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Watch Now: Lincoln transportation department takes to the skies for Adams Street repair project
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Watch Now: Lincoln transportation department takes to the skies for Adams Street repair project

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Drone

The city used a high-resolution camera mounted on a drone to snap photos of the street.

When it comes to street repair, the city of Lincoln is looking to the skies.

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities used drone technology Wednesday to inspect the curbs and pavement on a stretch of Adams Street slated for repairs, marking the first time the city has used drones for street surveys.

A high-resolution camera mounted on the drone snaps photos of the street, looking for problem areas — like cracks and potholes — that might require repairs to the road.

Typically, crews would have to shut down lanes for a few days to inspect the roads in person, said LTU's Kris Humphrey, the project's design manager. But with the drone, cars are redirected for only 5 to 10 minutes at a time over a two-hour stretch as the drone makes its passes.

It saves money, too, Humphrey said. For a similar project, a traditional survey might cost $4,000, but with the drone, it's only about $1,000.

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"It's kind of a win-win for the public because they're not inconvenienced as much and it provides a little bit of cost savings," she said. 

On Wednesday, crews surveyed the 1-mile stretch of Adams Street between North 36th and North 48th streets that is slated for a rehabilitation project in 2023. Workers blocked off the road in two-block sections at a time while a pilot flew the drone remotely. The small craft made three passes per section, snapping dozens of photos that later will be stitched together to essentially form a 3-D model of the street. 

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Alfred Benesch & Company, a construction engineering company that is handling the project design and supplied the drone, recently started using the technology at its Lincoln office.

It used a drone to survey a portion of 98th Street, which Lancaster County is repaving, but the Adams Street project is its first in the city. The project includes shaving off the street's asphalt layer and making any necessary repairs to the underlying base, which is why crews will survey the road beforehand. 

"With this drone, it's going to allow us to actually see the pavement condition and make a field call in the office," said Steven Irons, roadway group manager at Benesch. "We'll actually be able to go, 'All right, we need to do some base repair here.'"

In a traditional survey, workers have to shut down lanes as they go up and down the road, adjusting cones, marking off problem areas and then surveying them.

"It gets cumbersome," Irons said.

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With the drone, crews can stay safely on the side of the road while cutting down the evaluation time by nearly 90% in some cases. Both the city and Benesch plan on using the technology in the future, depending on the project.

Construction on the Adams Street project is slated to begin in late spring or summer of 2023 and be completed in the fall. The project includes replacing the road's asphalt layer, repairs to curbs and gutters and a possible rewidening to meet state standards.

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Contact the writer at zhammack@journalstar.com or 402-473-7225. On Twitter @zach_hammack

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Education reporter/Night content coordinator

Zach Hammack, a 2018 UNL graduate, has always called Lincoln home. He previously worked as a copy editor at the Journal Star and was a reporting intern in 2017. Now, he covers students, teachers and schools as the newspaper’s K-12 reporter.

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