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HIGH-TECH POTHOLES PATROL LANCASTER USING LASER-EQUIPMENT VAN TO SURVEY 800 MILES OF STREETS.

Byline: CHARLES F. BOSTWICK Staff Writer

LANCASTER -- A $750,000 cargo van fitted with bumper-mounted laser sensors, rooftop digital cameras and computer gear is cruising Lancaster's streets, pinpointing and cataloging every pavement crack, rut and pothole.

Done by an Illinois company under a $410,000 city contract, the high-tech street survey this month and next is part of a city effort to inventory all of its assets -- from streets to park buildings -- and to move its street repair planning into the digital age.

Until now, Lancaster street conditions have been catalogued in a hands-on, low-tech way: a city engineer drove them regularly, noting their conditions and logging his findings in a book kept by the Public Works Department.

``We expect a pretty good return on our investment,'' said Steven Dassler, the city's Public Works assistant director.

Starting last week and continuing for about two weeks more, the Infrastructure Management Services van and its three-man crew are driving about 800 miles of streets, or about three-quarters of the city's total. Excluded will be the two-lane roads in the less-developed parts of the city west of 80th Street West and east of 40th Street East.

After the IMS van completes its survey, a trailer-mounted pavement tester will go to work gauging the condition of streets' subsurface. The trailer is fitted with steel wheels attached to a flywheel that can exert a 1,000-pound load, replicating the effect of a big truck passing over, plus sensors that measure the effect on the pavement.

The trailer will scan the streets for about six weeks, stopping every 500 feet to perform its tests.

Part of the reason for the survey is a December 2007 deadline facing government agencies that collect taxes for maintaining long-term infrastructure assets. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board told local governments to inventory all elements of their infrastructure -- such as roads and storm drains -- and assess their condition and costs as part of their regular financial reporting.

The street survey information will go into the city's new ``geographic information'' system that is bringing together disparate data into a digital system, giving city workers computer access to information ranging from the locations of street signs -- being photographed by the street-survey van's cameras -- to property ownership records.

``Ultimately a good part of it will be available to the public,'' Dassler said.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) To map its road conditions, Lancaster has hired an Illinois company to scan 800 miles of streets in this souped-up cargo van, fitted with cameras, GPS antennas and laser sensors.

(2 -- 3 -- color) Above, crew chief Justin Jones juggles the van's video, GPS and computer systems. Below, the van relies on its rooftop cameras, as well as a flywheel apparatus, to scan street surfaces.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 16, 2006
Words:462
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