Council's PMS Van Coming

March 10, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — It is known as the Pavement Management System Mobile Data Collection System, and it is coming from Florida to the Grand Valley Metro Council soon.

Even with the word “system” firmly planted in its moniker twice, what it’s called isn’t as important as what it means. Because what it means is that more stretches of roads in the region will be checked, analyzed and evaluated.

“We are going to be able to survey roads at 100 percent,” said GMVC Transportation Director Abed Itani. “At $220 per mile, you don’t survey 100 percent.”

In fact at $220 a mile, the former rate the Metro Council paid a consultant to make road checks, Itani said only about 10 percent of a road mile was checked, and a projection from that analysis was used to rate the remaining 90 percent of a road.

But the new Pavement Management System will let GVMC cover every mile of a road and do so for $60 a mile. Itani figures that cost reduction will allow the council to check out 2,000 road miles each year instead of the 400 miles examined in previous years.

The new data collection system is housed inside a Ford E-350 van; the electronics includes a dual wheel laser path profiler and a digital linescan downward imaging system that will give the council sharp, digital road-condition photos. The system is costing the council $398,000, a figure down from the $406,000 price tag first reported. The lower price came about after Itani called International Cybernetics, the system’s seller, a few times.

“They don’t want to take my calls anymore,” joked Itani, who added that the initial quote given for the system months ago was $487,000.

The Metro Council has financed the purchase through a loan from Founders Trust Bank and will make three payments of roughly $133,000 each.

GVMC Senior Transportation Planner Jim Snell and Transportation Planner Darrell Robinson are headed to Florida for a week of training on the system from the seller and will drive the van back to the city. Itani said the council will save $4,000 by sending them there instead of bringing International Cybernetics here for the training session.

“We should have a better handle on the condition of our roads once we get this,” said Tom Fehsenfeld, an at-large council member.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is also interested and is viewing the council’s system as a test case for the entire state.

“They’re interested in what we’re doing, and a lot of people are looking at us,” said Itani.

The Metro Council plans to publicly unveil the Pavement Management System van soon, but first the board has to buy a plate for it — maybe a vanity plate.

“We’re down to GVMC PMS,” said Executive Director Don Stypula with a grin. “If you have a better idea, please help us.”

“GR MAYOR is still available,” added GR City Manager Kurt Kimball.    

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