TAMS: New Management System Streamlines Multiple Databases

In August 2021, AASHTO recognized NJDOT's Transportation Asset Management System (TAMS) as a regional winner in the 2021 America's Transportation Awards Competitions in the "Best Use of Technology and Innovation" category. The article below, which first appeared in Transporter (Vol. 52, No. 3), an NJDOT employee newsletter, was entitled New Management System Streamlines Multiple Databases, One Man's Vision Becomes a Transformational Information Hub. The article was penned by the NJDOT Commissioner, Diane Gutierrez-Scacetti in recognition of the value of the innovation for NJDOT's operations.

Inspiration can come at any moment and in any place – even when ordering a sandwich at a local Wawa. Yes, that was when it struck Andrew Tunnard, Assistant Commissioner, Transportation Operations, Systems & Support (TOS&S), on how to revolutionize information sharing at NJDOT. While ordering lunch at the kiosk with Urvi Dave, formerly TOS&S Administrative Analyst 4, he shared his vision of creating a platform that would aggregate data from various units, and provide a menu of assets, much like the system that they were using to order lunch.

A drawn image of a road with an intersection, and bridges, with various parts, such as drainage inlet and traffic signal, showing the conceptual framework for what would become NJDOT's TAMS information management system

Andrew Tunnard, Assistant Commissioner, TOS&S, the visionary behind the TAMS system, shared his original concept graphic and stated, “This is a hand drawn depiction of the original concept of TAMS. It was meant to show the disparate asset management systems and how we had the potential to merge them into one system. The new system gives users visibility into work performed on all assets.”

This system would bridge all units, allowing data to be transparent, drive informed decision-making, and create pathways to efficiency. The system would provide complex datasets that are required for budgeting and cost analysis, helping to reduce costs and increase productivity. In short, the system would change the entire manner in which staff accessed and shared information. Urvi embraced the vision of a better solution and began brainstorming.

In October 2020, after years of planning and hundreds of work hours, NJDOT released the first iteration of the Transportation Asset Management System (TAMS). After a year of operation, TAMS is becoming the asset management hub that will transform the way we share Department information for years to come. The new system replaces the inefficient legacy Maintenance Management System (MMS) and numerous other software applications used by various units that made data sharing cumbersome and fact-finding a challenge.

What Is TAMS

TAMS is a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that integrates all of the TOS&S maintenance assets into a single platform. TAMS provides field and office staff with a system that includes a menu of services, equipment, materials, locations and more that are used in their daily activities. It is accessible from any location, at any time, for data input, reporting and analyzing. Assets include labor, equipment, material, projects, budgets, all state owned and maintained roadways, electrical assets, bridges, and traffic signals, etc. More than 500,000 assets in approximately 64 categories are available in the TAMS menu.

Staff can input real-time data of all work activities from the field or office, including labor, materials, and equipment used for every maintenance project, with a date and time stamp of work begun and completed. This information goes into the Geographical Information System (GIS) with assets displayed on a map. When the user opens the asset on the map, it displays a before and after picture of the maintenance or project work completed, along with all of the other pertinent project information, providing a complete history from construction/installation to end of life in real- time.

Senior Management will now have easy access to all assets through the TAMS smart dashboard for reporting, planning, budgeting, and risk assessment. TAMS creates a synergy between staff of varying responsibilities by making data accessible to everyone in a manner that has never before existed in the Department. Using machine learning, the system will accumulate data enabling predictive asset maintenance and replacement scheduling. It will also allow repetitive problem locations to be identified, tracked, and addressed. Managing labor and allocating for overtime also will now be based on real-time data analysis. In addition, it will facilitate faster and more accurate report generation for Federal funding reimbursement.

TAMS Today

An Emergency Call Records form (EL-15) often mobilizes TOS&S staff when maintenance is required. The TAMS platform integrates the EL-15 form allowing for the tracking of all activities including labor and equipment costs, weather and special events, while providing GIS location and images.

TAMS by the Numbers Since Launch:

  • Activity Reports: Nearly 90,560 daily activity reports have been entered into the platform
  • Potential Claims: Nearly 4,050 activity reports have been identified by field crews as potential claims for reimbursement with the newly added early detection TOS&S functionality.
  • Major Events: Nearly 44 major weather events have been recorded.
  • Emergency Call Records (EL-15 records): More than 30,295 EL-15 reports have been documented.
  • Public Problem Reports: 4,219 Public Problem Reports (PPR) have been submitted and administered by the Central Dispatch Unit and acted on by field crews. This is a 14% increase in public reporting from the prior system. PPR replaced the public Pothole Hotline webpage.

The Future of TAMS

TAMS is scalable to other units and will provide all designated staff with platform access, allowing cross-unit data input and retrieval. The cross-unit platform will create an easy, efficient and transparent tool that will make the entire Department more efficient and productive.

Stronger, More Resilient Bridges: Ultra High-Performance Concrete (UHPC) Applications in New Jersey

UHPC for Bridge Preservation and Repair is a model innovation in the latest round of the FHWA’s Every Day Counts Program (EDC-6).  UHPC is recognized as an innovative new material that can be used to extend the life of bridges. Its enhanced strength reduces the need for repairs, adding to the service life of a facility.   

This Q&A article has been prepared following correspondence with Pranav Lathia, an NJDOT Supervising Engineer, Structural & RR Engineering Services, to learn more about current initiatives to test and deploy UHPC on the Garden State’s bridges. The Q&A correspondence has been edited for clarity.

 

Q. What is Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC), and why is it particularly useful for bridge preservation and repair (P&R)?

Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC) is a new class of concrete which contains extraordinary properties of durability and strength. UHPC is a cement based composite material, which consists of steel fiber reinforcement, cement, fine sand, and other admixtures. UHPC is a useful alternative for bridge repairs and preservation due to its long-term durability, which will minimize repairs to a specific structure over time.

Q. Why, in some cases, is UHPC a better application than traditional treatments?

Due to its chemical properties UHPC has a compressive strength of seven times that of regular concrete. Therefore, UHPC is mostly used for thin overlays, closure pours, link slabs, beam end repairs and joint headers.

Q. What are some advantages of UHPC?

UHPC overlays appear to have many ideal properties for desk surface, including superior bond strength, compressive strength, lower permeability, greater freeze-thaw damage resistance, good abrasion resistance, and rapid cure times, among others.

Q. What are some disadvantages to UHPC?

There are some disadvantages to UHPC.  UHPC has higher material costs which has to be a factor in the Department's decision process. A life-cycle cost analysis is appropriate for making a determination of whether it is a cost-effective alternative for the Department.  Fresh UHPC does not bond well to hardened UHPC, therefore careful consideration for joint construction is needed, including reinforced staging joints. There is also limited test data for construction materials to determine their ability to perform well with UHPC. In addition, the NJ construction workforce is not very familiar with the use of UHPC as an overlay.

Image of a red rectangular device that works to smooth the UHPC,

Figure 1: It is imperative that contractors establish the proper amount of UHPC fluidity to maintain the bridge deck’s grade. Courtesy of NJDOT.

Q. When is UHPC perhaps not an appropriate solution?

UHPC would not be an appropriate solution for a full deck replacement, superstructure replacement, or total replacement.

Q. What are some examples of UHPC’s previous implementations?

Before our initiation of a pilot program, UHPC had only been used for ABC (closure pours) and pre-cast connections in New Jersey since 2014.

 Q. How is NJDOT approaching the potential implementation of UHPC for bridge preservation and replacement (P&R)?

Currently NJDOT uses UHPC ABC (closure pours) for prefabricated superstructures. NJDOT has launched and implemented a UHPC Overlay Research Project in conjunction with the design engineering firm, WSP Solutions.

Q. Can you describe the how UHPC is applied in the pilot project for P&R?

In the pilot project, a 1.5” UHPC overlay has been applied to four NJDOT structures. The UHPC overlay was constructed on the bridge deck along with the reconstruction of deteriorated deck joints.

Q. What bridges were selected, and what was the rationale for their selection?

Four structures were chosen for the UHPC overlay pilot program and split into two separate contracts, Contract A (North) and Contract B (South):

  • I-295 NB & US 130 NB over Mantua Creek in West Deptford, Gloucester County
  • NJ 57 over Hances Brook in Mansfield, Warren County
  • I-280 WB over Newark Turnpike in Kearny, Hudson County
  • NJ 159 WB over Passaic River in Montville, Morris County

The selected bridges for the pilot program were in good condition to leverage the perceived long life-span of UHPC and not allow other factors to limit the potential service life. Eight candidate structures were fully evaluated and tested before the four structures were advanced. The bridges that were ultimately selected varied in their age, size and design. All the bridges had asphalt overlay.

Q. What were the evaluation criteria used for the selection of the pilots?

All structures included in the program were evaluated for suitability based on the structural evaluations, chloride content within the deck, feasible construction stages, traffic analysis results, and existing overlay depths. Chloride content was obtained from the concrete cores we had completed on each bridge deck.

Q. What best practices were learned from the pilot projects?

It was best to install the UHPC overlays in locations that UHPC would serve as the final riding surface. The Department felt that an UHPC overlay should be constructed on structures which had an existing asphalt overlay. A thinner overlay could have been provided to cut material costs. Using a pan mixer, the supplier had the ability to control the fluidity of the UHPC, which is extremely important when dealing with extreme temperatures and high deflection/ movement structures. A flow test should continue to be required to verify the proper mixing and consistency of the UHPC overlay material.

Q. Were there any innovations from the implementation of the pilot projects?

A deeper overlay could be considered as a viable alternative for structures that need major deck rehabilitation or replacement.

A bridge with a plastic cover at night, waiting for the UHPC to cure

Figure 2. An NJDOT UHPC treatment in the process of curing. Courtesy of NJDOT.

Q. How is data from the pilots being used to research further UHPC applications?

The data from the pilot program will be used to further the Department’s investigation in UHPC for applications other than just bridge deck overlays.

Q.  What can be done to prepare industry and the workforce for UHPC as an overlay?

The implementation of UHPC affects the current workforce because it is a new material to be used in New Jersey. The current workforce does not have enough experience with UHPC’s properties which could make a repair more challenging.  UHPC has only been used for closure pours in New Jersey. This knowledge gap could be solved by supplying the workforce with workshops, seminars, and suggested construction sequences, practices and equipment. A test slab should also be constructed to verify the proposed material and the contractor’s procedures.

Q. Are there needed actions to better educate NJDOT staff on its efficacy and potential uses?

Yes, training and peer exchange activities are valuable for further educating NJDOT staff on UHPC. Recently, we participated in a a two-day UHPC workshop (October 2021) with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The workshop provided participants with a greater understanding of what UHPC is, and explored solutions for using UHPC for bridge deck overlays, link slabs, and steel girder end repairs. Participants were given information on where to obtain guidance for implementing different types of UHPC preservation and repair strategies. The workshop also provided participants with the opportunity to discuss their UHPC implementation strategy, construction specifications, and design details with FHWA EDC-6 UHPC team members.

Image of a bridge with a new white smooth UHPC application on top.

Figure 3. The final product, a UHPC overlay before asphalt paving. Courtesy of NJDOT.

Q. What does the future of UHPC look like in New Jersey?

The future of UHPC in New Jersey could consist of UHPC connection repairs, seismic retrofits, column repairs, concrete patching, shotcrete, steel girder strengthening, bridge deck overlays, and link slabs.

Q. In the current EDC-6 Round, the NJ STIC states that it is planning on performing an assessment of the UHPC pilot projects. When they are complete, how will they be assessed? Could you tell us more about the long-term testing program being developed to gather performance data in the assessment phase?

These are still works in progress. A long-term monitoring and testing program is being developed to gather performance data in the assessment phase. The scope of our current efforts includes further investigation and research, collection and evaluation of performance data, updating the standard specifications and conducting a life cycle cost analysis.

Q. Can you describe the objective(s) and/or provide any other status information about the long-term program goals?

A long-term goal for the department is to incorporate UHPC into our design manual, including for P&R.Eventually we could see UHPC incorporated with bridge deck overlays and concrete bridge repairs. There is currently no timeline on incorporating UHPC into the design manual. We anticipate revising the standard specifications, but there are no updates regarding the revision of the standard specifications for UHPC.


Resources

Federal Highway Administration. (2019, February). Design and Construction of Field-Cast UHPC Connections. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/structures/bridge/uhpc/19011/index.cfm

Federal Highway Administration. (2020, November). Eliminating Bridge Joints with Link Slabs—An Overview of State Practices. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/preservation/docs/hif20062.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2018, April). Example Construction Checklist: UHPC Connections for Prefabricated Bridge Elements. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/abc/docs/uhpc-construction-checklist.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2018, March). Properties and Behavior of UHPC-Class Materials. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/structures/bridge/18036/18036.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2018, February) Ultra-High Performance Concrete for Bridge Deck Overlays. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/bridge/17097/index.cfm

Mendenhall, Jess and Rabie, Samer. (2021, October 20). UHPC Overlays for Bridge Preservation—Lessons Learned. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NJDOT-UHPC-Overlay-Research-Project-EDC-6-Workshop.pdf

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2021, October 20). NJDOT Workshop Report. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NJDOT-UHPC-Workshop-Final-Report.pdf

New Mexico Department of Transportation. (2010). Feasibility Analysis of Ultra High Performance Concrete for Prestressed Concrete Bridge Applications. New Mexico Department of Transportation. https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/24640

New York State Department of Transportation. (2021, June). Item 557. 6601NN16 – Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC). New York State Department of Transportation. https://www.dot.ny.gov/spec-repository-us/557.66010116.pdf

From left to right, image of a camera on a traffic pole, AI computer vision vehicle traveling paths, and AI identifying cars on an interstate, using colored boxes

How Automated Video Analytics Can Make NJ’s Transportation Network Safer and More Efficient

Computer vision is an emerging technology in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) reads and interprets images or videos, and then provides that data to decision makers. For the transportation field, computer vision has broad implications, streamlining many tasks that are currently performed by staff. By automating monitoring procedures, transportation agencies can gain access to improved, real-time incident data, as well as new metrics on traffic and “near-misses,” which contribute to making more informed safety decisions.

To learn more about the how computer vision technology is being applied in the transportation sector, three researchers working on related projects were interviewed: Dr. Chengjun Liu, working on Smart Traffic Video Analytics and Edge Computing at the New Jersey Institute of Technology; Dr. Mohammad Jalayer, developing an AI-based Surrogate Safety Measure for intersections at Rowan University, and Asim Zaman, PE, currently researching how computer vision can improve safety for railroads. All researchers expressed that this technology is imminent, effective, and will affect staffing needs and roles at transportation agencies.   

A summary of these interviews is presented below.

 

Smart Traffic Video Analytics (STVA) and Edge Computing (EC) – Dr. Chengjun Liu, Professor, Department of Computer Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Dr. Chengjun Liu is a professor of computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he leads the Face Recognition and Video Processing Lab. In 2016, NJDOT and the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded a three and-a-half year research project The project led to the development of several promising tools, including a Smart Traffic Video Analysis (STVA) system that automatically counts traffic volume, and detects crashes, traffic, slowdowns, wrong-way drivers, and pedestrians, and is able to classify different types of vehicles.

“There are a number of core technologies involved in these smart traffic analytics.” Dr. Liu said. “In particular, advanced video analytics. Here we also use edge computing because it can be deployed in the field. We also apply some deep learning methods to analyze the video.”

Video image of interstate highway with bidirectional traffic and AI identifying vehicles using green and red boxes

Figure 1. A video feed shows the AI identifying passing vehicles on I-280 in real-time. Courtesy of Innovative AI Technologies.

To test this technology, Dr. Liu’s team developed prototypes to monitor traffic in a real-world setting. The prototype consists of Video Analytics (VA)  software, and Edge Computing (EC) components. EC is a computing strategy that seeks to reduce data transmission and response times by distributing computational units, often in the field. In this case, VA and EC systems, consisting of a wired camera with a small computer attached, were placed to overlook segments of both Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and I-280 in Newark. Footage shows the device detecting passing cars, counting and classifying vehicles as they enter a designated zone. Existing automated technologies for traffic counting had something in the realm of a 20 to 30 percent error rate, while Dr. Liu reported error rates between 2 and 5 percent.

Additional real-time roadway footage from NJDOT shows several instances of the device flagging aberrant vehicular behavior. On I-280, the system flags a black car stopped on the shoulder with a red box. On another stretch of highway, a car that has turned left on a one-way is identified and demarcated. The same technology, being used for traffic monitoring video in Korea, immediately locates and highlights a white car that careens into a barrier and flips. Similar examples are given for congestion and pedestrians.

“This can be used for accident detection, and traffic vehicle classification, where incidents are detected automatically and in real time. This can be used in various illumination conditions like nighttime, or weather conditions like snowing, raining, and so forth.” Dr. Liu said.

According to Dr. Liu, video monitoring at NJDOT is being outsourced, and it might take days, or even weeks, to review and receive data. Staff monitor operations via video monitors from NJDOT facilities, where, due to human capacity constraints, some incidents and abnormal driving behavior go unnoticed. Like many tools using computer vision, the STVA system can provide live metrics, allowing for more effective monitoring than is humanly possible and accelerating emergency responder dispatch times.

STVA, by automating some manned tasks, would change workplace needs in a transportation agency. Rather than requiring people to closely monitor traffic and then make decisions, use of this new technology would require staff capable of working with the software, troubleshooting its performance, and interpreting the data provided for safety, engineering, and planning decisions.

Dr. Liu was keen to see his technology in use, expressing how the private sector was already deploying it in a variety of contexts. In his view, it was imperative that STVA be implemented to improve traffic monitoring operations. “There is a potential of saving lives,” Dr. Liu said.

 

Safety Analysis Tool - Dr. Mohammad Jalayer, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rowan University

Dr. Mohammad Jalayer, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rowan University, has been researching the application of computer vision to improving safety at intersections. While Dr. Liu’s STVA technology might focus more heavily on real-time applications, Dr. Jalayer’s research looks to use AI-based video analytics to understand and quantify how traffic functions at certain intersections and, based on that analysis, provide data for safety changes.

Traditionally, Dr. Jalayer said, safety assessments are reactive, “meaning that we need to wait for crashes to happen. Usually, we analyze crashes for three years, or five years, and then figure out what’s going on.” Often, these crash records can be inaccurate, or incomplete. Instead, Dr. Jalayer and his team are looking to develop proactive approaches. “Rather than just waiting for a crash, we wanted to do an advanced analysis to make sure that we prevent the crashes.”

Because 40 percent of traffic incidents occur at intersections, many of them high-profile crashes, the researchers chose to focus on intersection safety. For this, they developed the Safety Analysis Tool.

Image of an intersection with overlays of different colors, showing vehicle paths as they drive past, demonstrating different travel paths

Figure 2. The Surrogate Safety Analysis in action, using user behavior to determine recurring hazards at intersections. Courtesy of Dr. Jalayer.

The Surrogate Safety Measure analyzes conflicts and near-misses. The implementation of a tool like the Surrogate Safety Measure will help staff to make more informed safety decisions for the state’s intersections. The AI-based tool uses a deep learning algorithm to look at many different factors: left-turn lanes, traffic direction, traffic count, vehicle type, and can differentiate and count pedestrians and bicycles as well.

The Safety Analysis Tool’s Surrogate Safety Measure contains two important indicators: Time To Collision (TTC), and Post-Encroachment Time (PET). These are measures of how long it would take two road users to collide, unless further action is taken (TTC), and the amount of time between vehicles crossing the same point (PET), which is also an effective indicator of high-conflict areas.

In practice, these metrics would register, for example, a series of red-light violations, or people repeatedly crossing the street when they should not. Over time, particularly hazardous areas of intersections can be identified, even if an incident has not yet occurred. According to Dr. Jalayer, FHWA and other traffic safety stakeholders have already begun to integrate TTC and PET into their safety analysis toolsets.

Additionally, the AI-based tool can log data that is currently unavailable for roadways. For example, it can generate accurate traffic volume reports, which, Dr. Jalayer said, are often difficult to find. As bicycle and pedestrian data is typically not available, data gathered from this tool would significantly improve the level of knowledge about user behavior for an intersection, allowing for more effective treatments..

In practice, after the Safety Analysis Tool is applied, DOT stakeholders can decide which treatment to implement. For example, Jalayer said, if the analysis finds a lot of conflict with left turns at the intersection, then perhaps the road geometry could be changed. In the case of right-turn conflicts, a treatment could look at eliminating right turns on red. Then, Jalayer said, there are longer-term strategies, such as public education campaigns.

Image of Safety Analysis Tool interactive box with parts that read Analysis and Video, with Results, such as Vehicle Red Light Violation

Figure 3. The Safety Analysis tool user interface, which can run various analyses of traffic video, such as vehicle violations, or pedestrian volume. Courtesy of Dr. Jalayer.

For the first phase of the project, the researchers deployed their technology at two intersections in East Rutherford, near the American Dream Mall. For the current second phase, they are collecting data at ten intersections across the state, including locations near Rowan and Rutgers universities.

Currently, this type of traffic safety analysis is handled in a personnel-intensive way, with a human physically present studying an intersection. But with the Surrogate Safety tool, the process will become much more efficient and comprehensive. The data collected  will be less subject to human error, as it is not presently possible for staff to perfectly monitor every camera feed at all times of day.

This technology circumvents the need for additional staff, removing the need for in-person field visits or footage monitoring. Instead of staff with the advanced technical expertise to analyze an intersection’s safety in the field, state agencies will require personnel proficient in maintaining the automated equipment.

Many state traffic intersections are already equipped with cameras, but the data is not currently being analyzed using computer vision methods. With much of the infrastructure already present, Dr. Jalayer said that the next step would be to feed this video data into their software for analysis. There are private companies already using similar computer-vision based tools. “I believe this is a very emerging technology, and you're seeing more and more within the U.S.,” Dr. Jalayer said. He expects the tool to be launched by early 2022. The structure itself is already built, but the user interface is still under development. “We are almost there.” Dr. Jalayer said.

 

AI-Based Video Analytics for Railroad Safety – Asim Zaman, PE, Project Engineer, Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning and Transportation research, Rutgers University

Asim Zaman, a project engineer at Rutgers, shared information on an ongoing research project examining the use of computer analytics for the purpose of improving safety on and around railways. The rail safety research is led by Dr. Xiang Liu, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rutgers Engineering School, and involves training AI to detect  trespassers on the tracks, a persistent problem that often results in loss of life and serious service disruptions. “Ninety percent of all the deaths in the railroad industry come from trespassing or happen at grade crossings,” Zaman said.

The genesis of the project came from Dr. Liu hypothesizing that, “There's probably events that happen that we don't see, and there's nothing recorded about, but they might tell the full story.” Thus, the research team began to inquire into how computer vision analysis might inform targeted interventions that improve railway safety.

Figure showing three vehicles driving over railroad tracks, with color overlays showing that they are detected by the AI

Figure 4. The color overlay of vehicles trespassing on railways demonstrates that the AI has successfully detected them. Courtesy of Zaman, Ren, and Liu.

Initially, the researchers gathered some sample video, a few days' worth of footage along railroad tracks, and analyzed it using simple artificial intelligence methods to identify “near-miss events,” where people were present on the tracks as a train approached, but managed to avoid being struck. Data on near-misses such as these are not presently recorded, leading to a lack of comprehensive information on trespassing behavior.

After publishing a paper on their research, the team looked into integrating deep learning neural networks into  the analysis, which can identify different types of objects. With this technology, they again looked at trespassers, using two weeks of footage this time. This study was effective, but still computationally-intensive. For their next project, with funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), they looked at the efficacy of applying a new algorithm, YOLO (You Only Look Once), to generate a trespassing database.

The algorithm has been fed live video from four locations over the past year, beginning on January 1, 2021, and concluding on December 31. Zaman noted that, with the AI’s analysis and the copious amounts of data, the research can begin to ask more granular questions such as, “How many trespasses can we expect on a Monday in winter? Or, what time of day is the worst for this particular location? Or, do truck drivers trespass more?”

Image of computer vision tool detecting pedestrians on tracks as train is actively using intersection, they are shown highlighted in green

Figure 5. Similar work shows AI identifying and flagging pedestrian trespassers. The researchers are currently working on using unreported “near-miss” data to improve safety. Courtesy of Zaman, Ren, and Liu.

After the year’s research has concluded, the researchers will study the data and look for applications. Without the AI integration, however, such study would be time-consuming and impractical. The applications fall under the “3E” categories: engineering, education, and enforcement. For example, if the analysis finds that trespassing tends to happen at a particular location at 5pm, then that might be when law enforcement are deployed to that area. If many near-misses are happening around high school graduation, then targeted education and enforcement would be warranted during this time. But without this analysis, no measures would be taken, as near-misses are not logged.

Currently, this type of technology is in the research stage. “We're kind of in the transition between the proof of concept and the deployment here,” Zaman said. The researchers are focused on proving its effectiveness, with the goal of enabling railroads and transit agencies to use these technologies to study particularly problematic areas, and determine if treatments are working or if additional measures are warranted. “It's already contributing, in a very small way, to safety decision making.”

Zaman said that the team at Rutgers was very interested in sharing this technology, and its potential applications, with others. In his estimation, these computer analytics are about five years from a more widespread rollout. He notes that this technology would be greatly beneficial as a part of transportation monitoring, as “AI can make use out of all this data that’s just kind of sitting there or getting rinsed every 30 days.”

Applying computer vision to existing video surveillance will help to address significant safety issues that have persistently affected the rail industry. The AI-driven safety analysis will identify key traits of trespassing that have been previously undetected, assisting decision makers in applying an appropriate response. As with other smart video analytics technologies, the benefit, lies in the enhanced ability to make informed decisions that save lives and keep the system moving.

 

Current and Future Research

The Transportation Research Board’s TRID Database provides recent examples of how automated video analytics are being explored in a wider context. For example, in North Dakota, an in-progress project, sponsored by the University of Utah, is studying the use of computer vision to automate the work of assessing rural roadway safety. In Texas, researchers at the University of Texas used existing intersection cameras to analyze pedestrian behavior, publishing two papers on their findings.

The TRID database also contains other recent research contributions to this emerging field. The article, “Assessing Bikeability with Street View Imagery and Computer Vision(2021) presents a hybrid model for assessing safety, applying computer vision to street view imagery, in addition to site visits. The article, "Detection of Motorcycles in Urban Traffic Using Video Analysis: A Review" (2021), considers how automatic video processing algorithms can increase safety for motorcyclists.

Finally, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has plans to undertake a research project, Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to Enhance Safety Analysis once a contractor has been selected. This study will develop processes for data collection, as well as analysis algorithms, and create guidance for managing data. Ultimately, this work will help to standardize and advance the adoption of AI and machine learning in the transportation industry.

The NCHRP Program has also funded workforce development studies to better prepare transportation agencies for adapting to this rapidly changing landscape for transportation systems operations and management.  In 2012, the NCHRP  publication, Attracting, Recruiting, and Retaining Skilled Staff for Transportation System Operations and Management, identified the growing need for transportation agencies to create pipelines for system operations and management (SOM) staff, develop the existing workforce with revamped trainings, and increase awareness of the field’s importance for  leadership and the public.  In 2019, the Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Workforce Guidebook further detailed specific job positions required for a robust TSMO program.  The report considered the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for these job positions and tailored recommendations to hiring each position. The report compiled information on training and professional development, including specific training providers and courses nationwide.

 

Conclusion

Following a brief scan of current literature and Interviews with three NJ-based researchers, it is clear that computer vision is a broadly applicable technology for the transportation sector, and that its implementation is imminent. It will transform aspects of both operations monitoring, and safety analysis work, as AI can monitor and analyze traffic video far more efficiently and effectively than human staff. Workplace roles, the researchers said, will shift to supporting the technology’s hardware in the field, as well as managing the software components.  Traffic operations monitoring might transition to interpreting and acting on incidents that the Smart Traffic Video Analytics flags. Engineers, tasked with analyzing traffic safety and determining the most effective treatments, will be informed by more expansive data on aspects such as driver behavior and conflict areas than available using more traditional methods.

The adoption of computer vision in the transportation sector will help to make our roads, intersections, and railways safer. It will help transportation professionals to better understand the conditions of facilities they monitor, providing invaluable insight for how to make them safer, and more efficient for all users. Most importantly, these additional metrics will provide ways of seeing how people behave within our transportation network, often in-real time, enabling data-driven interventions that will save lives.

State, regional and local transportation agencies will need to recruit and retain staff with the right knowledge, skills and abilities to capture the safety and operations benefits and navigate the challenges of adopting new technologies in making this transition.

 


Resources

Center for Transportation Research. (2020). Video Data Analytics for Safer and More Efficient Mobility. Center for Transportation Research. https://ctr.utexas.edu/wp-content/uploads/151.pdf

City of Bellevue, Washington. (2021). Accelerating Vision Zero with Advanced Video Analytics: Video-Based Network-Wide Conflict and Speed Analysis. National Operations Center of Excellence. https://transops.s3.amazonaws.com/uploaded_files/City%20of%20Bellevue%2C%20WA%20-%20Conflict%20and%20Speed%20Analysis%20-%20NOCoE%20Case%20Study.pdf

Espinosa, J., Velastín, S., and Branch, J. (2021). "Detection of Motorcycles in Urban Traffic Using Video Analysis: A Review," in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, Vol. 22, No. 10, pp. 6115-6130, Oct. 2021. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9112620

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Jalayer, Mohammad, and Patel, Deep. (2020). Automated Analysis of Surrogate Safety Measures and Non-compliance Behavior of Road Users at Intersections. Rowan University. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Patel-Jalayer-with-video.pdf

Liu, Chengjun (2021). Stopped Vehicle Detection. New Jersey Institute of Technology. https://web.njit.edu/~cliu/NJDOT/DEMOS.html

Liu, X., Baozhang, R., and Zaman, A. (2019). Artificial Intelligence-Aided Automated Detection of Railroad Trespassing. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0361198119846468

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Pustokhina, I., Putsokhin, D., Vaiyapuri, T., Gupta, D., Kumar, S., and Shankar, K. (2021). An Automated Deep Learning Based Anomaly Detection in Pedestrian Walkways for Vulnerable Road Users Safety. Safety Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2021.105356

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NJDOT’s “Weather Savvy Roads” System Receives 2021 Outstanding Project Award from ITS-NJ

The Intelligent Transportation Society of New Jersey (ITS-NJ) recognizes outstanding projects or programs that employ or advance ITS technologies. This year NJDOT’s “Weather Savvy Roads” system, also known as the Mobile RWIS effort, received its 2021 Outstanding Project Award.

NJDOT’s Weather Savvy Roads Program was recently recognized by the Intelligent Transportation Society of New Jersey

NJDOT’s Weather Savvy Roads (WSR) program started with NJDOT’s Mobility Division applying for and receiving NJ’s first federal Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) grant.  The concept was to procure and install mobile RWIS devices and dash cameras in 23 DOT snow-fighting vehicles statewide to view real time conditions and guide decisions for allocation of resources during a winter event.

The team is comprised of staff from NJDOT Mobility, NJDOT Operations, the NJIT ITS Resource Center, and technical partners from Vaisala and EAI.  NJIT created a web-based platform where users could view a statewide map and data from the RWIS devices and video from the CCTV6 in real time.

The WSR project was also designed to continue NJDOT’s investigation into cellular strength along NJDOT’s road network. This effort was first evaluated during NJ STIC Incentive grant funded program using iCone devices on SSP trucks. Utilizing a cellular router carrying FIRSTNET cellular capability, the technical team at NJIT is evaluating the strength of this first responder-only focused cellular system to see the various levels of signal strength. The project has shown tremendous benefits after just one winter season with staff across multiple levels of the Department utilizing the web platform to make better informed decisions about staffing and contractor use.

To learn more about the project, click on the NJ Innovative Initiatives, Weather Responsive Management Strategies page, or watch a presentation to the NJ STIC by Sal Cowan, Senior Director of Mobility at NJDOT about the equipment installation and web interface efforts taken for the pilot project.

See the FHWA’s Innovation Spotlight video on Road Weather Management: Weather Savvy Roads.

Innovation Spotlight Interview: Virtual Public Involvement at NJDOT

Virtual Public Involvement presents an opportunity to expand the community engagement process. An FHWA Every Day Counts Round 6 initiative (EDC-6), Virtual Public Involvement (VPI) gives participants an opportunity to engage, other than through a traditional, physical meeting, which can require more time and resources to attend. The use of virtual engagement technologies can boost public participation in the comment process, and provide new avenues for collecting data and disseminating information on potential infrastructure investments and other projects. By increasing opportunities for public communication and engagement, VPI can serve to ensure that the needs of the public are fully considered in transportation project planning and development decisions.

At NJDOT, the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges and opportunities for the agency’s public engagement efforts. The necessity of social distancing motivated the Department to conduct meetings and outreach virtually, transforming the outreach process. To learn more about the lessons learned in making this transition, three NJDOT staff members were interviewed: Vanessa Holman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, serves as NJDOT’s legislative liaison and oversees the Department’s Office of Government and Community Relations; Megan Fackler, Director of the Office of Government and Community Relations (OCR), oversees public engagement and handles responses to DOT-related issues and concerns raised by the public, elected officials, and others; and Zenobia Fields, Senior Policy and Program Advisor, is responsible for policy related to planning and programming, including statewide plans and safety initiatives, and engaging with national organizations (AASHTO, TRB).  Their observations are summarized below.

What was VPI like at NJDOT before the pandemic?

NJDOT has always strived to employ tools and mediums that will help achieve positive outcomes, working to ensure that the public is treated as valued customers.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency was not especially “tech-forward” with public engagement, and instead utilized more traditional, in-person engagement strategies. However, NJDOT staff who regularly engaged with stakeholders and attended external meetings were issued tablets to help facilitate in-person interactions. Staff had access to Microsoft Teams and preliminary training in using that platform. So, at the onset of the pandemic, the OCR and other staff were equipped with the technological capabilities to transition to virtual engagement.

How did the pandemic affect NJDOT’s public engagement efforts?

Beginning the third week of March 2020, NJDOT pivoted to a VPI style of engagement. With the assistance of IT staff, OCR held a large legislative summit for an NJDOT project, and began virtually conducting project-specific local official briefings, public information sessions, and public hearings. This outreach occurs during every phase of major projects from concept development through construction. Public Information Centers (PICs) are similar to an open house event, where the public is invited to attend and review at their own pace project drawings and plans, ask questions, and provide feedback. During the pandemic, NJDOT established project-specific PIC websites with multi-lingual content available. Links to certain PIC virtual meeting videos created by consultants were also made available for a certain period of time (e.g., 14 days), which has increased the number of persons accessing those meetings.

For certain projects, OCR sends hard copy letters to stakeholders who live within a certain distance to the project location informing them of the project and advising them to contact NJDOT if they need technical or other assistance to engage.

With the onset of Covid-19, NJDOT and its staff pivoted to a VPI style of engagement.

Several other units, such as traffic engineering, also began using virtual engagement technologies, including pre-construction meetings. The NJDOT Permitting unit has engaged applicants virtually to walk through documents, including technical project plans. Using the screen-share function, presenters can show and discuss complex technical materials, including maps and jurisdictional documents.

What platforms does the Department use?

NJDOT utilizes Microsoft Teams for most VPI for both internal and external outreach.  The Department initially used Cisco WebEx and GoToMeeting, but determined that Microsoft Teams was the most optimal platform for internal meetings along with Cisco WebEx for public meetings. While the agency does not have a Zoom account, consultants often use Zoom for public and stakeholder engagement.

Consultants are encouraged to use a variety of online engagement tools for public and stakeholder feedback such as crowdsourcing, wiki maps, mobile apps, videos, etc.  NJDOT has used crowdsourcing to identify potholes, locations for bike share stations and other information.

How has the Department implemented VPI as a practice?

VPI has been embraced at the Department, necessitated by the pandemic, however standardized VPI as an implemented practice is still a work-in-progress. Some staff have received training in VPI and attended webinars on the topic from AASHTO and FHWA through its EDC-6 program, but the training has not extended beyond these collaborations. The expansion of VPI training for staff could be valuable to embed best practices about what works, and what doesn’t.

What are some of the benefits that have come with implementing VPI?

Overall, stakeholder meetings have experienced higher attendance and participation, such as the Strategic Highway Safety Plan meetings, because people do not have to travel, and can also avoid parking, traffic, scheduling conflicts, etc.

VPI tools are being using by transportation agencies to enable the public to access user-friendly features to receive information and provide input.

Also, employing VPI for PICs has afforded participants with more time to access project information at a time that is convenient to them and to formulate thoughtful comments and questions on the specific project. VPI has also helped NJDOT to more formally capture and respond to comments and inquiries via electronic tracking, as compared to in-person comment collection. Many NJDOT project websites include a hyperlink to make accessing them easier for the public, enabling them to “click” on the link to access project-related information and provide feedback. And, interested parties can opt to receive text or email alerts from the Department on certain projects (e.g., Route 495 project e-alert; I-295 project).

An in-person open house event or PIC gives participants approximately three hours to review materials and provide feedback, however a virtual event can be made available for a longer period via a hyperlink. Attendees of a virtual event do not have to travel and wait in line to ask questions or to share comments, which can be very time consuming at a highly attended PIC; instead, they can post feedback on chat or via a Q&A function, or ask questions via telephone. Virtual engagement also enables participants to view documents and materials at their own pace, allowing them to return multiple times if needed over a period of days or weeks.

Over the past 18 months, implementing VPI has also become easier for NJDOT staff because their familiarity with VPI platforms and tools has increased. VPI makes certain tasks simpler as well. For example, while the services of a translator would need to be secured for an in-person event, translation is undertaken automatically with certain VPI platforms (e.g., Google translate).

What are some of the challenges of implementing VPI?

Learning how to successfully employ VPI has involved a great deal of trial and error. It was helpful to use consultant services for some of the Department’s initial VPI events. There are always challenges when implementing virtual mediums, with technology, security, and establishing best practices.  For example, early in the pandemic, a Zoom “bomber” hacked into one of the Commissioner’s virtual meetings, which necessitated a temporary meeting shut-down. Other common technology challenges encountered included difficult connections for participants, and issues with microphone and camera functionality.

The FHWA maintains a VPI webpage that is a store-house of case studies, webinars and peer changes on model practices.

Another concern regards ensuring full participation, as attendance does not necessarily mean engagement. Participants are encouraged to turn on their video cameras to minimize their multi-tasking during VPI – something that is not really an obstacle during in-person meetings.  Using break out rooms, chat and the “raising hand” online platform features have been helpful to encourage engagement. Online polls have also been a successful VPI tool including Zoom polls, Mentimeter, and Poll Everywhere to encourage engagement.

Some people are quiet and may not be as open on VPI as they would be when talking one-on-one with a person, so there needs to be a balance of VPI engagement and effort made to ensure all of these virtual conversations are happening as they would if they were convened in person.

Receiving state approval to secure licensing for new platforms can be a lengthy process due to security reasons, as can be securing departmental acceptance and adoption of new technologies. Moving forward, the Department is open to learning and trying new virtual platforms and technologies to achieve goals, but at this time there is not a specific VPI need not being met.

What equity concerns have you observed with VPI?

NJDOT remains compliant with federal civil rights and non-discrimination requirements, with a Public Involvement Plan, and the Civil Rights group and Title VI Liaisons involved in each project. An initial challenge at the start of the pandemic was ensuring NJDOT’s VPI complied with NEPA and Title VI regulations. The Civil Rights unit was very helpful in navigating these regulations and ensuring OCR performed their due diligence in this regard.

Another challenge was ensuring that NJDOT was engaging with all, including those who are underserved, under-represented and do not have access to virtual platforms.  Projects must be compliant and also must ensure engagement opportunities are accessible and folks have the technology needed for virtual access (e.g., smartphone, landline) and that computers are not needed in order to participate.

It is important to review and measure how many are participating and the quality of feedback obtained. Some low-income or non-tech savvy members of the public may not have the technology or computer literacy to participate in VPI. In order to address this “digital divide,” focus has been given to expanding broadband connectivity options, such as creating mobile hotspots in areas close to project sites where residents without Wi-Fi or broadband might be able to connect to the internet, making NJDOT interactive tablets available, and connecting through their smartphone or landlines to enable folks to meaningfully participate in the engagement process. If access to any technology is still a barrier for participation, another solution is to provide the opportunity to simply place hand-written suggestions in a physical comment box placed within the geographic limits of the particular project so it is easily accessible to local stakeholders.

What best practices have been developed with VPI?

A key best practice for staff working with VPI is to prepare a script and talking points ahead of time, and to practice with the team prior to the event to ensure familiarity and troubleshoot any identified technological issues. This pre-event planning process helps to ensure a smooth flow during the meeting.

Based on our COVID-19 experiences of the past eighteen months, NJDOT has learned more about the pros and cons of various platforms depending on the target audience, meeting topics, and goals. For example, MS-Teams has been best for internal meetings, or small meetings with elected and local officials, while Zoom’s webinar platform has been ideal for larger meetings and broader, more active public engagement. The use of a consultant to moderate public engagement has been beneficial, such as with enforcing time limits during comment sessions and assisting with technology issues. Over time, implementing VPI has become easier as familiarity with the platforms and technologies has increased among both NJDOT staff and the public.

How does the Department use social media in the public involvement process?

NJDOT has been using Facebook and Twitter, as well as YouTube to communicate longer video content. The Department uses social media to alert members of the public about upcoming PICs.

The primary social media platforms NJDOT uses are Facebook and Twitter, as well as YouTube to communicate longer video content. The Department uses social media to alert members of the public about upcoming PICs, offering the link to virtual PICs via Facebook posts. Facebook has been helpful for event pre-planning, and Twitter and the 511 website – a traffic condition platform – are effective when there is an immediate need to communicate to the public. The public uses social media to post comments and inquiries.  Typically, the public feedback communicated through social media is brief, but sometimes commenters provide thoughtful, in-depth remarks from which NJDOT’s OCR can respond.

The Department also uses social media and other outreach tools to inform the public about NJDOT services and role in the community, emphasizing its customer focus. For example, the NJDOT Commissioner drafts an external e-newsletter called “Commitment to Communities” or C2C, that is distributed four-six times annually. Often the content focuses on “Did you know” types of facts related to NJDOT’s role and services. Approximately 6,000 persons subscribe to the newsletter. The online Local Aid Resource Center also uses various social media platforms to communicate primarily to existing and interested grantees.

NJDOT’s social media policy was established prior to the current administration, and primarily focused on employee practices and appropriate behavior as representatives of the Department.  NJDOT is working on developing a new social media policy that will address how to monitor and manage the Department’s social media accounts, including how comments should be responded to and handled. The Department has recently hired a social media coordinator, as well as an in-house videographer. The social media coordinator has increased the Department’s Facebook following to 11,000 persons, which is a significant achievement, especially because the Department does not have an advertising budget for social media. The Department is considering trying new social media platforms, such as Instagram, and continually engages with other state department social media coordinators to learn from their work.

How will VPI be used moving forward?

Overall, both the quantity and quality of NJDOT public engagement increased with VPI implementation during the pandemic and VPI will continue post pandemic. Moving forward, the Department is open to learning and trying new virtual platforms and technologies to achieve goals, which will continue to be evaluated.

While VPI is more economical, in-person engagement remains relevant. NJDOT plans to utilize a hybrid engagement approach, with a mix of VPI and face-to-face engagement. Additionally, the Department must continue to work with community partners as trusted advocates to attract and encourage participation from a diverse set of constituents. The Department will further explore the expanded use of crowdsourcing tools, and the development of an online application for the public to use to contact NJDOT, in addition to using the Department’s central dispatch number.


Resources

FHWA. Virtual Public Involvement. Retrieved from: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_6/virtual_public_involvement.cfm

NJDOT. Technology Transfer Online Training Library, Virtual Public Involvement Peer Exchanges and Video Case Studies Online. Retrieved from: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2021/08/06/vpi-peer-exchanges-video-case-studies/

Innovation Spotlight: How DOTs Are Moving Toward Digital As-Builts

The FHWA is promoting the deployment of Digital As-Builts (DABs) in Round 6 of the Every Day Counts (EDC-6) Program.  FHWA defines DABs as an accumulation of the data used during digital project delivery that provides a living record of built infrastructure for agencies’ future business needs.   The latest FHWA Innovator, September/October, Issue 86, features a section on e-Ticketing and Digital As Builts that briefly defines the innovation and its benefits along with a short video of digital delivery efforts at Utah DOT.  

During EDC-6, the NJ STIC has set forward goals for advancing Digital As-Builts, assessing the current stage of innovation as “development” and setting forward some near-term capacity-building actions.

This article reports on a brief Digital As-Builts Literature Scan and provides references to a select bibliography of research reports, strategic plans and other resource documents that may warrant closer inspection for innovation teams. The literature scan identifies some key definitions, benefits, emerging practices, recurring challenges and possible lessons when taking steps toward deployment of DABs.

Digital As-Builts Literature Scan

Introduction

A Digital As-Built (DAB) innovates by transferring what are typically 2D, paper records into digital, three-dimensional (3D) datafiles that can be regularly updated and shared with stakeholders throughout a project’s life cycle. This information becomes invaluable in the asset management and operations phase, in which it is crucial for agencies to have the most current, comprehensive data covering their facility’s construction. DABs can also be referred to as digital twins, intricate computerized copies of a road or bridge that simulate real-time conditions, allowing for predictive maintenance and more cost-effective mitigation projects.

Across the country, state departments of transportation (state DOTs) are beginning to adopt DABs requirements for future road and bridge projects. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), for instance, has established ambitious agency goals that by 2035, all agency projects will be bid upon using 3D models—which will be updated throughout the project’s development through completion, and then stored in a centralized database (PennDOT, 2020).

While industry standard software and practices are still emerging, the research, experiences, and challenges from DOTs nationwide can assist in the identification of promising practices and planning the transition to DABs.

Benefits of Digital As-Builts

Digital As-Builts are digitized, detailed records of completed construction projects. These could encapsulate roadways, bridges, barriers, berms, and any other facilities. What is revolutionary about DABs is their capacity to be used as digital twins, sophisticated mock-ups of the actual structure that enable agencies to streamline maintenance and improvement projects. DABs are simple to store and distribute, reducing the time and material costs from producing traditional 2D as-builts. Created using Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) software, and updated with real-world readings, such as laser-based LiDAR, DABs are versatile and, increasingly, trustworthy records.  

DABs were selected as part of the FHWA’s EDC-6, featured for their advances in safety, time savings, and quality (FHWA, 2021).  In addition to providing high quality records that can optimize maintenance and asset management, DABs can streamline the project development process by easily showing decision makers the location of existing infrastructure. The safety benefits come, in part, from shorter work interruptions of regular traffic flows.  

DABs offer the capability to reliably retain information throughout the project process, as data is handed over from one department agency to another.  A UC-Davis report, conducted on behalf of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), suggests that DABs can reduce the risk of lost information considerably (Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology Research Center, 2020). Another report, prepared for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) by University of Kentucky researchers, found that digital documentation could significantly build trust in as-built records. In 2018, KYTC spent $217,000 on new forensic investigations because handmade, paper as-builts were deemed untrustworthy (Kentucky Transportation Center, 2019). But DABs, especially when well-updated and held to high standards of detail, can reduce the need for new surveys and ultimately lower costs.

DABs feed into an integrated workflow in which completed facility information is readily accessible for asset management and maintenance. This process is an element of Civil Integrated Management (CIM), and involves the entire lifecycle of a facility.

Existing Practices

Though many aspects of life have been affected by increasing digitization, the as-built record-keeping process in state transportation remains rooted in the analog era. It was apparent, from the literature reviewed, that the majority of state transportation departments are still using 2D, paper as-builts for facility specifications.

When DABs were being used, they were as pilot projects to demonstrate their efficacy. Or, when a part of agency practice, as in the case of Caltrans, implementation was inconsistent and without sufficient coordination (AHMCTRC, 2020).  Similarly, in Kentucky, some records were being stored digitally but without a designated central repository, or as hardcopies in a State Library and Archives warehouse for storage (KTC, 2019), offering little use for ongoing maintenance. States like Michigan and North Carolina, while looking to transition to digital records, were still working on their digital strategies and have yet to implement them as practice (FHWA, 2019).

Some states have recently established regulations requiring DABs, such as the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which updated the State Highway Utility Accommodation Code in 2021 calling for 3D subsurface models showing the location of utility lines in CDOT’s Right-of-Way (Colorado Department of Transportation, 2021). New York has established a 3D, 4D, and 5D requirement for certain megaprojects (such as the new Kosciuzko Bridge), that tie contractor payments to a continuously-updated model that is then revised with as-built information (FHWA, 2014). And Nevada, while requiring digital contract documents, has yet to add an as-built component. (Nevada Department of Transportation, 2021).

Many DOTs are being spurred to action by technological innovations and by prior EDC rounds (FHWA, 2015) and by the current FHWA’s EDC-6 e-Ticketing and Digital As-Builts initiative.

Emerging Practices

PennDOT appears at the leading edge in its development of a comprehensive DAB implementation plan, intending to adopt the digital delivery process as a department standard by 2025. For DABs, this involves a 5-year span spent developing standards and workflows for implementation. The planning process includes the functioning of various working groups for determining necessary infrastructure and modeling requirements, workspace needs, and training plans. Though PennDOT’s plan is still in progress, their Digital Delivery 2025 Strategic Plan offers a good example of a comprehensive, implementation document detailing steps the agency must take to make the transition to digital delivery (PennDOT, 2020).

Illusrates PenndDOT roadmap schedule for implementation of DABs

Figure 1: Sample Digital Delivery Roadmap from PennDOT.

Agencies in other states are also piloting new standards. Many DOTs are planning to convert from paper records, and to capitalize on this transition by taking advantage of the new digital records in the asset management process.

The Utah Department of Transportation of Transportation (UDOT) has created a website describing the benefits of digital delivery, including the advantages of the use of Digital Twins (UDOT, 2021). UDOT’s site also contains sample deliverables packages for contractors, with technical specifications for roadways, drainage, and structures viewable in Bentley ProjectWise, and document management software used for DABs by several DOTs (e.g., Virginia, Washington, Kentucky, and others) (Virginia Department of Transportation, 2019).

Virginia is also working to establish new guidelines to support the Civil Integrated Management (CIM) process. The guidelines will set standards for Level of Detail (LOD) for 3D renderings, as some models can be inconsistent. Because they are intended to exist as exact records of the constructed facility, DABs are required to be the highest LOD (Level 400) (Virginia Department of Transportation, 2020).

Michigan and North Carolina are currently transitioning from 2D plan sheets to 3D models of contractual documents (FHWA, 2019). Both states plan to incorporate the records into asset and operations management over the project’s lifecycle.

NYSDOT, for a bridge reconstruction in the Catskill region, developed a 3D model for a contract document using Bentley iTwin Design Review software (CS Engineer Magazine, 2021). After the bridge is completed, the contractor is obligated to upload as-built information to the 3D model. This approach is being piloted in New York, but is not yet adopted practice.

In Minnesota, the state Department of Transportation (MnDOT), adopted special as-built requirements for certain regions in the state, starting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan area (FHWA, 2019). The agency also has a dedicated website with DAB specifications. For example, a barrier as-built report might include latitudinal and longitudinal X, Y, and Z coordinates, as well as a Plan ID referring back to the plan set.

Nearby, Iowa DOT has begun using geo-equipped devices from ESRI to capture vector and asset attribute data during the construction process (Iowa DOT Research, 2021). The geolocated data captures the location and geometry of facilities, and is then uploaded to a Microsoft SQL server. As opposed to developing a 3D model in the design process, and then updating it with as-built conditions, an after-the-fact approach captures three-dimensional as-built data outside of the Building Information Modeling (BIM) process.

Other states are exploring how they might apply these concepts to how they manage the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of their facilities. The literature resources reviewed made the benefits of DABs abundantly clear, and showed considerable progress being made, but they also identified challenges in the full-scale deployment of Digital As-Builts as standard practice.

Challenges

Several of the resources reviewed identified barriers for DOTs for implementing DABs. For Developing a Strategic Roadmap for Caltrans Implementation of Virtual Design Construction/Civil Integrated Management (2020), researchers surveyed Caltrans employees from various departments to learn more about the obstacles that the department faced.  Similarly, University of Kentucky researchers surveyed Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) staff, in Redefining Construction As-Built Plans to Meet Current Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Needs (2019).  FHWA has also prepared reports on innovative digital records practices at various states that detail various challenges (FHWA, 2019).  

These reports reveal some recurring themes on the challenges experienced by state DOTs that can be broken into two axes — Workflow and Workforce — as well as some solutions to surmount them.

Table 1: Examples of Workflow and Workforce Challenges and Solutions to DABs Implementation

AxesChallengesSolutionsExamples
WorkflowInconsistent ImplementationDevelop robust, time-tested workflowsPennDOT
Workflow SiloizationFacilitate interdepartmental coordination on projects and data updatesCaltrans
Workflow CompatibilityExtensively test software workflows for technical errors, such as incompatibilityPennDOT
Workflow StandardsCreate file, format, and procedural standards (i.e. designated Levels of Detail). Require compatible software infrastructure to support DABsPennDOT, UDOT, VDOT, NDOT, CDOT
Workforce Digital Competencies Educate employees with ongoing trainings that ease into DAB processPennDOT
WorkforceComplianceEducate for and enforce DAB protocolsUDOT, MnDOT

For example, the Caltrans report made clear that the development of an agency-wide workflow was paramount. Without one, various divisions were inconsistent and ineffective at capturing, maintaining, and communicating about DABs. Caltrans Roadway Design and Structures Design divisions fell short in updating and sharing the existence of updates with one another (AHMCTRC, 2020).  

Regarding particular software, files, and workstations, care must be taken in the workflow design process to ensure compatibility. In Caltrans case, the Roadway Design and Structures Design divisions were using incompatible 3D modeling software. Iowa DOT experienced a similar issue, in which 3D, geolocated models created using ESRI software were then unable to be meaningfully edited in Bentley MicroStation (Iowa DOT Research, 2021).  In addition, Iowa DOT’s 3D models, designed as part of a BIM process for a bridge girder replacement project, could not be edited because of the file type. An audit of Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet found that, though there was a central repository for digital records (Bentley’s ProjectWise), files were uploaded inconsistently (KTC, 2019). While NYSDOT had planned, during the construction of the new Kosciusko Bridge, to continuously update a 3D model to show newly built components, they experienced severe network capacity constraints that prevented them from doing so (FHWA, 2014). Upfront planning, interdepartmental collaboration and testing ensures that DABs potential is unleashed.

The second tier of challenges arise from issues with workforce adoption. An FHWA case study looking at digital record keeping at MnDOT highlights difficulty with securing buy-in from construction staff to comply with new DAB requirements (FHWA, 2019). The KYTC study singled out a lack of digital competencies from older employees as one barrier towards adopting these new technologies. Change is difficult to implement, but especially when staff have become accustomed to the same practice for decades.

Recommendations

For Workflow design, a considered and deliberative process is required. Agencies must convene working groups of stakeholders and learn about department-specific concerns and established processes. Several years may be required to design new DAB workflows that maximize the potential of the new technology, and ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support and encourage staff to follow these workflows.

PennDOT’s plan for implementing digital delivery is an instructive and thorough model document on the subject (PennDOT, 2020). The agency’s Digital Delivery Strategic Plan breaks tasks down into actionable steps, such as Task 2.3, Post Construction Process and Procedures Development, scheduled from Q2-Q3 of 2021, which will map out new requirements and a plan to realize the new processes. An agency wishing to avoid siloization would do well to consult the UC-Davis study that provides itemized, exact solutions.

Graphic displaying PennDOT roadmap

Figure 2: Another visual representation of PennDOT’s Digital Delivery Roadmap.

Architects of the new DAB workflow should be careful to promote interdepartmental collaboration, as well as select compatible software that supports such a goal. Bentley Systems design, engineering, and review software—MicroStation, OpenRoads, and ProjectWise, principally—appear to be the most consistently used across the country (AHMCTRC, 2020). For determining a cohesive workflow, it is imperative that varying software have compatibility with one another—and that they are consistently used across the department.

For the issue of designated detail levels, both Minnesota and Virginia have developed tables with standards specifying when and where to make DABs as accurate as possible, such as whether to survey the constructed facility at a detail of one foot or one meter (FHWA, 2019). The overall objective of the department may help to guide the development process: how does the agency aim to utilize BIM technology? A representative DAB could help to dramatically increase the efficiency of future maintenance or upgrade projects, but only if the appropriate standards are first put in place.

The Workforce presents complementary challenges and solutions. A technology is only useful if it is appropriately deployed—part of the workflow design process should include consultation with staff on specific barriers they face in their daily adoption of the technology. What might be preventing them from doing so? What types of trainings are required to achieve core competencies? Interviewing staff stakeholders will also help to determine accountability measures that could be put in place, for both staff and contractors, to help ensure consistent compliance with new workflows (KTC, 2019).

Moving Forward

Digital As-Builts are a promising technological innovation that can reduce inefficiencies in the life cycle of a transportation facility. If appropriately deployed, DABs can maximize the value of a project, eliminating the need for new forensic investigations, and retaining information as it is handed off from one phase to the next. Many of the DOTs surveyed are considering and incorporating innovative practices into their DAB implementation. Both Caltrans and KYTC, for example, are studying the use of laser-based scanning technologies to develop geolocated 3D models post-construction. In the coming years, as DABs are adopted into practice, more case studies will become available for reference.

From the resources reviewed, it was apparent that Digital As-Builts are promising technology that can streamline record-keeping and save transportation agencies both time and money.

Bibliography

Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology Research Center (2020). Developing a Strategic Roadmap for Caltrans Implementation of Virtual Design Construction/Civil Integrated Management. California Department of Transportation.https://dot.ca.gov/-/media/dot-media/programs/research-innovation-system-information/documents/final-reports/ca20-3178-finalreport-a11y.pdf

Colorado Department of Transportation. (2021). State Highway Utility Accommodation Code. Colorado Department of Transportation. https://www.sos.state.co.us/CCR/GenerateRulePdf.do?ruleVersionId=9244&fileName=2%20CCR%20601-18

CS Engineer Magazine. (2021). NYS DOT Delivers First Model-based Contracting 3D Project in Its History; Delivered the Project Under Budget and Restored a Critical Bridge to the Community. CS Engineer Magazine. https://csengineermag.com/nys-dot-delivers-first-model-based-contracting-3d-project-in-its-history-delivered-the-project-under-budget-and-restored-a-critical-bridge-to-the-community/

Federal Highway Administration. (2014). 4D and 5D Modeling: NYSDOT’s Approach to Optimizing Resources. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/3d/hif16024.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2015).  3D Engineered Models: Schedule, Cost and Post-Construction: Fact Sheet. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/pdfs/factsheets/edc/edc-3_factsheet_3d_engineered_models.pdf

Federal Highway Administration (2021). e-Ticketing and Digital As-Builts. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_6/eticketing.cfm

Federal Highway Administration. (2019). Michigan DOT Digital Delivery Working Group. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/econstruction/edc4/hif19033.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2019). Minnesota and Iowa DOT Solutions for Capturing Asset Information During Construction. Federal Highway Administration.https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/econstruction/hif19075.pdf

Iowa DOT Research. (2021). Development of Digital As-Built for Use in Future Asset Management Applications. Iowa Department of Transportation.https://ideas.iowadot.gov/subdomain/stic-incentive-funds/end/node/3410?qmzn=iKFrYf

Kentucky Transportation Center. (2019). Redefining Construction As-Built Plans to Meet Current Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Needs. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.  https://uknowledge.uky.edu/ktc_researchreports/1630/

National Cooperative Highway Research Program. (2015).  Advances in Civil Integrated Management. Scan Team Report. NCHRP Project 20-68A, Scan 13- 02.   http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP20-68A_13-02.pdf

Nevada Department of Transportation. (2021). CAD Standards and Information. Nevada Department of Transportation. https://www.dot.nv.gov/doing-business/about-ndot/ndot-divisions/engineering/design/cadd-standards-and-information

North Carolina Department of Transportation. (2020). Perspectives on Anticipated OpenRoads Designer (ORD) Technological Benefits. North Carolina Department of Transportation. https://connect.ncdot.gov/resources/CADD/OpenRoads%20Designer%20Documents/NCDOT%20Research%20and%20Innovation%20Summit_ORD%20Presentation_10-14-20_Final.pdf

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. (2020). Digital Delivery Directive 2025 Final Strategic Plan. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. https://www.penndot.gov/ProjectAndPrograms/3D2025/Documents/Final%20Strategic%20Plan%20V1.0.pdf

Utah Department of Transportation. (2021). Digital Delivery. Utah Department of Transportation. https://digitaldelivery.udot.utah.gov/pages/bdc1336e1ade43d5bac2deca0e3e4837

Virginia Department of Transportation. (2020). 3D Model Development Manual. Virginia Department of Transportation. http://www.virginiadot.org/business/resources/LocDes/3D_Model_Development_Manual.pdf

Virginia Department of Transportation. (2019). Instructional and Informational Memorandum. Virginia Department of Transportation. http://www.virginiadot.org/business/resources/LocDes/IIM/IIM118.pdf Washington State Department of Transportation. (2017). Electronic Engineering Data Standards. Washington State Department of Transportation. https://wsdot.wa.gov/publications/manuals/fulltext/M3028/ElectronicEngDataStandards.pdf

Developing Next Generation Traffic Incident Management in the Delaware Valley

Traffic Incident Management (TIM) programs help first responders and traffic operators to better understand and coordinate roadway incidents. As part of the sixth round of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative, the agency is promoting innovative practice in this area through NextGen TIM. These practices and procedures can advance safety, increase travel reliability, and improve agency operations by engaging with new technologies and trainings. For example, sensors and crowdsourced data can help traffic agencies better detect incidents and decrease response times. Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can help transportation agencies and first responders better understand the incident scene and speed the resumption of traffic flow. The NextGen TIM initiative is an effort to improve traffic incident management through technological innovation and standardized operating procedures. NextGen TIM technologies and practices are currently being used in the Delaware Valley to increase real-time situational awareness and ensure maximum safety at the scene of an incident.

Regional Integrated Multimodal Information Sharing (RIMIS)

Image of RIMIS Operational Tool, which is a map of the DVRPC region, with Philadelphia at the center, and portions of New Jersey to the east, and Pennsylvania to the West, highway routes are marked in green and yellow, yellow denoting slower than usual operations, orange construction worker signals denote construction along the corridor, many of them are clustered aroudn Philadelphia.

The RIMIS Operational Tool gives a system-wide overview of traffic operations, such as incidents, traffic flow, and construction alerts, courtesy DVRPC

Currently, transportation departments in the region use the TRANSCOM traffic monitoring platform to supervise incidents. The Delaware Valley Planning Commission (DVRPC)’s version of this platform is called RIMIS, or Regional Integrated Multimodal Information Sharing. Because DVRPC is a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that spans both sides of the Delaware River, its reach includes sections of New Jersey and Pennsylvania—broadly, the greater Philadelphia area. In this region, with overlapping municipal, state, and regional jurisdictions, communication and coordination could be difficult. According to Christopher King, Manager of DVRPC’s Office of Transportation Operations Management, before RIMIS, incident notifications were commonly communicated through phone calls.

Area transportation officials recognized the need for a coordinated platform where information could be shared back and forth. Instead of slow, one-to-one incident notifications, this new, decentralized platform would present a “big picture” perspective of a traffic incident’s impacts on the regional transportation network. The concept was to create a regional centralized information location for traffic operators and first responders to view the traffic status on area roads, and understand, quickly and reliably, where an incident has occurred. Local agencies could access the platform to better understand incident conditions.

Image of 16 video feeds, each of a different stretch of highway, a video wall for traffic operations monitoring.

The RIMIS Video Wall allows for real-time roadway monitoring for first responders and traffic operations personnel, courtesy DVRPC

RIMIS was first developed nearly 20 years ago, and has proved to be invaluable as a resource. Participants supply data, such as video feeds and traffic updates, which is then aggregated to update other members. These agencies include PennDOT, NJDOT, SEPTA, and NJ TRANSIT. Member agencies and municipalities, such as Bedminster Township, PA, can take advantage of the operations database, with live and historical traffic flow and incident data, a situational map which geographically represents traffic levels and incidents across the region, and a video wall of roads in the DVRPC area with live camera feeds.

As an example, Mr. King showed a municipal fire department participating in RIMIS, that, once alerted that a collision has occurred, can access the platform’s interactive map, live video feeds, and information on planned interruptions, to better understand the scene before arriving there. The RIMIS platform gives context to first responders on route to an incident, provides a broader view for traffic operations dispatchers managing a disruption, and also assists transportation planners looking for data on how to improve a high-collision roadway.

Interactive Detour Route Mapping (IDRuM)

Image of a map of Philadelphia, with highway routes in orange, delineated into sections. Each section, when clicked on, shows two detour routes in the event of a serious incident.

IDRuM is a detour resource for rerouting traffic after major incidents, courtesy DVRPC

Another TIM tool DVRPC provides is the Interactive Detour Route Mapping (IDRuM) feature, a web application that consolidates established Emergency Detour Routes as a resource for traffic operations personnel, first responders, and transportation planners and engineers.

If, for example, an incident has occurred on a certain segment of I-295 in Bucks County, then the Primary Detour Route would involve taking Taylorsville Road south and turning right on State Route 322 to rejoin the highway, while the Secondary Detour Route would take a similar maneuver going north. This information can be easily accessed in both interactive and PDF formats on the IDRuM mapping site.

Image of two detour routes from I-295, one goes on a road to the north and then southeast to rejoin the highway, the other to the south and then northwest.

DVRPC is currently beta testing detour routes from NJDOT for the IDRuM platform, courtesy DVRPC

DVRPC is currently working to integrate NJDOT’s designated Detour Routes into the GIS map for the area east of the Delaware. The data has been uploaded, but is still in beta testing.

NextGen TIM

Mr. King says that a chief focus of NextGen TIM is to expand services such as RIMIS and IDRuM to more localities and arterial routes, as well as to ensure that all first responders are trained in the most up-to-date TIM techniques, such as how to position their vehicles for maximum safety on an active roadway.

During the second round of the Every Day Counts Initiative (EDC-2, 2013-2014),  a TIM process and training program was established under the  SHRP2, or the second Strategic Highway Research Program. This laid the groundwork for the current TIM training and organizational infrastructure, which is NJTIM in the Garden State. This consortium, spearheaded by NJDOT, provides resources and trainings to teach best practices to first responders across the state. NJDOT and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) partner together to promote trainings and coordinate highway emergency response. To learn more about NJDOT’s efforts with regards to partnering with NJSP on crash data consolidation, using Unmanned Aerial Systems for incident analysis, and other aspects of the initiative, please visit NJDOT Tech Transfer’s NextGen TIM page.


Resources

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Interactive Detour Route Mapping (IDRuM). https://www.dvrpc.org/transportation/tsmo/idrum

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Regional Integrated Multimodal Information Sharing (RIMIS). https://www.dvrpc.org/Transportation/TSMO/RIMIS/

New Jersey Department of Transportation. Statewide Traffic Incident Management Program. https://www.nj.gov/transportation/commuter/motoristassistance/stimp.shtm

New Jersey Traffic Incident Management. Traffic Incident Management Resource Portal. http://www.njtim.org/NJTIM/

NJ STIC Innovations Featured at EDC-6 Virtual Summit

On December 8-10, 2020 FHWA hosted the Every Day Counts (EDC) 2020 Virtual Summit.

EDC is a State-based model that promotes the identification and rapid deployment of proven, yet underutilized innovations to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and integrate automation. FHWA works with State transportation departments, local governments, tribes, private industry and other stakeholders to identify a new collection of innovations to champion every two years that merit accelerated deployment.

The Summit is an integral component of the EDC model, bringing together transportation leaders and front-line professionals responsible for the development and delivery of highway projects to learn more about the innovations. Following the Summit, the States finalize their selection of innovations, establish performance goals for implementation over the upcoming two-year cycle, and begin to implement the innovations with the support and assistance of the technical teams established for each innovation.

The EDC-6 Summit was conducted virtually and included over 3,000 attendees from state Departments of Transportation, local agencies, federal land management agencies, tribes and industry. In the EDC-6 two-year cycle, seven innovations were featured that promote strategies to increase engagement with people, new applications of products to preserve and repair infrastructure, and improved processes that can save time on project delivery and incident management.

The EDC-6 Virtual summit included an exhibit pavilion to showcase home-grown innovations that State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) members developed and implemented. The purpose of the pavilion was to celebrate and share examples of innovations that save lives, time and resources with a wider audience to expand their potential use and impact. Highlighted innovations did not need to be EDC-related, or previously funded through the STIC Incentive or AID Demonstration grant programs. Rather, exhibitors were asked to share those innovations that could benefit other state and local agencies.

The NJ STIC selected the ten innovations shown here for the pavilion.

NJDOT Real-Time Signal Performance Measurement
Bridge Fender Navigation Lighting Reflective Backup System
NJDOT BABM 2020 Anti-Jackknife Device
BABM-NJDOT Roncovitz Post Pusher and Post Puller​
DDSA NJDOT Data Driven Safety Analysis – Burlington County Roundabout
NJDOT Local Safety Peer Exchange
NJDOT Pavement Preservation Video
NJDOT Safety Service Patrol – iCone Technology
NJDOT UAS and A-GaME​
NJDOT UAS High Mast Light Pole Inspection​

What Do Autonomous Vehicles Mean for Infrastructure?

PAVE April 14, 20201 Virtual Panel Highlights

On April 14, 2021, Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) hosted a virtual panel on the timely topic of “What Do AVs Mean for Infrastructure?” Formed in 2019, PAVE is a coalition of industry, academic and non-profit institutions that focuses on educating the public and policymakers on Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technology.

The April 14th virtual panel offered a facilitated discussion among three professionals on infrastructure-related opportunities and challenges related to AV. Participants included the following:

  • Michele Mueller, Senior Project Manager Connected and Automated Vehicles, Michigan DOT
  • Avery Ash, Head of Autonomous Mobility, INRIX
  • Robert Dingess, President, Mercer Strategic Alliance

The panel shared that stakeholders are working to determine a hierarchy of infrastructure needs and priorities related to AV technology. Several infrastructure undertakings related to pavement markings that could help advance the use of AVs include the addition of dotted edge line extensions on exit ramps and expansion of roadway markings from four to six-inches. It was remarked, however, that it would be cost prohibitive for state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to regularly update pavement markings. Thus, other strategies to help facilitate appropriate AV identification of lane markings should be investigated. As one panelist noted, AV technology needs to be adaptable to the reality that pavement markings will not always be consistent or new.

The panel discussed possibilities for using AV data to help create and monitor digital infrastructure, which could help agencies understand where to prioritize improvements, ultimately benefiting roadway users. Issues to be determined include how DOTs can best access this data and cost factors. One possibility noted by Ms. Mueller would be development of a business model that promoted a two-way data exchange among DOTs and AV data sources.

Discussion concluded with a recommendation that DOTs and other stakeholders explore the Notice of Proposed Amendments for the 11th edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which is available for public comment in the Federal Register. As the national standard on traffic control devices, the MUTCD plays a vital role in fostering interstate infrastructure uniformity. The recently released FHWA-proposed MUTCD updates include a Part 5 section on automated vehicles, which offers an excellent opportunity for DOTs and other interested parties to share comments and feedback on the topic of AV and infrastructure priorities and needs.


Resources

To view the 30-minute PAVE webinar, click here

To view other PAVE webinars on topics related to Autonomous Vehicle safety, technology, and accessibility, click here

To view presentations and discussion from the U.S. Access Board’s forum series on inclusive design of autonomous vehicles, click here

For more information on the Notice of Proposed Amendments for the 11th edition of the MUTCD available for public comment, click here

Innovation Spotlight: NJDOT UAS Program

The Federal Highway Administration has encouraged State Departments of Transportation to utilize Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), sometimes known as “drones”, to improve operations, construction, inspection, and safety by collecting data needed to design, build, and operate the highway system.

The NJDOT UAS Program has been a leader among state DOT UAS programs.  Several articles and a video have already featured the program origins, equipment and training needed to build capacity, and establish “use cases” for the integration of UAS technology within various NJDOT operations.  Glenn Stott, Program Manager, NJDOT Aeronautics & UAS, has been instrumental in standing up the UAS Program.  In this interview, we asked Glenn to provide an update on how the UAS Program has been deployed on recent projects.  Below is an edited summary of our interview and follow-up discussion.

How has the UAS Program been using its recent STIC incentive funding?

The UAS program really benefited from STIC funding at its start. The funding paid for the equipment to fly the missions and deliver regulation and procedures training to staff.  Two phases of training were devoted to legal and regulatory issues, and hands-on training, common to all state agencies. The third phase was mission-specific, exploring how drones could be used for infrastructure inspections and mapping projects. The training helped us build our agency’s capacity to work with UAS, strengthen our working relationships with other state agencies, and raise our awareness of regulatory compliance issues.

We received a second round of STIC funding to pay for equipment, but the Buy America program requirements have been a challenge to procuring equipment.  When we were defining our specifications for the new equipment, we were looking at technical capabilities, not national origin. We have also tried to stay with software similar to what we already have used for training and standardization purposes.

 Can you tell us how the UAS Program has functioned on NJDOT projects?

At NJDOT, our divisions are new to UAS and have their own methodologies that have been successful for decades. We have to find ways to merge our methodologies with theirs and assure them of a high level of success before they will agree to employ UAS.

UAS Team in the field exploring the damage from rockfall along I-287

UAS Team in the field exploring the damage from rockfall along I-287

UAS has played an in-house consultant role on many projects, including several rockfall projects. There are 400 rockfall areas along NJ roadways. NJDOT’s Geology and Capital Program Management (CPM) have been working diligently to analyze the areas and come up with viable solutions and prevent incidents. We flew 49 different sites along Route 15 to gather rockfall data and supported several projects along I-80.

I think we were particularly effective on the I-80 project in the vicinity of the Delaware Water Gap, a national park.  Outside consultants were unfamiliar with federal regulations, and the National Park Service (NPS) representatives were concerned about the use of drones on park property. We are not able to fly a drone from national park property. In this case, the drone was taking off from, and landing on, state property next to the highway. Although the NPS had no formal authority over airspace in this case, we wanted to be good neighbors and address any concerns they might have, particularly related to wildlife areas, and elicit their help in developing the mission profile. With our regulatory experience and knowledge of aviation laws, we developed a mission profile that complied with regulations and was acceptable to all parties.  A consultant flew the mission and we were onsite.

Along I-80, we had particularly challenging conditions in which to work.  In this case, the road has three lanes in each direction with a concrete median, no ditch and no right of way, and rock walls on both sides of the road. We do not fly over active roadways. We had to shut down the left lane in one direction and fly from the left lane. We knew this work had the potential to create road congestion and a distraction for drivers. We coordinated with our NJDOT Bureau of Safety to come up with a flight plan, a take-off and landing area, position of staging vehicles, and plan for support of safety vehicles. These types of projects take a lot of coordination. A consultant flew the mission but NJDOT UAS staff were on site. Although we want to be in the forefront of UAS development, we do not want to risk safety. The Department needs to be comfortable with the comprehensive process of developing the mission profile.

For NJDOT Multimodal, we have assisted with a number of rail projects funded through our rail freight assistance grants program. We fly our own UAS for project management to document existing conditions pre-construction, monitor during construction, and document post-construction to show how taxpayer money has been used. One project, about six months ago, was an NJDOT grant to work with Conrail on the Waverly Loop rail construction project. The Waverly Loop is intended to allow trains to reverse direction by following a teardrop track.

Conrail could not find a consultant to fly the project. The location is challenging as it lies across the NJ Turnpike from Newark Airport and was in the front yard of the state prison, and involves several environmental, wind, and traffic concerns.  We needed to coordinate with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration], but we are familiar with their concerns and have operated in Newark Class B airspace many times. The agency has a Certificate of Authorization (COA) with all controlled airports in the state as well as with the Philadelphia International Airport.  In this case, we also needed to coordinate with the NJ Department of Corrections. We need to know the players and the regulations. On this project, NJDOT was the consultant and our UAS staff flew the project. We had to ensure that the mission profile and plan met regulatory requirements, the restrictions of the COA, Conrail and Multimodal objectives, and kept all the parties satisfied and informed. We are just one piece of making the project come together.

We have done a lot of work with the NJDOT Office of Maritime Resources, for pre-, during, and post-construction on dredging and other projects. Recently, we flew drones to make sure pipelines were not disturbed during construction in the marshlands near Atlantic City. We also had to prove compliance with NJDEP wetland restrictions when electrical poles were placed by helicopter in this area because dozers and heavy equipment cannot be used.

How has UAS been used for transportation planning and environmental projects?

Drones were used to inform a Concept Development Study of traffic congestion on Route 9 Northbound at the ramp to the Garden State Parkway.

Drones were used to inform a Concept Development Study of traffic congestion on Route 9 Northbound at the ramp to the Garden State Parkway

Two years ago, we worked with construction project management to help them address congestion along Route 9 at the entrance to the Garden State Parkway North to address commuter complaints. Usually, a crew would go out to the site to monitor traffic flow over a period of time. We scouted locations for take-off and landing and suitable vantage points to capture images of the entire road segment. We sent two drones up to take video footage. Reviewing the video, the project management team could quickly determine the source of the congestion. The project manager appreciated that the “eye in the sky” saved a lot of time in determining the problem, and the video helped to explain the issue to contractors and NJDOT supervisors.

We still need the right equipment to demonstrate how drones can support bat counts under bridges. There are nine species of bats in the state that are either federally-protected or state-protected. DEP regulations state that we cannot interfere with them during certain life stages such as migration and hibernation. Coordination with US Department of Fish and Wildlife and NJ Division of Environmental Protection was needed to address concerns about the potential negative effect of drones on the bats. We had to take a course with NJDEP and US Fish and Wildlife before participating in this use case. Bats wedge themselves deep within the cracks under the bridge. Our current drones could not get close due to proximity sensors, and illumination was insufficient. Cameras need to get relatively close to the bats and have good illumination to get quality photography. We have held two field trips to determine if the noise of the drone rotors would bother the bats and see what kind of photos we could get.  We discovered that the rotor noise was nothing compared to traffic noise. With the second STIC grant we hope to purchase equipment to improve illumination and image resolution, and allow us to get closer to the bats.

How many NJDOT staff from other divisions have been trained?

Ten staff members have been trained, and one of those has left. Only UAS program staff actively fly the missions, but trained staff members from other units have flown missions with UAS staff.  Although they do not fly frequently enough to be current and proficient, their knowledge of the UAS program helps their divisions with use case development – for example, in Traffic Management, CPM, and Multimodal. The intent of the STIC-funded training was to leverage our knowledge into the divisions. For example, when we confront a traffic issue for a project, I draw on the trained personnel in the traffic division to bring their colleagues into the conversation. They are our champions for the integration of UAS technology.

With our COAs, we are required to have night training.  With the regulations and procedures grant, we developed a NJDOT night-training video. We developed a PowerPoint training presentation with audio presented in a video format to be delivered to NJDOT UAS pilots. Not only initial training, but recurrent training is needed to renew certification and keep current. We have no active night missions with NJDOT at the moment but would like to do training missions in order to be prepared for an emergency response.

In our trainings and interactions with the divisions, we stress the importance of pre-flight preparation and coordination. A violation of regulations or inadequate coordination could set the program back years and other state DOT programs as well.

Have there been challenges to aspects of the program due to COVID-19?

Aeronautics is  currently understaffed with one of three inspector positions filled. I am the Program Manager for both Aeronautics and the UAS program so I am busy. The pandemic has affected our operations. In particular, coordination is more difficult without face to face meetings.

To what do you ascribe the success of the program?

For the I-495 project, live stream videos from drones were shared with traffic operations and command posts to assess traffic congestion during construction.

For the I-495 project, live stream videos from drones were shared with traffic operations and command posts to assess traffic congestion during construction

Lots of other state DOTs have UAS programs with more funding, resources, and staff but NJDOT’s program has been more successful because of our drive, determination, our champions, and relationships. The champions in NJDOT divisions have worked hard to successfully integrate UAS into their programs.

We have the confidence and experience to collaborate with federal agencies and other state agencies including FAA, airports, Secret Service, Homeland Security, NJ Department of Corrections, and state parks. During the Route 495 project, we had to deal with presidential temporary flight restrictions in Class B airspace. We had the confidence and the relationships with agencies, including Secret Service, to get through roadblocks. Homeland Security loaned us a staff person and a vehicle for several weeks to help support the Route 495 project. It is a collaborative effort; they bounce ideas off of us and we off of them.

Other state UAS programs have not pursued the relationships with these agencies or with divisions within their agencies.  We coordinate with NJDEP, for instance, for filming the NJDOT Winter Road-E-O which is held in a state park. We cannot take off and land in state parks but we can work with the state park to align our objectives with their requirements and regulations. Maritime missions in state parks are difficult to coordinate. However, with our contacts and our awareness of their concerns, we can streamline some of the approvals and fly the missions within the timelines we are given. The relationships are intangibles but a big part of the success of the NJDOT UAS program.


Resources

Drone Technology at NJDOT (Video resource)

Drone Program Takes Off in Bureau of Aeronautics 

Drone Program Reaches New Heights, Seeks to Go Higher

EDC-5 Initiative: Unmanned Aerial Systems

NJ STIC Mobility & Operations: Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Fact Sheet

FHWA EDC-5 Innovative Initiative: Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Peer Exchange at NJDOT

Spotlight on Innovation: Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) High Mast Light Pole Inspections Comparative Analysis (Infographic)