performed for the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway in China, funded by China Railway Engineering
Corporation. The results demonstrated that the designed and implemented system can successfully applied in the
mapping of highway cross-section and the calculation of highway earthwork.

In highway and railway design, it usually is necessary to build the cross-section mapping along the
centreline of highway and railway (Djazmati 1982, Ferris 2002, 2001, Khattak et al. 2003, Taiganidis et al 1991),
and determine the volumes of various types of materials (Ayetey and Frempong 1996, Batayneh et al. 2002,
Simmons, 1981). This work was traditionally done manually, which is time-consuming and labor-intensive. On
the other hand, the procedures of computations and the final product, such as table, mapping standard, accuracy
in various companies have different requirements. This fact caused inconvenient for data sharing and data
compatibility. Therefore, the mapping of the cross-section along the centerline of highway and railway and the
volume computation of earthwork in China cannot meet the increasing civil projects requirement, especially I
highway design and construction. For example, volume computations on many types of construction projects are
required to determine the capacities of bins, tanks, reservoirs, and buildings, and to check stockpiles of
centerlines, while the current earthwork software in China cannot implement this function. Based on the fact
above, the technique group at the Chinese Railway Engineering Corporation was developing an entire complete
software system in order to meet the requirement of linear civil engineering, especially, highway and railway
engineering. This paper described our efforts, which is part of this software system.

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The computation of volumes is classified into direct measurement and indirect measurement. Direct
measurement of volumes is rarely employed in civil engineering, since it is difficult to actually apply a unit of
measure to the materials involved (Khattak et al 2003). Instead, indirect measurements are applied by measuring
line length and cross-section areas for the volume computation. Three principal approaches of the indirect
methods are used (Wolf and Ghilani 2002): (1) the cross-section method, (2) the unit-area, or borrow-pit, and (3)
the contour-area method. The cross-section method is widely employed in civil engineering, especially for
computing volumes of linear construction projects such as highways, railroads, and canals. Therefore, the
algorithm in our software is based on the cross-section method.
The procedures of the cross-section requires to compute ground profiles, called cross-sections, at intervals
of full- or half-stations along staked centerline of highway and railway. The cross-sectioning consists of
measuring ground elevations and their corresponding distances left and right perpendicular to the centerline.
Actually, a staked centerline of highway consists of many segments (Chinese Railway Design Institute 1998),
thus one usually used to fit these line segments using a smooth curve, in which all of staked points lie in the
curve. Figure 1 illustrates a cross-section of a real railway in China. As seen from Figure 1, the cross-section is a
polygon composed by ground lines measured in the earths surface and designed cross-sections. Moreover the
coordinates of each corners of polygon are known. Thus, the volume computation becomes the issue of how to
determine the coordinates of point J1 and J2. Classically, one determined the coordinates using rulers. For the
computer programming, the algorithm for computing the coordinates of intersects point will be implemented
through two equations described two straight lines. In order to increase the computational speed, this paper
presents a simple, but effective method. This method is based on complete enumerate, and adopt a complete
combination to determinate the coordinates of the intersection point of two straight lines. They are the following
four cases (Figure 2):



ground section







designed section






A= -226.53m 2 (stone)

Figure 1. The cross-section map of an actual railway

ASPRS 2005 Annual Conference
Geospatial Goes Global: From Your Neighborhood to the Whole Planet
March 7-11, 2005 Baltimore, Maryland

ground line

ground line

designed line

designed line




ground line

ground line

designed line

designed line



Figure 2. The four cases of the ground line intersecting with designed line
In the four cases, the intersection in Figure 2a is from the ground line and the designed line, and other three
intersections are from the extension of either ground line or the designed line. The coordinates of intersect point,
J in Figure 2a is:

(x D xC ) (x B y A x A y B ) (x B x A ) (x D y C xC y D )

( x B x A ) ( y D y C ) ( x D xC ) ( y B y A )

( y D yC ) (x B y A x A y B ) ( y B y A ) (x D yC xC y D )

( x B x A ) ( y D y C ) (x D xC ) ( y B y A )

xJ =

With the coordinates of point J, the ratios of the intersect point to either the ground line or the designed line are,

x A xJ y A y J
xJ xB y J y B

x x J yC y J
= C
xJ xD y J y D

measured =

From the Figure 2a, 2b, 2c, and 2d, we have, respectively,

For Fig. 2a

For Fig. 2b

For Fig. 2c

For 2d

measured 0

designed 0

measured < 0

designed 0

measured < 0

designed < 0

measured 0

designed < 0

ASPRS 2005 Annual Conference

Geospatial Goes Global: From Your Neighborhood to the Whole Planet
March 7-11, 2005 Baltimore, Maryland

Based on the inequations above, it is easy to distinguish the Figure 2a and 2b, 2c, and 2d. In other words, it
is easy to determine the locations of the ground line and the designed line, further to calculate the extent of
cutting and filling areas.

The computation formula of earthwork can be derived from Figure 3. The basic steps are (1) determination
of the area of each cutting or filling cross-sections, (2) computation of volume of each cutting and filling areas,
and (3) accumulation of each cutting volume and filling volume.

ground section
cutting area




designed section
filling area
Figure 3. The computation of cross-section of cutting and filling areas

The cress-section area of each cutting and filling segment is computed by


1 x1

2 x2

y1 x 2
y 2 x3







The volume of each two neighbor segments along centerline can be calculated by:

Vi =

S i + S i +1 + S i S i +1 (DK i +1 DK i )

where Vi is volume between i th and

( i + 1) th cross-section segment;

S i is area of the i th cross-section;

DK i is chainage of the i th cross-section.

The total volume along centerline of a highway and railway is:


V = Vi
i =1

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Geospatial Goes Global: From Your Neighborhood to the Whole Planet
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We implemented this system using AutoLISP language and Script file. This is because AutoCAD software
is widely used in many companies worldwide. The development for further applications based on the AutoCAD
will be able to directly be applied in these companies without any training. Consequently, the developed tools
will be able to have a good compatibility, easy-to-learn, and data sharing.
The Script file format, with extension scr, in AutoCAD is used. This type of file is a text file format, thus,
can be compatible for various versions of AutoCAD, but has a low function for handling graphs. Therefore, in
order to better develop the software tools, we use Script file to call AutoLISP commands to implement some
complex graphic processing functions (Rawls et al 1998). An example of this call is as follow:
(COMMAND "STYLE" "STANDARD" "Courier New" "" "" "" "" "")
TEXT J BC -11.480,+147.975 +0.500 321 1:1.25
LINE +0.000,+139.870 +0.000,+152.580

where the row 1 and 2 are to call the AutoLISP commands, to set the fonts as Courier New and close all the
object snap settings; the row 3 is a command to label text, and the row 4 is to draw line, the last line is to view
entire drawing on screen. Figure 1 is a result generated by our tool developed in this project.

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ASPRS 2005 Annual Conference
Geospatial Goes Global: From Your Neighborhood to the Whole Planet
March 7-11, 2005 Baltimore, Maryland

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ASPRS 2005 Annual Conference

Geospatial Goes Global: From Your Neighborhood to the Whole Planet
March 7-11, 2005 Baltimore, Maryland