High-tech assessment underway for Lexington roads using digital survey vehicle

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 28, 2015) — Flashing orange lights… laser beams… cameras pointed in different directions. Is it something out of a science fiction movie? No, the strange looking Ford Expedition driving through Lexington neighborhoods is a new tool the city is using to scientifically measure the condition of road pavement.
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DigitalSurveyVehicleToday, Mayor Jim Gray joined councilmembers and officials from the Department of  Environmental Quality & Public Works to announce the start of a new technology-based process to assess road paving needs across the city. A digital survey vehicle will use lasers and cameras to measure the surface condition of road pavement, including potholes, cracks, roughness and rutting.

“Maintaining basic infrastructure like roads is a key responsibility of local government,” Mayor Gray said. “Over the past five years, the City has committed nearly $38 million to road paving, more than any other five year period. Another $10 million for paving is proposed in the new budget. Data collected by the digital survey vehicle will help Councilmembers determine paving priorities and identify roads where short-term repairs can be made.”

“Citizens often ask how decisions are made to resurface certain roads,” said Fifth District Councilmember Bill Farmer, Jr. “Having accurate road information that is consistent across the city will help us target current and future needs in an objective, transparent way.”

Lasers on the vehicle can measure the change in road surface within one-thousandth of an inch, or the thickness of a piece of paper. The vehicle is also equipped with four cameras, which will take photographs every 20 feet. A rear-mounted camera is pointed directly at the ground, and the other cameras provide a driver’s perspective of the road and shoulder. A global positioning system is used to identify exactly where and when photos and measurements are taken.

The City contracted with Applied Research Associates, Inc. for the road assessment project. A technician will monitor data inside the vehicle and the company will use the information to rate each block or street on a scale of 0 to 100. A 100 represents perfect pavement (like it was just built), while a 0 is a road that is in very bad condition (close to gravel).

“We’re investing $395,000 in the project, which will allow us to assess all 4,024 City-maintained streets across Lexington,” said David Holmes, Commissioner of Environmental Quality & Public Works. “The data collected will be good for up to three years and will help us determine the best way to fix each street – whether that’s through crack sealant, microsurfacing, or traditional mill and overlay – saving money in the long run.”

Prior to this project, pavement assessments in Lexington were based on a more subjective method of city employees walking down streets, which proved to be slow and dangerous. The digital survey vehicle is based on an evaluation method developed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

“This project is just another example of the City using technology to make informed decisions and show citizens their tax dollars at work,” Mayor Gray added. “We’ve used software to proactively identify and address dilapidated housing, created free apps for citizens to get updates and alerts about their neighborhoods, and are in the process of getting City traffic cameras online.”

The digital survey vehicle will be in Lexington for several weeks, covering about 40-50 miles each day and moving at normal traffic speeds. The lasers are located on the bumper of the vehicle and point downward, so the equipment will not affect other drivers. No private data will be collected.

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