LiDAR image of the Highway 63 Bridge in Red Wing, Minnesota.

Mobile imagery, LiDAR help MnDOT maintain its assets

How do you quickly and cost-effectively get an accurate inventory of transportation assets spread out along more than 1,100 miles of roadway?

That was the problem facing the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Metro District, which needed an inventory of its plate beam guardrail and concrete barriers.

To accomplish this, engineers in the district launched an innovative research implementation project using a pair of mobile mapping technologies — Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and mobile imaging — that can collect vast amounts of geospatial data on highway infrastructure in a safe and efficient manner.

Mobile imaging uses a camera mounted on a vehicle driving at highway speeds to take high-resolution photos at regular intervals. It’s accurate to within 1 foot, which makes it suitable for use in preliminary (30 percent) design plans without additional field surveys. In this project, researchers collected mobile images of roadway barriers and extracted data from them along Metro District roadways, including all ramps, overpasses, interchanges, weigh stations, rest areas and historical sites.

A MnDOT worker replaces a section of broken guardrail.
A MnDOT worker replaces a section of broken guardrail on I-94 near the Lowry Tunnel in Minneapolis. (Photo by Dave Gonzalez, MnDOT)

Researchers also collected LiDAR data at three Metro District sites. LiDAR uses a laser range finder and reflected laser light to measure distances. It provides survey-grade data accurate to within 0.1 foot, but it is significantly more expensive to collect than mobile imaging.

“Mobile imagery and mobile LiDAR are relatively new technologies, but this research shows that they are options that we can use. Collecting this information manually would have taken a lot more time and money,” said MnDOT Asset Management Engineer Trisha Stefanski.

MnDOT’s barrier inventory will provide invaluable information for design, planning and maintenance. The data will be published on MnDOT’s Georilla map server, where it will be beneficial to a variety of projects and recurring tasks. For example, if a vehicle hits a barrier, maintenance staff will be able to check the database to see the type of barrier and end treatment to ensure they bring the right equipment to make repairs. Although the project focused on barriers, the imagery contains data on other assets as well. MnDOT has already used the imagery to extract noise wall and sign data.

This blog post was adapted from an article in our upcoming issue of Accelerator, MnDOT’s research and innovation newsletter.

Thousands of data points can be extracted from this image of a Highway 61 roadway segment created with LiDAR Technology.

One thought on “Mobile imagery, LiDAR help MnDOT maintain its assets”

  1. A company called OGSystems developed a mobile app to view and manipulate LiDAR data called LiMo (iOS and Android), and can even offer a service to store and deploy data over the cloud. No doubt that would be useful here.

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