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High-tech van helps Phoenix find road problems to fix

Posted at 4:32 AM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-08 07:33:07-05

PHOENIX — Would you describe your commute as smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

To find out where the trouble spots are, the city of Phoenix is turning to the help of a high-tech van.

The Pavement Management Van is equipped with lasers and infrared cameras to scan the streets as it drives the roadways.

"It's driven to detect cracks, ruts, and other service defects with the street," said Civil Engineer Ryan Stevens with the Street Transportation Department.

Stevens explained that once they drive around, the data is collected and compared.

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"We process it and score all the streets from 0 to 100," Stevens described. "That helps us determine what type of treatment is needed for the streets."

Then, that gets put into their five-year plan of what needs the most work first and how the budget can support it.

This is ABC15's first chance to see the van and its technology since we first reported on the city's plan to purchase it back in July of 2017.

The vehicle had a price tag of more than $1 million and that was pretty shocking for Valley residents. But, according to Stevens, the old van was nearly a decade old and had outdated technology. It was becoming more difficult and far more costly to maintain.

After approval by the Phoenix City Council, the van was purchased and has been working on the streets now for just over a year.

"It takes about two years to collect all the data on our streets," Stevens explained. "We have nearly 5,000 center line miles."

Stevens said that if you haven't seen the big van in your neighborhood, don't worry. It is coming your way.

But, you can always contact the department if you feel like a street is particularly bad. They will send someone out to see what is going on.

Last month, the council also voted to accelerate the Pavement Management Program.

"Good infrastructure matters and is key as our city continues to grow," said Mayor Thelda Williams in the press release. "This accelerated pavement maintenance program will allow us to repave our busiest roads with the highest needs before they fall in to a state of serious disrepair. By investing in our roads now, we can position ourselves to get ahead of the problem instead of perpetually playing catch up."

During this five-year period, more than 600 street miles are programmed to be repaved. Residents will see nearly a 300-percent increase in the number of major-street miles that are currently paved per year.