Tricked-out tech vans help Arlington analyze road-repair needs

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Data pix.

ARLINGTON -- If you see a van with a bunch of cameras and sensors driving through South Arlington, it's not spying on you.  It's actually scanning the roads to build a digital database of what needs to be fixed.

Arlington has employed the technology for several years, surveying a different third of the city's roads each year.  This year is South Arlington's turn, with the vans covering about 370 miles of roadways.

"They collect data through lasers and cameras," says Leah Jackson, a systems analyst for the city's Public Works and Transportation Department.  "They monitor it by ride and distress.  The distress is any visual cracking or different things that you can visually see, and then the ride is how bumpy or smooth the actual ride is."

The vans can cover the assigned area in as little as two weeks if weather cooperates, recording and analyzing 19 kinds of distresses according to Jackson along with the surface smoothness.  The data is compiled and delivered to the city in one to two weeks, which sure beats the old way of doing this!

"It was manual inspections," says Jackson.  "People would go out and take a ruler and say, 'This crack is two inches,' which, as you can imagine, was pretty tedious."

Not only does the data help the city determine what needs to be fixed now and what can wait, it also provides a handy archive to reference in the future if a re-repair needs to be made.

"[We can] look back and see what the conditions were of certain streets, we can see what different repairs worked and what maybe wasn't as effective or efficient."

Other cities in North Texas use similar technology on their roads, and Arlington residents can always beat the vans to the punch and report issues like potholes using the Ask Arlington app.  So, if your street needs some new pavement, just be patient.  Help will roll through soon enough!

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