Imperial County roads get full, high-tech scan
Shown is a full view of a roadside tester vehicle. The RST costs $750,000. Just the bumper costs $250,000. (COURTESY PHOTO)
“We have a lot of roads, but what are their conditions and which ones should we fix first?” Veronica Atondo, county senior engineer said. “Those are questions that are not easy to answer when you have the number of roads that we have,” she said.
To find those answers the county entered into a $177,000 contract with Infrastructure Management Services, Atondo said.
IMS is a company that specializes in creating geographic information system maps, Atondo said.
GIS maps are very similar to what is seen on Google Earth when using their viewing tools, IMS President Stephen Smith said.
From June to July a road surface tester vehicle travelled throughout the county at regular speed and collected pavement overall conditions, Smith said.
The vehicle also collected video and global positioning system information on the roads, Smith said.
An RST vehicle looks like a van and it carries lasers, distance measuring instruments, GPS and high resolution, forward, downward and side view digital cameras, Smith said.
”Basically, we are going to build the county’s smart map,” Smith said.
With the GIS map the county will also detect and fix road deterioration quicker, Atondo said,
This practice will maximize resources and “stretch the life of each road to its maximum potential,” Smith said.
“This will save taxpayers money,” Atondo said.
Moreover, with this map the county’s public works department will be able to justify the remodeling of roads with factual data and special interests won’t influence which roads will be fixed, Atondo said.
Twenty years ago road assessment maps used to be done by walking surveys, Smith said, and those would be based on the sampling of a small segment of a road. That’s not accurate or efficient, he said, “so we came out with a better game plan and a better way of doing it.”
An RST vehicle can accurately record 30 to 60 miles a day while a person can probably do five miles, Smith said.
Three people make up an RST operation team, Smith said.
There is a driver, an operator who sits on the passenger side and records pavement type and shoulder information, he said, and the boss is in the back.
“He is operating all the computers on board, cameras and the GPS system,” he said.
Each image they capture has GPS capability, Smith said, “so the image knows where it is on a (computer) map.”
During their time in Imperial County RST operators were continually fighting the heat, Smith said. It was “a bit of a challenge,” he said, because air conditioners broke down while en route.
It will take about two months to submit the finished map, he said.
Upon completion IMS will hand a list of roads to rehabilitate, Smith said, and the county will know what to do to each road, when to do it and how much it will cost.
“And that’s what we did, all at 50 miles an hour.” Smith said.
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com