Digital Roadways

Jen Winter, P.E., Public Works Director, City of Cedar Rapids
Jen Winter, P.E., Public Works Director, City of Cedar Rapids

Jen Winter, P.E., Public Works Director, City of Cedar Rapids

Technology has come a long way in the fight against pavement decay. While field checks and on-site inspections will still play a role in addressing road concerns, equipment now exists to help give engineers across the country a better understanding of what’s happening on our roadways.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, like many Midwest communities, is battling aging and weather-beaten roadways. In 2014, the City received a new funding stream in the form of a one percent local options sales tax, which contributes approximately $18 million annually to help fight deteriorating pavement – dubbed “Paving for Progress.”With a new funding stream and miles and miles of roadway that qualifies for repairs, how do city leaders prioritize every street need?

Cedar Rapids officials made the decision to use technology to help build a data-driven, impartial, and measurable pavement plan that takes into account all street needs and repair options. The resulting plan outlines which street repairs would make the most overall improvement to the entire street network, balancing both preservation and total reconstruction.

The data is made available from Iowa State University’s Institute for Transportation, Iowa Pavement Management Program, which analyzes nearly every single roadway in Cedar Rapids approximately every two years. A special vehicle called an Automatic Road Analyzer (ARAN) is outfitted with an array of sensors and cameras that automatically collect data on the road, including – but not limited to – cracking, potholes, faulting, spalling, rutting, etc. The data is then processed by the Iowa Pavement Management Program staff, and provided to the City of Cedar Rapids.

The resulting data, alongside field inspections, are combined into modeling software and a GIS mapping analyses to help categorize all Cedar Rapids’ roads from “very poor” to “very good.” All roads have been assigned a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) score, which helps identify appropriate treatment methods and reconstruction techniques.

A benefit of collecting data on a regular basis is that it provides Cedar Rapids leaders with the ability to track the program’s progress and show measurable results. The plan provides for transparency and trackable outcomes; residents have access to the entire plan and know that roads are prioritized based on need.

This technology is an important part of the Paving for Progress program and helps Cedar Rapids leaders make informed choices on which street repairs would make the most overall impact on the community.

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