Section 1 - Introduction



OpenRoads Designer introduces a new 3D parametric modelling design environment providing capabilities for surveying, drainage, subsurface utilities, roadway design and site design. The release of OpenRoads Designer completes the convergence of previously delivered products, such as InRoads, GEOPAK, and MX.

OpenRoads 3D parametric modelling works in the following way:

  • Design models are created and displayed in multiple live views including 3D, plan, profile, cross section.
  • Changes in one view are live and dynamically update all views.
  • Plan generation is updated from live design models.

This volume will focus on the base set up for the civil applications OpenRoads Designer and OpenBridge Modeler. All civil engineers should have solid knowledge base of Geographic Coordinate Systems and understand the uses of data acquisition for existing conditions.

Geographic Ribbon Tools - OpenRoads Interface

Terrain Ribbon Tools - OpenRoads Interface


This guide will not document each tool that is available on the OpenRoads interface. See the online help for commands not detailed in this document.

OpenRoads Designer CONNECT Edition Help



The workflows and tools in OpenRoads Designer are entirely different from InRoads SS2. All civil data is now stored in the dgn file. All legacy tools have been retired and replaced with newer and more efficient tools.

Single Software Platform

  • OpenRoads Designer is one product (MicroStation no longer required).

One File Format

  • All civil data is now stored in the dgn file.
  • Surfaces, Geometry, Corridors, Standards and Preferences, etc. are all stored in dgn files.
  • Civil data historically stored in external file types such as the, .dtm, .alg, .ddb .ird and .xin no longer exist.
  • The only external file that carries forward to OpenRoads Designer is the Template Library (.itl).



OpenRoads uses some different terms from its predecessors. Below are some of the new terms and how they relate back to InRoads:

  • Geometry: Horizontal and Vertical alignments, what used to be contained in the ALG files.
  • Terrain: Surface model that represents existing ground, the proposed design or other items that were referred to as digital terrain models (DTMs).
  • Corridor: Objects that make up the proposed roadway, such as template drops, point controls, end condition exceptions, parametric constraints, etc.
  • Model Annotation: This is how ORD handles “intelligent” annotation, such as geometry stationing and bearings/distances, survey elements like pipes, buildings and trees, as well as cross section elevations, dimensions and volumes.



The delivery of the existing surveyed data from will take on a new form with OpenRoads Designer. With InRoads, the deliverable was a DGN file (3D) containing the survey graphics import from the imported fieldbook, along with the existing DTM (surface). In ORD, the deliverable will be a DGN file with several models, a 3D model with graphics imported from the original Field Book, a separate 3D model containing only the Existing Terrain and possibly another model containing Right of Way information.  It is critical that the survey file be created from CTDOT’s delivered 3D seed file.



As you populate design files using the OpenRoads and OpenBridge Feature Definitions are used to define the representation of how the objects will appear in 2D, profile, cross sections, and 3D.

What is a Feature?

A feature is anything in your design that represents a real-world object such as:

  • Curbing
  • Pavement
  • Catch basins, manholes, pipes
  • Walls
  • Ditches
  • Cut and fill slopes

Features are defined in MicroStation DGN Libraries. The CTDOT configuration defines which feature libraries are available for CTDOT use. The available feature definitions can be reviewed in the Explorer dialog as shown below.

Feature Defintions DGNLIBS - OpenRoads Explorer Dialog Box

In addition to defining the symbology settings, feature definitions can also define annotation settings for each item. 

For example, the Alignment feature definitions also define how an alignment will be annotated using the OpenRoads Element Annotation and Model Annotation commands. These tools are described later in this document.

The feature definition is assigned when elements are placed using the Geometry Tools or when using 3D Modeling tools.

Feature Placement Tools on the Ribbon - OpenRoads Interface

The features are organized by categories. Expanding a category will reveal the features available in the category.

When Using the Geometry Tools Linear, Alignments and Points Feature Definitions are chosen as the feature is placed as shown below.

Select a Feature Definition Horizontal Geometry - OpenRoads Dialog Box

During the 3D modeling procedure, Feature Definitions are pre-determined by the Templates, Civil Cells or 3D objects being placed.

Roadway Template Library showing point feature name - OpenRoads Dialg Box



OpenRoads Designer and OpenBridge Modeler utilizes three different types of models: Design, Drawing and Sheet.

  • Design (Base Models): Consists of design geometry, can be 2D or 3D, and contains the elements that represent what is built, drawn at full scale (1:1), these types of models will be considered Base Models for the CTDOT CONNECT DDE. This model has a default black background.
  • Drawing: This type of model is used to apply annotation. It stores a subset of a 2D or 3D design model or design composition. It is always 2D and has a default grey background.
  • Sheet: This model is for plotting purposes only. It serves as an electronic drawing sheet and is used to define printed output, ready for printing or publishing. The sheet model includes a boundary, sheet information, and additional sheet annotation. All mapping and design features that have coordinate location values associated with them shall maintain those coordinate values within the CAD files. It is always 2D and has a default black background.

DGN Model Types


CTDOT uses various base model design files to store plan, profile, and corridor modeling information in real world dimensions. These files are then referenced into drawing models and contract sheet design files to produce the plan sheets for the project.

Several base model files may be used depending on the project complexity.

  • The CTDOT CAD Standards allow for multiple base model design files for each unique discipline (survey, illumination, landscape, highway, drainage, signals, pavement marking, signs etc.).
  • Base models can be further broken up based on project needs by site or area to allow for multiple people in the same discipline to work on the project.For large projects it is recommended to store each alignment in a separate design file. This “federated” approach will allow multiple designers to work on different alignments simultaneously. If multiple geometry base models are used a “collector” design file should be created. This file is an empty design file with a reference attachment for each geometry base model. This allows users of the project to easily access all the geometry for the project by attaching the collector file as a reference with a nest depth value of 1.

Note: As graphic elements are drawn in each base model design file, these graphics are displayed in the “collector” file, according to the setting of the configuration variable MS_REF_NEWLEVELDISPLAY. This variable is defined as follows: MS_REF_NEWLEVELDISPLAY = 1. With this setting, as new elements are drawn in the various federated base models, the graphics is automatically displayed in the “Collector” file. In some cases, this behavior is desirable as it allows new and information to be automatically displayed on any plan sheets that reference one or more of the federated base models. Other users may find this behavior frustrating as the level for any new graphics must be manually turned off for each reference attachment. The default variable definition can be overwritten when a reference file is attached by setting the New Level Display parameter to a value of Never, as shown below.

New Level Display Variable - OpenRoads References Dialog Box

ORD creates a 3D model from your 2D design, storing the civil data in the DGN files. These DGN files will be required for projects that typically include earthwork.

Examples of 3D project types include:

  • New Roadways
  • Widening
  • Bridge replacements
  • Interchange reconstruction
  • Roundabouts
  • Turn lanes
  • Passing lanes


3D model files may not be required for projects that do not propose earthwork/grading operations.

Examples of such project types include:

  • Lighting
  • Bridge Rehabilitation without approach grading and paving
  • Resurfacing without significant grading operations
  • Landscaping
  • Signal upgrades
  • Signing/striping upgrades
  • Noise walls



In the CONNECT Edition we will be creating a model type called the Drawing Model. This is not a new concept to, but it has not been used in previous CTDOT workflows.

The Drawing model is an intermediate stage between the 3D Design and the printable Sheet Model. They will be used it in the Drawing Composition workflow to centralize annotations that need to be shared across multiple sheets. Users are locked from being able to place Geometry or Modeling Features in a Drawing Model. The following message will appear.

Unable to run command in Sheet or Drawing Model - Warning Box 

Drawing Model Rules:

  • References the Base Model and it cuts up using a Named boundary
  • Contain Annotation (Call outs) and Dimensions
  • Are geospatial
  • Automatically gets created when using the Place Named Boundary tools.

The creation of Drawing Models can be automated by utilizing the Place Named Boundary Tools. More information on creating Drawing Models can be found in Volume 13.

Create Drawing Toggle in Plan Productions Tools - OpenRoads Screen Shot


Creating a Sheet model for printing as a drawing, typically involves working with the following components:

  • Referencing Base and Drawing models.
  • Saved views — Used to set up views required for the drawing.
  • Border Cell Placement — Contains the border graphics and title block for plotted output.

There is no hard and fast rule about how to create Sheet models, or how to display your drawing information from your design or drawing models. Commonly, either of two methods are used, one that scales the border to enclose the design, or the other that scales the design to fit the border.

With both methods, for 3D work in particular, it is a good idea to have separate design models (base models), drawing models and sheet models. This lets you keep the purely drawing information, such as text and dimensioning, separate from the design information. Doing this reduces the likelihood of conflicts where others, for example, wish to reference the same design model for use in a drawing of a different scale.

Creating Sheet Models automates the creation of drawing sheets for the printing of your designs. This process is similar to how the manual draftsperson works. Where it differs, however, is that instead of redrawing the model's geometry for each view, like the manual system requires, you simply attach views of the design model as references.

In other words, you attach as references views of your design geometry for each plan, elevation, section, and so on. The power of this system is that any changes made to the design model is then reflected immediately in each affected view of the drawings.

The creation of Sheet Models can be automated by utilizing the Place Named Boundary Tools. More information on creating Sheet models can be found in Volume 13.

Sheet Model View - OprnRoads Screen Shot



CONNECT Edition design files contain Geo-Coordination features which allow users to specify the position of the design contents on the Earth's surface. Once that position is established, the design can be easily coordinated with other data for which the geographic location is known. For OpenRoads Designer (ORD,) the seed files have been assigned a default Geographic Coordinate System (GCS) of NAD 1983 State Plane Connecticut with a North American Vertical Datum of 1988 to allow interaction with geospatial applications. This GCS has also been applied to each view as an Auxiliary Coordinate System (ACS). 

  Cooridinate System Icon - OpenRoads Ribbon Interface

Geographic Coordinate System - OpenRoads Dialog Box.png

A library of predefined Geographic Coordinate Systems (GCS) is available in CONNECT:

  Select Geographic Coordinate System - OpenRoads Dialog Box


Rather than selecting a GCS from the overwhelming library list, AEC provides two files in the delivered CONNECT Workspace that can be used as a Geographic Coordinate System Source. These files can be accessed by selecting the From File Tool on the Geographic Coordinate System Toolbox.  The tool will apply the GCS from the selected source to the active design file. Designers should first consult with the Survey Unit to obtain the correct datums (NAD and NAVD) and to determine if their DGN file(s) will need to be reprojected. This coordinate information can also be found in the Survey dgn title block notes.


The path location is:


Note: In the rare case a NAD 83 Survey uses a NAVD 29 rather than the typical NAVD88 the following can be set to reproject the vertical.

1. On the Ribbon select the Utilities tab, In the Geographic section select the Coordinate System icon. On the Geographic Coordinate system toolbox select the From File icon and browse to Organization\Seed\GCS\NAD83FT_NAVD88.dgn.

2. On the Geographic Coordinate system toolbox select the Edit Reprojection Settings icon.

3. On the Reprojection Settings dialog box set Reproject Elevations to Yes on both the Reference and Active Model tabs.  Select OK to lock in the settings.

4. On the Geographic Coordinate system toolbox select Details (the icon labeled with an i). On the Geographical Coordinate System Properties dialog box change in the Coordinate System Modifiers section the Vertical Datum to National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929. Select OK and Save Settings.

Choosing a GCS when one has not been previously defined does not re-project existing data in the design file to the selected GCS. You are simply defining the coordinate system where the data resides. The content of the design file will be re-projected when changing from one GCS to another once a GCS has been defined. ORD understands the geographic location of your design and provides additional capabilities such as:


  • Applying a background map to the view.
  • Referencing other geo-located designs and raster data.
  • Displaying geographic latitude and longitude.
  • Entering latitude and longitude data.
  • Interfacing with a Global Positioning System device to correlate your physical position with the design on a mobile computer.
  • Exporting to Google Earth.


For more information on the National Geodetic Survey please visit: http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/faq.shtml#WhatNAD