# How to get the shortest distances between features on separate polygon layers?

Suppose I have a county-level map for the state of North Carolina, U.S. Suppose I would like to compute the shortest distance of each county to any point along the border of Georgia. How would this be done?

I have looked all over this site and the internet for suggestions and cannot find much.

I am very new to GIS, so I would be very grateful for any detail.

Thank you very much for your help!!

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If you have ArcGIS with an ArcInfo (Advanced) license, you could try this: gis.stackexchange.com/questions/34972/… –  Rayner Oct 7 '12 at 9:15
My license is: ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced (ArcInfo) Single Use. Is that the same thing? –  user1690130 Oct 7 '12 at 9:18
Yes, that is the license you need to run Near (Analysis). Only thing is I don't see a polygon to polygon example. You may have to convert one of your layers to a line layer first. –  Rayner Oct 7 '12 at 9:19
How do you convert a layer to a line layer? –  user1690130 Oct 7 '12 at 9:24
resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.1/index.html#//… but you may not have to. Did you try Near (Analysis) with the two polygon layers? –  Rayner Oct 7 '12 at 11:15

According to the ArcGIS Resource Center:

Both input features and near features can be point, multipoint, line, or polygon.

So you should be able to use the Near Tool for both polygon layers as Rayner suggested but without needing to convert them. The Near tool can be found in the Proximity toolset of the Analysis tools in ArcToolbox.

Just set the Counties layer as the input feature and the Georgia layer as the near feature. The following attributes would then be added to the Counties layer:

• NEAR_FID—Stores the feature ID of the nearest feature.
• NEAR_DIST—Stores the distance from the input feature to the nearest feature. The value of this field is in the linear unit of the input's coordinate system.

I take it the NEAR_DIST values are what you need?

Extracting the Georgia boundaries from the states shape file

As for your data, you can extract the Georgia boundary from the states shapefile. Go to your states shapefile's attribute table and select Georgia.

The Georgia state should be highlighted. You can then extract it by right-clicking the states layer name in the table of contents and clicking Data > Export Data. This displays the Export Data dialog box. You can then export just the Georgia boundary by choosing the Selected features option from the dropdown menu.

You can then use the resulting Georgia layer as the Near Feature.

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How would I get the Georgia layer as the near feature? –  user1690130 Oct 7 '12 at 17:29
Just click the + symbol and navigate to your Georgia layer. Alternately, you can try clicking the dropdown menu in the Near Features form if the Georgia layer is loaded on ArcMap. –  R.K. Oct 7 '12 at 17:33
I still don't understand how to get the Georgia feature. My shapefile is a map of United States counties. –  user1690130 Oct 7 '12 at 17:36
Oh, I thought you have two polygons, one of Georgia and another of counties. Do you have a a United States boundaries shape file? –  R.K. Oct 7 '12 at 17:42
Rather than string answer after answer together in the comments, please accept R.K.'s answer and then ask a new question. It also wouldn't hurt for you to try and figure things out on your own rather than relying on others to do all of your work for you. –  Rayner Oct 7 '12 at 18:25