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City Conducting Digital Scan Of Roadways

Digital survey vehicle

It’s not every day you pass a vehicle outfitted with multiple cameras and a “Danger: Laser” sign on the trunk, but that’s just what Lexington drivers might see winding through their neighborhoods over the next couple weeks. It's all part of a digital survey of road conditions throughout the city.

"Right now we're on a section of road that has quite a bit of cracking," technical specialist with Applied Research Associates Ron Strine explains, as he periodically checks a panel of screens inside the specially equipped Ford Expedition. "There is some alligatoring which is where the asphalt is beginning to separate and you can feel the bumps a little bit."

He’s tracking which roads have been surveyed while keeping tabs on the pictures from four cameras, each of which feeds a new image to the system every 20 feet. Meanwhile, a laser measures cracks in the road surface down to the width of a piece of paper.

It’s a vehicle that gets a few curious looks wherever it goes.

"You're about half a step from something out of a Ghostbusters reboot," says fifth district councilman Bill Farmer.

The data it collects, married up with exact GPS locations, will give city leaders a clearer, more finely-grained picture than previous reports, which were generated by roving interns eyeballing the roads.

"So we get an unfailing eye look at everything because this will map all of the streets and it will help us make decisions on where we can most efficiently go with the money both this year and in succeeding years," Farmer adds.

Officials admit the high-tech method isn’t cheap. The city will shell out close to $400,000 for this round of data collection, but Mayor Jim Gray argues Lexington will save money in the long run, as city leaders are able to target problem areas around town.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.