ODOT Shows Off High-Tech Road Gear

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CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon Department of Transportation wrapped up a conference on Thursday, showing off high-tech heavy equipment that is revolutionizing road construction.

The conference was held in the Corvallis area for members of transportation departments from other states around the country.

According to ODOT, Oregon is ahead of the curve when it comes to using new intelligent construction systems, enhanced with GPS and 3D capabilities.

The conference is part of Every Day Counts, a program under the Federal Highway Administration that promotes speedy yet high quality construction highway projects..

Any small error, such as being off by a quarter-inch of material, could cost construction companies a pretty penny.

“About a quarter-million dollars,” said Brian Girouard, a sales engineer with Trimble, a vendor showcasing technology at the conference. “A quarter-inch of material over 10 miles, 25-feet wide at $125 a ton comes down to about a quarter-million dollars.”

Girouard says as a company, its goal is to make sure its equipment runs as perfectly as possible. Crews are starting to pick up what is called intelligent construction technology – a way for project designers to enter construction data into a system that is fed into machines, such as pavers or graders that have a GPS. The sensor is able to determine where the vehicle is relative to the exact 3D project plans, making less room for error.

“It saves money,” said Ron Singh with ODOT, who organized the event. “It saves time. But more importantly, it provides a better quality product.”

Employees from out-of-state transportation departments attended the two-day conference to learn about the technology applications.

“I’m learning a lot about the tolerances of the equipment; the capabilities of the equipment; probably some different applications that we could try on our roads at home,” said Ryan Johnson, who works for the South Dakota Department of Transportation.

Oregon companies say once they start using the advanced technology, they will never go back.

“The biggest thing is production,” said Kerry Kuenzi, President of K & E Excavating. “Each machine will do probably at least double what it would do before just because there’s no rework, so you save fuel; you save time. We use it on every project that we do.”

Kuenzi says the company had to invest thousands of dollars for the 3D capabilities, but it pays for itself quickly because of the time crews are able to save.

Crews are also starting to use drones, so engineers can use aerial images to get a 3D layout of the landscape of the construction site.

“It’s used for surveying and topographic mapping and construction sites for 3-D modeling,” said Chip Berniard, an engineer with Trimble.

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