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Friday, June 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Getting There: A high-tech hatchback cruises Spokane Valley streets, cataloging every crack and pothole

A Honda Fit equipped with 3D imaging technology and a 360-degree panoramic camera is seen outside Spokane Valley City Hall. The vehicle, owned by Massachusetts company StreetScan, is being used to evaluate the condition of the city’s streets.
A Honda Fit equipped with 3D imaging technology and a 360-degree panoramic camera is seen outside Spokane Valley City Hall. The vehicle, owned by Massachusetts company StreetScan, is being used to evaluate the condition of the city’s streets.

Over the past month, a tricked-out Honda Fit has been driving on every road in Spokane Valley, equipped with 3D imaging technology and a 360-degree panoramic camera.

That’s 450 miles of pavement – a lot of roadway that will be known more intimately than ever before, thanks to this high-tech hatchback.

It isn’t Google gathering images for Street View, and it’s not an autonomous car trial making guinea pigs out of Valley denizens. No, this car belongs to StreetScan, a Massachusetts company that aims to automate pavement management and drive data into the hands of city decision makers.

In short, the technology will collect a large, detailed photo of the entire Valley road network, map it out and inventory the condition of the pavement with an algorithm. Every bump, crack and pothole will be counted and cataloged, and each block will be given a score between zero and 100.

“These cameras take about a nine- or 10-foot wide image continuously for the length of the roadway,” said Adam Jackson, pavement management coordinator and engineer for the city of Spokane Valley. “We can zoom in. It allows us to get in and identify whether the whole road is bad, or if a pothole blew up last spring.”

It’s a big change to how the Valley has done things in the past.

The city started a manual survey of the roads in 2006. But the amount of time and money it took to have someone go and inspect every street was prohibitive. It was dangerous, too, considering the crack inspector was staring down, not looking both ways, the middle of traffic.

The city changed tack and began trawling the streets every couple of years with a vehicle mounted with a semi-automated camera. The camera was triggered by lasers scanning the pavement for stresses on the surface. That, too, was imperfect.

That’s when StreetScan came along. The company has scanned the streets of 100 towns and places, including for the Washington State Parks department; Amherst, Massachusetts; and Hampstead, Quebec.

The company collects the images of the streets, rates them on the condition scale and uploads the data to its Streetlogix software, allowing cities like the Valley to view the road conditions on a map.

While the Valley’s image collection wrapped up on Friday, the real work begins now. StreetScan will crunch the data over the next few months, and by the New Year the Valley will have access to it.

“That’s when we can assign dollar amounts to all those road conditions,” Jackson said. “This software will help us identify what the fix is, put a dollar cost to it and prioritize what streets to fix. Ultimately, it helps us in our endgame on how make our street preservation project fully funded.”

The one-year contract cost the Valley $84,000, but Jackson said the savings will easily exceed what the service costs.

“We’ll know what our actual pavement network condition is, and what is the actual cost to keep it maintained,” he said.

Buying a car even more expensive

Speaking of dollars, buying a new car is going to cost more this year than ever before, according to new American Automobile Association research.

The annual cost of owning a car has reached $9,282, or $773.50 a month.

That’s the highest cost since 1950, when AAA began tracking expenses. As the car association notes, the dollar figure is “a reminder that the true costs of owning a vehicle extend far beyond maintenance and fuel.”

The biggest contributor to the increased cost is debt. Finance costs on new cars jumped 24% in 2019, the study found, from $744 to $920 due to rising federal interest rates and higher vehicle prices. New car buyers are also opting for 72-month car loans, “meaning car buyers are paying more, and longer, for vehicles that lose value the moment they’re sold.”

Depreciation, a measure of how fast an auto loses value, also adds cost to ownership, AAA found. Vehicles lost an average of $3,334 a year. That’s up $45 from 2018.

Other findings of AAA’s “Your Driving Costs” study:

  • Fuel cost on average rose to 11.6 cents per mile, 5% higher than in 2018.
  • Electricity prices for electric vehicle charging rose 0.1 cent per kilowatt-hour, or about 0.08%.
  • The cost of licenses, registration fees and taxes rose by $14 to $753 per year.
  • The cheapest type of car to own, when looking at average annual costs, is a small sedan at $7,114. The most expensive is a pickup, at $10,839.

Pop-up bike lane delayed

The unseasonably wintry weather delayed a number of road work projects. First, the city canceled the planned closure of the Monroe Street Bridge so workers can pave a number of streets around the ongoing two-year, $25 million project to build a 2.2-million-gallon sewer and stormwater tank by the downtown Spokane Public Library.

And then the weather delayed the temporary pop-up cycle track in the University District that was supposed to open over the weekend. Fear not, though, the bike lane will be installed on Saturday, Oct. 5, and last a week. No word yet on the Monroe Street Bridge.

In the city

Grind and overlay work will impact travel on Hamilton Street, from Trent to Desmet avenues beginning today. Crews will start on the southbound lanes. Motorists should expect delays.

Completion of the $1.5 million Deer Heights roundabout is near. Paving on the south side of the roundabout is expected to be done on Tuesday.

Following that, a cure time of 10 to 14 days is necessary before paint stripes can be laid down. Following this cure time, eastbound traffic will shift into the permanent roadway alignment while work continues on the central island and northern portion of Deer Heights Road.

Workers will pave the intersection of Cedar Road and Kensington Drive today. The $424,000 project is replacing a four-inch PVC force main with ductile iron force main.

Work to construct a $13 million, 1.4-million gallon sewer and stormwater tank, as well as a $2.8 million, 200,000-gallon sewer and stormwater tank, in the East Central neighborhood continues to affect traffic. The end, however, is near. Crews will be paving Thursday, Oct. 3, and the following Thursday, Oct. 10, at Riverside Avenue between Napa and Lee streets; Lee between Riverside and Sprague Avenue; and Crestline Street between Riverside and Sprague.

Fifth Avenue between Monroe and Madison streets will have delays in both direction through Tuesday for Inland Asphalt work.

Sprague Avenue will be closed between Howard and Lincoln streets on Thursday from 7 to 10 p.m. for Avista work. Similar work will close the street Oct. 9 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Arthur Street between First and Second avenues will see delays in both directions through Friday for Avista work.

Arthur Street between Second and Third avenues will have delays, and the northernmost lane of Third between Sprague Way and Arthur will be closed through Oct. 9 for CenturyLink work.

The eastern shoulder of Indian Trail Road between Strong Road and Lowell Avenue will be closed through Oct. 18 for Sefnco work. Indian Trail will have flaggers when a full street closure is needed.

Broadway Avenue eastbound between Cedar and Adams streets will be shifted into the median lane through Oct. 27 for Avista work.

Basic crack seal maintenance will occur in the area of Cedar to Madison, between 15th and 21st avenues.

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