Cutting-Edge Mobile LiDAR Technology Captures Traffic Signal Data

November 30, 2016

Michael Baker International and PennDOT Partner to Improve Performance and Safety by Collecting and Evaluating Traffic Signal Asset Data

The Michael Baker International team is in the final stages of an $8 million project for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to capture inventory and analyze operations on more than 8,600 traffic signals across the Commonwealth. During the course of one year, Michael Baker used its cutting-edge mobile Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to collect data to populate PennDOT’s Traffic Signal Asset Management System (TSAMS) platform.
The project arose due to the passage of Pennsylvania Act 89 in 2013—a comprehensive piece of state transportation legislation that calls for a multi-billion-dollar investment to enhance in-part traffic signal management over five years. Following this law, PennDOT then established the Green Light-Go (GLG) Program to manage the dedicated traffic signal funding and identify projects for improvement. Since traffic signals in Pennsylvania are owned by the individual municipalities, PennDOT hired the Michael Baker team to better understand these assets for improved signal management.
Michael Baker engineers, planners and GIT specialists led the management, data collection, data extraction and coordination with the PennDOT Central Office and each of its 11 Engineering Districts to populate the TSAMS platform. TSAMS provided web-based access to an easily digestible database of state-owned traffic signals, to aid in ensuring consistency across the board. The platform was launched in 2016 and data is available online to all traffic signal stakeholders, including municipalities, planning partners, PennDOT officials, contractors, vendors and consultants.
Beaver3a.jpgTo efficiently collect the necessary data for the TSAMS system within a limited timeframe, the Michael Baker team employed its fleet of LiDAR-equipped vehicles to survey an area by using laser light pulses to measure up to 1.2 million data points per second. The firm created a rigorous schedule and mapped specific routes for the LiDAR-equipped vans to safely collect all visible assets to minimize the disruption to traffic.

 To populate the asset management database, Michael Baker divided its data collection efforts into three parts:
  1. Exposed Traffic Signal Infrastructure Assets: Michael Baker team members drove Mobile LiDAR-equipped vans more than 300,000 miles to map entire intersections in three-dimensional point clouds, and corresponding spherical imagery was collected using a ladybug camera.
  2. Traffic Signal Cabinet Assets: Michael Baker engineers developed a project-specific iPad mobile application (app) for field staff to inventory the content and transmit it to the TSAMS platform.
  3. Traffic Signal Records: Project staff transferred and attached electronic files to the database, and scanned all pertinent filed paper documents to retrieve information electronically.
This data collection and centralized database will help to support PennDOT’s future traffic signal planning, design, maintenance and operational decision making by accurately evaluating equipment, life cycles, budgets and other factors.