Michael Baker International uses lidar technology to capture Pennsylvania’s traffic signal data


One of the USA’s leading multi-disciplinary consultancies has just completed a major project for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), which involved using cutting-edge mobile lidar technology to capture traffic signal data across the state.

Michael Baker International recently completed the nearly US$7m project for PennDOT to collect data from more than 8,600 traffic signals across the state. During the course of one year, the 70-strong Michael Baker team, working with PennDOT’s Traffic Signal Asset Management System (TSAMS), collected nearly 20 million data fields for each of the 8,623 traffic signals analyzed, which populated a centralized database to support PennDOT’s future planning, design, maintenance and operational decision making. Following the passage of Pennsylvania Act 89 in 2013, a comprehensive piece of state transportation legislation that called for an additional US$2.4bn in funding over five years, PennDOT identified traffic signals as an area of necessary investment.

PennDOT established the Green Light-Go (GLG) Program to manage the dedicated traffic signal funding, and corresponding maintenance and operations projects. A by-product this program was implementation of TSAMS, for which Michael Baker led the data collection through coordination with the PennDOT Central Office and each of its 11 engineering districts. To efficiently collect the necessary data, the team employed its fleet of lidar-equipped vehicles that survey an area by measuring the distance to a target by illuminating it with two laser lights, which can each measure up to 600,000 points per second. Using Teledyne Optech’s Lynx SG lidar mapping system, the firm’s vans safely collected all visible assets to minimize traffic disruption, and prevented technicians from working in traffic lanes. Since all lidar data was collected at the intersections, PennDOT can now also review data on other non-signal infrastructure assets at the intersections.

To maximize the asset management database, the data collection efforts formed three parts:

Exposed traffic signal infrastructure assets – lidar vans mapped entire intersections in three-dimensional point clouds, and corresponding spherical imagery was collected using the Lynx SG’s Point Gray Ladybug camera; Traffic signal cabinet assets – a project-specific iPad mobile application was developed to enable field staff to efficiently and consistently collect, store and transmit additional data to the database; Traffic signal records – electronic files were transferred and attached to the database, and pertinent filed paper documents were scanned to retrieve information electronically.

“Pennsylvania is unique in that its traffic signals are owned and maintained by Commonwealth municipalities and not PennDOT, which has resulted in varying standards of maintenance and operation care from municipality to municipality,” explained Steve Barber, vice president at Michael Baker International. “We were tasked with populating an easily digestible database of state-owned traffic signals to ensure consistency across the board to help accurately evaluate equipment, life cycles, budgets and other factors. The completion of the TSAMS project demonstrated our ability to use our proprietary technology platforms to collect and analyze data, seamlessly translating it to a platform with which our client is most comfortable.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).