Checking the exact location and features of bridges in Texas is an arduous task that must be done manually and on site. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) wants to streamline the process and has turned to a civil engineering professor at The University of Texas at Arlington for help.

Credit: UT Arlington

Checking the exact location and features of bridges in Texas is an arduous task that must be done manually and on site. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) wants to streamline the process and has turned to a civil engineering professor at The University of Texas at Arlington for help.

TxDOT’s Fort Worth District has awarded Nur Yazdani a two-year contract worth more than $600,000 to develop a database and mobile app that will catalog the GPS coordinates and features of Texas bridges, making information easily accessible from an office or cellphone.

Quick access and sharing of data among engineers, surveyors, construction crews, maintenance crews and planners are key aspects of the project.

“At the moment, crews are typically expected to go to a site and collect all of the necessary information every time they need to work on it,” Yazdani said. “That information may not be saved for future reference, so the process is not efficient in terms of personnel and cost. Our work will create a comprehensive catalog that will allow someone to get all the information they need through the app.”

TxDOT has a Geospatial Roadway Inventory Database (GRID) that contains incomplete information about bridges. Yazdani and his team will fill in the gaps and ensure that all the information contained in GRID is accurate and comprehensive. For some bridges, they will go to the location and get the coordinates; for others, they will use Google Earth, ArcGIS and similar resources to map locations.

Once the GRID system is complete, they will validate the data at several locations, then develop the mobile app and connect it to the database.

“With the rapidly expanding need in civil engineering for automation, machine learning and mobile access to location databases, this project is timely and unique, and will allow TxDOT to efficiently move into the arena of big data and beyond,” Yazdani said.

Yazdani’s extensive experience with TxDOT projects will serve him well in this work, said UTA Civil Engineering Department Chair Ali Abolmaali.

“Using technology to streamline processes and make data easier to access and update will ultimately save time and money for all involved,” Abolmaali said. “It’s a testament to him and to UTA that he was chosen to create this app and database.”

  • Written by Jeremy Agor, College of Engineering

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