Paving the way: New project to improve roads

Local News

Road repair doesn’t always make for the hottest topic, but it is something that impacts daily life — and millions go into funding our roadways.

“What this project will help us do is understand which roadways need to be reconstructed and at which point, so we can balance our funding to get the best use of our dollars,” Bismarck Transportation Planner Rachel Drewlow said.

The Bismarck-Mandan Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, hired an aerial imaging company, Gorrondona & Associates, to assess the street quality and recommend actions for improvement.

“This type of activity helps us identify not only now but also five or 10 years in the future, which roadways will be needing the money the most,” Drewlow said.

The white Ford Pathrunners, decked out with cameras and tracking software, can capture 3D video to detect potholes and cracks.

Kurt Keifer, Director of Pavement Engineering, gave KX News an inside look at how the technology works.

“They are capturing a 13 foot-wide swath of roadway pavement with the downward camera, so this entire lane — we’re capturing all the cracks,” Keifer said.

He added that the information will be crucial in determining which roads need repair.

“Especially up here in North Dakota, the freeze-thaw situation here is a very aggressive environment for pavements,” Keifer said. “Pavement deterioration is ongoing and it’s something that needs to be checked on every couple of years.”

While the technology will automatically detect road conditions, there will also be a passenger taking notes it might miss.

“The guys are also entering comments into the computer to say things like ‘Well, this asphalt roadway looks like it’s a little bit weathered, it might be a little bit oxidized,'” Keifer said.

Until August 21, the van will travel the 200 miles of roadway in the MPO’s jurisdiction, which includes Bismarck, Lincoln, Mandan and portions of Burleigh and Morton counties.

The MPO’s part of the project is 80 percent federally funded, with 20 percent coming from the jurisdictions. Bismarck is chipping in between 40 and 45 thousand to collect data on its 130 miles of roadway.

The van will be moving at the pace of traffic, but Drewlow says if you do see it while driving, give it space.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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