City officials give street grading van A-plus for cost, efficiency

Van worth about $1M, scanned every city street for damage

By Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter, Ken Huizar - Photojournalist, Alex Trevino - Editor

SAN ANTONIO - It looks like an average utility van, but inside, it's equipped with intricate technology.

A van worth about $1 million just finished cruising the streets of San Antonio looking for damage. It's a process city officials say takes up to three years.

“The city has more than 4,100 miles of streets that we maintain. To give you an idea what that means, if you were to drive from San Antonio to Juneau, Alaska, that's 4,100 miles,” said Paul Berry, with the city’s Transportation and Capital Improvements department.

The city contracted a company called Data Transfer Solutions to bring in the state-of-the-art technology.

“The front, you've got laser profilers that are capturing what they call 'the ride of the road.' On the back, you've got a laser road imaging system that is capturing very high resolution imagery of the pavement … and then you've got GPS units and things that tie all that together,” said Thomas Wesp, vice president and senior business development manager for Data Transfer Solutions.

There are also cameras on the top, in the front and on the back.

Here’s how it works: One person sits in the front of the van and drives, while another sits in the back and monitors the images coming through the screen. After that, the information is analyzed and then sent to the city.

The better the street condition, the better the grade. For example, a perfect street would receive an A or a 100% score.

“But once it gets down to C and D, we really want to start to focus on that street,” Berry said.

By using less manpower, it’s said to be a cost-effective approach to solving an expensive problem in a timely manner.

”Our goal by the end of 2019 is to get the average score in every City Council district to 70 or above,” Berry said.

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