January 26th, 2012

UDOT FX

Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

A technology that is used to create magic on the silver screen will help UDOT take better care of transportation assets.

LiDAR creates a point cloud for a continuous accurate measurement of pavement and all surrounding roadway assets.

State roads along with many associated features comprise UDOT’s transportation assets. Determining a long term, cost effective asset maintenance strategy starts with knowing the location and condition of each asset.  UDOT cares for thousands of miles of pavement and hundreds of other assets, like bridges, signs and guardrail, so collecting data on location and condition can be a challenge. Departments of transportation across the nation, including UDOT, have traditionally maintained stand alone data bases for each asset category.

To better care for roadway assets UDOT Traffic and Safety, Maintenance, and Asset Management will use Mobile LiDAR, a vehicle mounted system that sends out bursts of light to measure the distance to an object. The technology has many applications, including creating special effects for movies.

LiDAR can collect “over a million points per second” according to the vendor’s website. While other methods collect asset data like pavement condition every few feet, LiDAR creates a point cloud for a continuous accurate measurement of pavement and all surrounding roadway assets. “Nobody else is collecting as much data in a single pass,” says Stan Burns, Engineer for Asset Management.

Using LiDAR will allow UDOT to have a single data base for all assets. “And, because will do this every other year we will be able to produce a deterioration curve for individual assets” so engineers to have a better understanding of the life of each asset category. The one source advantage will make for a “much more robust” maintenance strategy.

For example, the LiDAR collection method can include measuring the precise location, size and even the level of retroreflectivity of on signs along interstates. Measuring retroreflectivity is typically a hands-on process that is expensive and time consuming.  “This technology would allow us to break down the percent of the signs meeting or failing only replace the ones that need it,” says Burns.

Another advantage of the LiDAR system is that data can be collected on both sides of the road at once. In the past, UDOT has obtained directional data in alternate years.

In addition to LiDAR, the data collection vehicle has a GPS unit and video cameras. After collection is complete, UDOT employees will have access to the information on desktop computers. The desktop software is easy to use and will allow users to see video and virtually drive a roadway, take still shots from the video, access data on the condition of assets and navigate to locations by milepost.

The Mobile LiDAR collection project is a joint effort among UDOT departments, including Traffic and Safety, Maintenance, and Asset Management. Mandli Communications, Inc. was selected to provide the services through a competitive selection process. The three groups along with the Utah Department of Technology Services and UDOT Engineering Technology Services will develop an integrated database for displaying, querying and analyzing assets. Assets collected will include pavement distress of the entire state system including ramps and collectors, the number of lane miles, surface areas including width of shoulders and medians, all signs, guardrail, cable barrier and rumble strips.

This guest post was written by Catherine Higgins.

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