A van equipped with laser scanners, four high-resolution cameras, and data-storage servers has driven San Antonio streets as part of the evaluation system that lets City officials determine which roadways need repairs.

On Friday, the van completed its latest survey of San Antonio’s more than 4,000 miles of streets, a process that took about a year. The information produced helps city engineers assess letter grades for roadways, which in turn prioritizes road repairs.

Data Transfer Solutions (DTS) drivers gather road data by driving the van along the road it’s inspecting; three cameras on the front of the car and one in the back survey road markings and traffic signs. Lasers below the car assess the evenness of the road surface and detect any cracks on the road. The information is fed into a GIS file that maps out the areas the van inspected.

The City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements Department (TCI) has contracted with DTS since 2014 to conduct pavement and right-of-way evaluations using Mobile Asset Collection Laser Road Imaging Systems vehicles. The city uses the data to evaluate the repairs needed on individual streets and calculate the cost. By using an algorithm, the City can determine which streets need maintenance.

TCI spokesman Paul Berry said using the DTS vehicle is more efficient and provides more objective metrics than evaluations made by engineers.

“Technology is better than human eyes,” Berry said. “This takes an objective point of view, and every street is graded the exact same way. That way we know we are focusing our attention to the maintenance that needs to be done.”

After the data is collected, each street is given a grade based on its condition on a scale of 0 to 100. TCI’s goal is to have all council districts get at least an average of 70. In the last assessment in 2015, several streets in districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 scored below 70. The city has allocated $35 million for repairs on streets in these areas out of the $110 million allocated in the city budget for street maintenance.

“We have only a certain amount of money each year, and we need to know how and where we need to spend it,” TCI engineer Hossein Roshani said. “This company [DTS] helps us know the condition of the streets, and by analyzing all this data we find out how much money we need [for repairs].”

Roadway evaluations are usually done on a three-year rolling basis, but this cycle took only about a year to complete. Thomas Wesp, business development manager at DTS, said the data the machine gathers is extensive, and the company works with the City to process it.

“Part of the contract is a five-year evaluation of where the problems are,” Wesp said. “We will continuously work with the city on the treatments for the streets.”

Laura Morales

Laura Morales

Laura Morales is a freshman studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a contributor to The Daily Texan.