Minneapolis Takes a High-Tech Approach to Street Repair

Goodbye, interns. Hello, laser-equipped vans? 

A prototype street-scanning van (Credit: Dynatest)

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This fall, Minneapolis will roll out a laser-equipped van to scan the city’s streets for flaws, replacing city employees and interns who once did the work on foot, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The annual inspection helps city governments identify roads most in need of repair.

“It will give us better information than we had before,” says Joe Casey with Minneapolis Public Works of the new sensor-equipped vans. “Also, we don’t have any interns out in the street in traffic. This is safer.”

Minneapolis will pay consulting form Dynatest about $300,000 to do the work, according to the Star Tribune, which will involve driving the van over more than 1,500 miles of alleys and streets, ideally before the first snow fall. The van is equipped with six lasers and two accelerometers that analyze ruts and the roughness of the road, and a “laser crack measuring system” that captures 3-D images of cracks in the street and measures them to the closest millimeter. The system also develops a “ride value” that describes what a road feels like to drive on.

All of this is especially important as Minneapolis embarks on a 20-year plan to increase road reconstruction and repairs. The Minnesota Department of Transportation and Hennepin County have both been using similar vans to track road conditions for several years. MnDOT pavement management engineer Dave Janish told the Star Tribune that the agency is most concerned with the roughness of state highways, since it is very noticeable at highway speeds.

“We use the roughness index primarily to tell us when a road needs to be fixed,” he said. “And then we use the … type of cracks and the severity and the quantity to tell us what kind of fix to do.”

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Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.

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Tags: walkabilityminneapolis

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