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RFID Speeds Up Roadway Repairs

Dayton, Ohio, is monitoring road cuts to identify utility companies responsible for fixing pavement.
By Michael Belfiore
Tags: Energy
Jun 15, 2014

The City of Dayton, in Ohio, requires utility companies—electric, sewer, telecommunications, water and so forth—that make openings in roads to repair cables and pipes underground to restore the pavement. If the restoration is rushed and not performed correctly, an asphalt patch can deteriorate. Left unchecked, the patch could expand and deepen as the road surface alternately freezes and thaws. It could then become a pothole, a sinkhole or a settled area that not only adds to the wear and tear of vehicles, but also increases accident risk.

A problem may not show up for weeks, months or years after the street cut was made and repaved. When someone files a complaint about a hazardous street cut, it is up to Shane Ward, the lone inspector in charge of Dayton's roads, to determine which of the dozen or so utilities worked on that particular area of street. On average, the city reports, 70 to 100 complaints are investigated annually.

A William Frick RFID wire tag awaits an asphalt covering on a street in Dayton, Ohio (photo courtesy of the City of Dayton).
Until recently, when a complaint about a pothole arrived, Ward had to drop whatever he was doing, head back to his fifth-floor office (if he wasn't there already), fire up a desktop PC and search for a permit number, associated with a particular utility company, at an address near the problem. The process could take hours, and it wasn't always easy to make a match. Permits issued before Dayton created an electronic database would have to be looked up in paper archives, which pose their own level of inconvenience. If he failed to find a permit, workers from Ohio Utility Protection Services would have to visit the site in question and mark out all utilities within the area. Sometimes, Ward says, utilities would deny it was their street cut. "It was a monumental task, to say the least," he states.

In March 2013, Dayton deployed an RFID solution that monitors street cuts, to quickly and accurately identify the utility company responsible for a repair. "Now, through the RFID program, it's a difference of a few minutes compared to a few hours," Ward reports. The RFID solution reduces the time and cost involved in investigating a problem. In addition, hazardous street cuts can be fixed faster, thereby improving public safety.

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