Tag Archives: Program Development

Utah DOT Leveraging LiDAR for Asset Management Leap

This guest post was written by Philip Ellsworth for industry magazine LiDAR News. Philip is a consultant working with UDOT’s Consultant Services Division.

Mandli Vehicle

UDOT recently brought on Mandli Communications to undertake a groundbreaking inventory of Utah State Routes, the Mandli vehicle is equipped with multiple sensors, including a Velodyne LiDAR sensor.

In a world where LiDAR has revolutionized movie making, the Utah Department of Transportation is employing this impressive technology on a groundbreaking data collection project that will set the stage for vastly improved asset management — not just at UDOT, but across the country. After advertising a one-of-a-kind Request for Proposals (RFP) in the fall of 2011, UDOT has recently entered into a contract with Mandli Communications to gather, identify, and process a wide variety of roadway assets along its entire 6,000+ center lane miles of State Routes and Interstates. With the winning bidder (Mandli) proposing to use mobile LiDAR as its primary technology on the project (along with an array of other sensors), this UDOT contract may very well be the first of its kind in technological magnitude and scope.

In the beginning, the project was a simple effort to update an ongoing program where a contractor had been hired to gather roadway distress data for the Department. It was not long before the initially small UDOT team began to see that there was more potential to their efforts than just pavement distress data. With the leadership of Stan Burns, Director of UDOT Asset Management, they expanded their efforts to pull in other groups, asking everyone along the way, “What data can your division use to enhance your asset management decisions through a simplified collection effort?” It was soon discovered that some divisions had been duplicating efforts, potentially costing the Department precious resources; quickly a dynamic and diverse team began to form.

Signalized Intersection Data

The UDOT project includes an inventory of numerous roadway assets, including signalized intersections and some pavement marking, using LiDAR imaging as a backbone of the project.

A goal, established to “deploy state of the art collection methods to improve and develop rigorous safety, maintenance and preservation programs” became a key motivator to UDOT embarking on this project. Beyond this goal, it is clear that UDOT believes that the ability to make efficient asset management decisions is entirely dependent upon the accuracy and credibility of the available data. Confidently knowing the full details of UDOT’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure makes a better decision-making environment for leaders. And with safety at the forefront of UDOT’s and the public’s mind, it is critical to have the most dependable data possible in order to make potentially lifesaving decisions.

Mandli has completed the first phase of the project – data gathering – and is in the process of the second phase of the project – post processing and data delivery. Mandli proposed to gather both the positive and negative directions of data on Utah roads in 2012 and then come back in 2014 and update the data sets. The UDOT Roadway Imaging and Inventory program requires the vendor to gather no less than a dozen different roadway assets including roadway distress data, surface areas, lane miles, number of signs, ROW images, vertical clearances, and more with each of those categories broken down even further into subcategories ranging from condition data to GPS data, etc.

Sensors on the UDOT Mandli flagship vehicle include a Velodyne LiDAR sensor, a laser road imaging system, a laser rut measurement system, a laser crack measurement system, a road surface profiler, a position orientation system, and more – certainly making it one of Mandli’s most advanced asset gathering vehicles in their fleet.

While UDOT acknowledges a few hiccups along the way, the Department is excited to see the final results, expecting that the scope of the data being collected in and of itself will be better than what is available today. However, expectations of better data simply due to the size of the project hasn’t stopped UDOT from getting heavily involved in the Quality Assurance (QA) aspects of the project; aggressively pursuing the accuracy side of the project as well, even requiring a weekly QC/QA update meeting between UDOT, Mandli and their QA partner Stanley Consultants. This QA effort, combined with tight data tolerances, is expected to net UDOT a data set that meets one of their top original goals to “Gather the most data pertaining to roadway condition, location and roadway assets in an economical way, while maintaining a high level of accuracy and quality.”

UDOT believes that the use of LiDAR is actually providing more return on their investment, helping them meet their goal of gathering as much data as possible in an economical way, while maintaining a high level of accuracy and quality.

UDOT believes that the use of LiDAR is actually providing more return on their investment, helping them meet their goal of gathering as much data as possible in an economical way, while maintaining a high level of accuracy and quality.

While this project’s level of data collection is certainly possible using more traditional, ’boots on the ground‘ methods, UDOT believes that adding the use of LiDAR is actually providing more return on their investment. In the beginning, there was some hesitancy on the part of some involved, with some even expressing doubt that an endeavor of this magnitude could ever achieve its goals, or at least not without a technology such as LiDAR to complete it. The team moved forward anyway, knowing that an effort
was needed to gather the most data they could in the most cost-effective way possible – in order to increase their ability to make asset and safety management decisions with more confidence. They were truly convinced from the beginning that the effort to cobble together a diverse team would benefit each division through an “economies of scale” approach to procurement. When it was found that LiDAR was within reach, and had even been proposed by the winning team, the excitement level for the project increased exponentially. This alone, UDOT team members believe, has kept team members vigorously involved, creating a collaborative effort that even some naysayers now applaud.

UDOT team members have learned that collaboration is important because of its affect on the DOT’s ability to integrate their asset data in a meaningful way. Having multiple sets of similar data dispersed in disparate ways leads to duplication of efforts, an increase in the loss of data integrity, and an increased risk for data to become obsolete more quickly than if the data can be integrated and accessed through a collaborative effort. This project is proving to UDOT that integration is not only necessary in today’s asset management world, but that it is indeed possible.

UPLAN Website

UDOT’s UPLAN network, distributed through an ArcGIS platform is helping to get their roadway data into as many hands as possible, including the public.

One tool in UDOT’s bag of integration innovation is their UPLAN planning network platform, which has found itself in a symbiotic relationship with the UDOT Roadway Imaging and Inventory program. UPLAN is distributed on an ArcGIS platform, in conjunction with UDOT’s existing Oracle-based systems. Frank Pisani, UDOT’s GIS Manager says that it was initially developed as an internal planning tool but has quickly become UDOT’s enterprise-wide attempt to disseminate its vast database of information in a user-friendly environment, accessible online at http://uplan.maps.arcgis.com. The Roadway Imaging and Inventory project will help UPLAN by supplying it with a large amount of accurate information, while UPLAN will help the Roadway Imaging and Inventory project by becoming another portal by which the data can be distributed. This creates a scenario where not only will UDOT managers and staff be anticipating the project data, but the public can now anticipate the opportunity to experience the data as well.

No fewer than eight managers from various divisions, both inside and outside UDOT (including asset management, structures, traffic & safety, GIS, technology services, motor carriers, and more) have been collaborating on this UDOT project for well over a year. And now, with the project in full swing, these eight divisions are continuing to work together, while bringing others into the project along the way.

One group of experts that has been increasingly interested in the project are UDOT preconstruction engineering teams – those who spend a majority of their time designing UDOT roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. The mobile LiDAR point cloud has proven extremely intriguing to these preconstruction groups and as a result there is a clear desire within UDOT to discover its untapped potential. Preconstruction engineering teams are even investigating the possibility of getting high enough accuracy out of the LiDAR point cloud to be used in some preliminary design scenarios. For this endeavor, they’ve turned again to the LiDAR industry of professionals and are working with consultants, including Virtual Geomatics, to develop methods to enhance the accuracy of the LiDAR point cloud through a calibration process. Early efforts appear promising, with indications of getting to an average accuracy level of +/- 3 cm when using control points contained in the point cloud data.

Another group within UDOT that has increasingly expressed interest and favor for this project are members of the Department leadership and management, not only from those close to the project but others as well. UDOT indicates that a paradigm shift may be occurring within the DOT where employees in leadership and beyond are more commonly asking spatially-oriented questions, which fosters an environment where the value of data integration and data accuracy is not just recognized but demanded.

UDOT may well be showing that system-wide mobile LiDAR is within reach for DOT's across the nation.

UDOT may well be showing that system-wide mobile LiDAR is within reach for DOT’s across the nation.

Even with the long awaited MAP-21 legislation driving DOT’s across the nation to re-think their asset management programs, through its requirement that each state develop a risk-based asset management plan for the National Highway System, UDOT has found a way to stay at the leading edge of another transportation industry leap. And they’re clearly showing that system-wide mobile LiDAR is within reach for DOT’s across the nation.

ROAD VIEW ROCK STARS

By Catherine Higgins and Gary Kuhl

An innovative and robust data collection system will help UDOT take better care of assets associated with state roads.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

The Mandli Road View’s decked out Hummer gets attention when it cruises through town. Some onlookers even have concerns about privacy. But the sophisticated gear mounted on the front and back of the vehicle does not  spy on people; the equipment collects information about assets associated with roads. For UDOT, those assets include thousands of miles of pavement and thousands of bridges, overpasses, signs, barrier and guardrail.

Mandli Communications, Inc. recently displayed the vehicle for UDOT engineers from UDOT Traffic and Safety, Maintenance, Structures, Motor Carriers and Asset Management. The three UDOT departments are combining forces to collect asset data. UDOT engineers overseeing the project are not aware of any other departments of transportation that are collecting as much data in one pass as is occurring in Utah.

Data collection will be accomplished by using five integrated systems:

High definition LiDAR sends out bursts of light to measure the distance to an object. 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 spatially accurate point cloud for a continuous accurate measurement of pavement and all surrounding roadway assets, including vertical clearance for the overpasses.

  • Three HD cameras that record two hundred frames per mile will take a right-of-way inventory for a visual record of roads and associated assets. The photographs will allow users to take a virtual drive on any state route. The images will also be available for public view.
  • A Laser Crack Measurement System will detect, measure and classify pavement cracks and wheel path rutting.
  • An ARRB Hawkeye profiling system uses accelerometers and lasers to measure the profile of the road surface and from that data, will derive IRI, a measure of pavement smoothness.
  • Together, a GPS system, Gyroscopic Aplanix and distance measuring system will Geo-reference all of the data and provide integration with UDOT mile posts. Additionally this data will provide GIS linework for each route, horizontal curve, elevation and grade data.

Mandli was selected to provide the services through a competitive selection process. Asset data collection will be colleced on entire state system including ramps and collectors, and will include the number of lane miles, surface areas including width of shoulders and medians, all signs, guardrail, cable barrier and rumble strips. After collection, the Utah Department of Technology Services and UDOT Engineering Technology Services will develop an integrated database for displaying, querying and analyzing assets on an easy to use desk top application.

Departments of transportation across the nation, including UDOT, have traditionally maintained stand-alone data bases for each asset category to track maintenance and inspection data. An integrated data base will help UDOT have a better understanding of the transportation system as a whole and make better use of funding, staffing and other resources used to care for state assets.

UDOT FX

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.