A new system tested in southwest Michigan aims to improve bridge deck inspections using 3D optical bridge evaluation, known as 3DOBS. According to Rick Dobson, a research scientist at the Michigan Tech Research Institute, the high-quality camera can be attached to the trailer hitch of any vehicle and driven across bridges.

Dobson told WWMT that the camera collects high-quality imagery at a high frame rate, tracking cracks down to 1/64th of an inch. While testing the camera, researchers took trips across 10 different MDOT bridges, and compared the 3DOBS results to traditional inspection reports.

According to the report, state transportation departments usually complete detailed inspections before correcting any issues, which means shutting down lanes and closing roads. Since federal law requires all bridges to be inspected at least every two years to monitor and report their condition, an inspection involves a visual review from the shoulder, outside of traffic.

“This can be done without closing down lanes,” Dobson told WWMT. “Even on a few freeway bridges, most of the time...is just turning around. We only spend around 10 to 15 seconds going across an average-size bridge deck.”

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