Camera-clad vans help prioritize Virginia’s roadway improvements

WASHINGTON – A high-tech van is being used on Virginia roadways to determine and prioritize which of them need to be repaved.

A van equipped with cameras and lasers drives on the commonwealth’s roads and measures roughness while snapping thousands of pictures of the pavement each minute. The data collected through the Automatic Road Analyzer (ARAN) is used to determine which roads get repaved.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has a contract with Fugro Roadware to use their ARANs. The ARANs collect the pictures and data from laser cameras, analyze the information and rate each highway, primary and secondary road on a 0-to-100 scale.

With the scale, 60 is a passing score. New roads receive a score between 90 and 95. If a road gets a score of between 30 and 60, repaving is necessary. Anything less than 30 means emergency repairs are necessary because the road is very unsafe.

Fugro employee Marcelo Herrera drives across Virginia to get the images.

“Our job is to make sure that the values reflect the damage of the road,” Herrera says.

As part of a new transportation package, VDOT is asking Fugro to get to more secondary roads than in the past because they often get much less attention than primary roads. VDOT does not own the ARANs, but instead goes through Fugro employees to gather the data.

Maryland does its own ratings in-house, but bought two ARANs from Fugro to collect all the data to make those ratings. D.C. does not use Fugro at all.

The ARANs cost $800,000 to $1.5 million to purchase and have five or more cameras, including some models that include a 3-D camera in front.

Herrera says he spots damaged roads during his drive. He pointed out several instances of tilted and cracked roads when WTOP joined him in the ARAN in Fairfax.

“Here on the right you can see damage because the road kind of tilts a little bit. Most of the damage is going to occur on the right side,” Herrera says.

Despite the damaged roads, Herrera says Virginia is working to make things better for drivers.

“This is one of the states that really invests their money in fixing their roads,” Herrera says.

Watch a video showcasing the van and its features below:

Ari Ashe contributed to this story. Follow @AriAsheWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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