Hays, Kan., Officials Consider Assessment to Determine Street Conditions

The Kansas town is considering a study that would asses the condition of city streets involving automated data collection using high-resolution digital cameras, GPS receivers and computers on board a company van.

by Kaley Conner, The Hays Daily News, Kan. / July 11, 2016

(TNS) -- City of Hays staff is looking to set the city’s street maintenance plan for the next five years and has proposed contracting with an outside company for a pavement condition assessment to help them do so.

The Hays City Commission, at its Thursday work session, discussed the merits of such a study, which involves automated data collection using high-resolution digital cameras, GPS receivers and computers on board a company van that would travel the city’s approximately 120 miles of streets. The technology evaluates 39 different pavement stresses, such as cracking and potholes.

The low bid for a pavement condition assessment was submitted by Illinois-based MDS Technologies Inc. in the amount of $25,950. The city first had this type of study done in 2011, and it was used to determine the city’s street maintenance priorities during the past five years.

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV, who was on the commission in 2011, said he initially was critical of the study, but now sees its value.

“To be honest, they do it so quickly and it’s so accurate, and again, it’s objective,” Schwaller said. “They know what they’re doing, and they don’t have any bias, so that helps a lot. And it really helps us target the money where it needs to go.”

Automated data collection provides a scientific report of the city’s road conditions and can help the city identify areas where preventive maintenance can save significant funds in the future, City Manager Toby Dougherty said.

“The grey area in the middle is where I think the true benefit of this $25,000 is. … What this stuff will tell us is if you spend your money on these streets that may not appear to be as bad and do some maintenance on them, you’re going to defray millions of dollars in costs down the road,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty noted the city has, for the past 10 years, spent approximately $1 million annually on road repair.

In addition to collecting data, the study also includes cost estimates for future repairs and developing a five-year maintenance and rehabilitation report, which would be presented to the commission at a later date.

The study would save city staff a significant amount of time. When a five-year maintenance program was set in 2005, city staff worked an estimated 750 man hours collecting and analyzing data, according to a city commission memo from 2011.

Some commissioners questioned whether the expense truly is necessary, especially as the study will not offer an in-depth report of street conditions beneath the surface.

The 2011 study included an add-on item offering radar that supposedly measured the base strength of asphalt roads. City staff weren’t “too impressed” with the results of that particular part of the assessment and opted not to include it again, said John Braun, assistant director of public works.

“I’m a little bit of a skeptic in spending $26,000 on something I may be able to tell you by driving down the road,” Commissioner Lance Jones said, requesting to see the detailed report from 2011 prior to next week’s regular meeting.

The city has made repairs on most of the streets that were identified as high priorities when the first study was done in 2011, Braun said.

“We did … at least the top 25 (roads) and then some others,” Braun said. “Obviously, the computer model doesn’t match perfectly with ... what locally we feel is a priority, so we’ve done different things, but I think we followed the recommendation pretty well.”

The bid came in significantly under budget; a total of $50,000 had been earmarked in the city’s special highway fund to pay for the study. The company with the low bid is not the same company that conducted the last pavement study, but comes with good references, Braun said.

The proposal will be on the agenda at Thursday’s regular meeting for a possible decision.

©2016 The Hays Daily News (Hays, Kan.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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