High-Tech Road Checks

January 23, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — No more pounding the pavement, as technology will officially rule the road this spring when the Grand Valley Metro Council unveils its new pavement management program.

Board members agreed to invest $402,000 in a semi-automated data collection system that grades the physical condition of roads. In turn, the regional planning agency said the investment will save plenty of dollars six years into the program over the method it has used to rate road surfaces the past decade.

“This vehicle will cost us $100,000 for the first five years. After five years, it will cost us zero,” said Abed Itani, GVMC transportation director.

For the first five years, Itani estimated that the new program will cost about $6,000 more each year than the $94,000 the agency annually paid a consultant to survey the roads.

The Metro Council will buy the data collection system from the International Cybernetics Corp. of Largo, Fla.

“We looked at a variety of options from vendors all across the country,” said Don Stypula, GVMC executive director.

The system will consist of a dual wheel laser path profiler, a trio of digital imagers, and a global positioning system tied into a digital imaging workstation that will be housed inside a Ford E-350 van. The van will be driven over roads within the district and digital photos and videos of the pavement will be taken, analyzed and graded.

Just the dual wheel path laser profiler and a digital linescan downward imaging system will account for roughly $260,000 of the $400,000 the council will spend on the equipment.

Itani pointed out that the new system will cover fives times as many road miles each year as the previous method did, raising the miles covered from 400 to 2,000, and will lower the council’s per-mile cost from $235 to $23.

To pay for the system, the Metro Council will finance the purchase through a five-year loan from Founders Trust Bank. The note carries a fixed interest rate of 7.4 percent.

“My strategy was to take what we spend today and apply it to this. That is why we went for five years,” said Itani of the loan’s length.

“We have the money in place to pay for that system,” said Stypula.

The Metro Council also plans to lease the system to communities that are located outside of the metropolitan planning region. The lease rate is expected to be about $60 per mile. The van will be stored at the Kent County Road Commission building on Scribner Avenue NW and the county will maintain the vehicle.

“We will be the first organization in the state to have this system,” said Stypula.

International Cybernetics will train members of the council’s transportation department on use of the system. No additional personnel will be needed to operate it.   

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