Guest Post

ADOT photolog van used to map state's highways

ADOT photolog van used to map state's highways


ADOT photolog van used to map state's highways

ADOT photolog van used to map state's highways

September 25, 2013

A look at ADOT's photolog van.

By Doug Pacey
ADOT Office of Public Information

Tim O’Connor reached down and grabbed a bottle of Windex from the driver-side door storage compartment of the heavily-modified 2008 Ford E-350.

“We take a lot of bug hits,” O’Connor explained as he climbed atop the van and began wiping smudges from the lenses of a pair of high-definition cameras and lasers mounted atop the van.

O’Connor and Robert Bush are ADOT Transportation Photolog Specialists, tasked with recording and maintaining a comprehensive digital record of Arizona’s State Highway System.

“Every highway – both directions – every year,” said Bush.

Considering ADOT manages about 6,500 miles of highway, that’s no small assignment. Bush and O’Connor travel almost 23,000 miles a year in ADOT’s photolog van, capturing about four million images – that’s eight terabytes of data – used to create a historical record of ADOT’s highways.

As the van travels at highway speeds, the HD cameras record images every 10 meters and a powerful GPS device registers the location within inches of accuracy. At the same time, a pair of lasers scan the passing roadway and roadside 75 times per second, collecting about 22,000 data points per second. Taken collectively, these points produce a 3-D image of roadside assets, such as signs, poles and highway striping.

That’s a shortened, jargon-free explanation of how the cameras, lasers, GPS and computers work together, gathering images and data. There’s much more technology that goes into the process, which is called mobile mapping. Google maps “Street View” function is another example of mobile mapping. ADOT has a “Street View” of every mile of every highway, plus a majority of ramps, frontage roads and interchanges. While Google began experimenting with mobile mapping in 2007, ADOT started in the mid 1970’s when Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were in diapers.

Back then, ADOT’s first photolog van had a 16-millimeter black and white film camera strapped to the inside of the windshield in place of a rear-view mirror. Over the years more cameras were added for more viewpoints. In 1991, video cameras were mounted on the van and recorded to SVHS tapes. ADOT switched to digital cameras in 2003 and has kept the same approach for the past decade. But technology has advanced and today’s results far exceed those of a decade ago.

“The first version (of the digital images) took about 75 gigabytes of data, for a full year” Bush said. “This one does eight terabytes a year – that’s about four million photos. And as the price of memory comes down, we have the capabilities to expand.

”Various ADOT divisions have uses for the photolog data. For instance, maintenance groups can access it to see what type of materials, such as guardrails and guardrail end treatments are needed to make repairs on a remote stretch of highway, rather than first traveling to the site. Striping crews can determine what areas need to be re-striped. Asset management and signing groups use it as complementary device to maintain massive inventory catalogs. Traffic Operations Center operators use it to view highway characteristics when incidents are reported.

Groups outside of ADOT, such as the Department of Public Safety, the state Attorney General’s Office, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona State Parks, as well as county and city governments, have utilized photolog data.

Because of its volume of data, the photolog is a bandwidth hog and is not accessible outside of ADOT’s intranet.

Bush and O’Connor are on the road from early spring to late fall. They’ll hit northern Arizona in the summer when the sun is higher, producing fewer shadows, and southern Arizona in the spring and fall when weather is cooler and less stressful on the equipment.

“Our schedule is very detail-oriented to maximize the data collection and quality,” Bush said.

They do make special trips when necessary. After a landslide tore through a section of US 89 in February near Page, Bush and O’Connor photo logged Navajo Route 20 less than a week later to aid in the planning of what would become Temporary US 89. Bush said they plan to photolog US89T in mid-October.

Bush and O’Connor swap duties – one drives and the other operates the computers in the back of the van. During the photo logging season, they’re on the road four days a week and are witness to a variety of reactions when people see the van. Adults and children turn and stare at the van with quizzical looks.

Sometimes drivers will slow down, thinking the van, with all of its equipment, is tracking speeders. That’s not the case. A sticker on the side of the van reads, “This vehicle does NOT conduct Photo Enforcement.”The only thing Bush and O’Connor hand out are bottles of water when they come across stranded motorists. In addition, they figure they’ve made a few-dozen motorist assists and once returned a wallet to a Utah resident they found on Alternate SR 89.

“We both feel a certain responsibility to the public,” Bush said.

Preventing tragedies and saving lives with seat belts, child-safety seats

Preventing tragedies and saving lives with seat belts, child-safety seats


Preventing tragedies and saving lives with seat belts, child-safety seats

Preventing tragedies and saving lives with seat belts, child-safety seats

September 20, 2013

By Jennifer Toth
ADOT Deputy Director for Transportation 

Buckle Up, It's the Law

When it comes to talking about seat belts and child-safety seats, it's difficult not to talk numbers.

For example, consider that 821 people were killed in fatal crashes last year in Arizona. Of that number,

  • 220 were drivers not wearing a seat belt.
  • 93 were passengers who were not buckled up.
  • At least three of those passengers were children whose young lives were cut short because an adult did not ensure they were safely restrained with a seat belt or child safety seat.

On the flip side, 13,000 is the number of lives saved in the U.S. every year, thanks to seat belts and child-safety seats. Many of those lives are children's. In fact, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for kids ages 1 to 13 years. The No. 1 way to prevent this tragedy, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is using the right car seat at the right time in the right way.

So, what can you do to make a positive difference? Start by setting the right example. Always wear your seat belt every time you drive. Model the behavior you want others to follow, especially your kids. Before you start to drive, make sure all passengers are buckled up properly or properly restrained in the appropriate car seat. Remember that in addition to saving lives, child car seats are required by Arizona law. Children younger than 8 years old and under 4' 9" must be properly secured in a safety or booster seat.

Like me, you might cringe when you see someone driving with children who aren't buckled up. If you can, get the vehicle license plate number and state. When you're safely stopped, call the Buckle-Up Baby Hotline at 800.505.BABY. You can remain anonymous. You'll be asked for the vehicle information, the city you were driving in and the details of what you observed. Proper authorities will follow up by providing the driver with lifesaving tips, including information on where to find no-cost car seats.

Lastly, if you're not sure about what type of car seat your children should be in, or need help properly installing a car seat, just ask. Across Arizona, no-cost Child-Safety Seat Stations are set up to help people just like you. I can assure you they'd rather assist you and your children this way than at a crash scene. Because when it comes to talking about the number of fatalities, the one we should strive for, is zero.

There’s a lot riding on your tires, including your safety

There’s a lot riding on your tires, including your safety


There’s a lot riding on your tires, including your safety

There’s a lot riding on your tires, including your safety

August 20, 2013

It is important for all drivers to inspect tires routinely.

By Jennifer Toth 
 Deputy Director for Transportation

Did you know that your safety, and the safety of your passengers and other drivers, could be riding on your tires?

The role of tires in transportation safety has been a major topic for lawmakers, and car makers, for the past several years.

About a decade ago, researchers attributed more than 74,000 crashes a year to blowouts and flat tires.

In 2000, the federal Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD) mandated the installation of tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) in vehicles manufactured after 2007.

Today, TPMS alert drivers to an underinflated tire. The required TPMS is the reason why you might see a warning light illuminate in your vehicle nowadays. It’s more than a courtesy; it’s a tool designed to prevent crashes, reduce injuries and save lives.

Even if your vehicle has a TPMS, you should inspect all four tires and the spare regularly, advises Lionel McFarlane, ADOT’s safety liaison for Equipment Services.

Check your tires before a road trip and at least once a month for the following:

Correct tire pressure: Maintain the recommended tire pressure in all four tires. You can find the recommended tire pressure on the sticker or placard inside your vehicle door or in the owner’s manual for your vehicle.

  • Always use an accurate tire pressure gauge. You can’t always tell just by looking if a tire is under- or over-inflated;
  • Check tire pressure when the tires are cold (about three hours after your last drive).

Uneven or rapid wear: This could signal the need for a wheel alignment. A misalignment can also cause tires to squeal and your vehicle to pull to one side or another.
Road debris: Even new tires sustain damage if you hit or run over debris. Check for nails and screws, glass and metal in the tire surface, shoulder and sidewall.
Cracks and dry, brittle rubber: These are the ugly symptoms of “dry rot,” which requires tire replacement.
Anything out of the ordinary: Check the tire surface, shoulder and sidewall for deep cuts (“gorges”), bubbles that look like air pockets or other anomalies.
Properly fitting valve caps: The valve caps should be on all the time to keep stem clean and prevent you from forcing sand and debris into the tire when you fill it with air.
Enough tread: Tire tread ensures proper traction with the road surface. Tread below 2/32 of an inch means your tires cannot grip the roadway. On a wet road surface you might feel your vehicle slip or “hydroplane,” causing you to slide or lose control. Tires have a ‘wear bar’ so you know when the tread is below 2/32 of an inch.

  • Try the coin test. Put an upside-down penny or quarter in your tread. If the president’s head is covered, you have more than 2/32 of an inch of tread remaining. If you can see the president’s head, you’re tread is too low.
  • For maximum traction on wet roads, consider replacing tires when the tread reaches 4/32 of an inch; if snow is a concern, keep the tread above 6/32 of an inch.

Keep in mind: There’s no set time-frame for your tires to last. Their lifespan depends on your driving habits, driving conditions and factors outside your control, such as running over a nail. That’s why it is so important for all drivers to inspect tires routinely and repair or replace them as needed.

Modernized Cordes Junction traffic interchange aids local, regional travel

Modernized Cordes Junction traffic interchange aids local, regional travel


Modernized Cordes Junction traffic interchange aids local, regional travel

Modernized Cordes Junction traffic interchange aids local, regional travel

August 13, 2013

Before and After: Above, a 1960s aerial shot of the interchange. Below, a more recent photo of the improved Cordes Junction traffic interchange.

By Dustin Krugel
ADOT Office of Public Information

A regular destination for drivers headed to the Flagstaff or Prescott areas, the junction of Interstate 17 and State Route 69 has been described as the “gateway to northern Arizona,” but in recent years the outdated Cordes Junction traffic interchange had started to show its age.

Built in the early 1960s, the Cordes Junction traffic interchange carried far more traffic than it was designed to accommodate. With traffic volumes expected to double in the coming decades, the Arizona Department of Transportation began a task in the summer of 2011 to redesign and rebuild the busy interchange, which is located approximately 65 miles north of downtown Phoenix, with minimal disruption to traffic.

The solution was a $50.9 million project that would transform the outdated intersection design that forced slower local traffic to mix with high-speed highway traffic, causing congestion and safety concerns. Two years after construction started, ADOT has completed the project on budget and on time. The final piece of the project will include permanent lane striping, which will be completed in the weeks ahead.

“There was a huge need for this project and it was eagerly anticipated by members of the community,” said ADOT Prescott District Engineer Alvin Stump. “Thousands of visitors, truck drivers and business travelers use I-17 and SR 69 en route to other destinations in Arizona and neighboring states.

“Plus, the Cordes Junction interchange provides access for numerous tourist attractions and recreational areas locally, not to mention that many travelers use services at the Cordes Junction interchange because of its central location between Flagstaff and Phoenix,” Stump said.

The new diamond-shaped interchange was designed to improve traffic flow and safety, while separating local and highway traffic.

“The new Cordes Junction traffic interchange has greatly enhanced the ability of our school bus drivers to safely move children through the Cordes Lakes area. Safety is our No. 1 priority,” said Mayer Unified School District Superintendent Dean Slaga. “In addition to improving safety and allowing for easier access to Cordes Lakes, the project should be a boon for the local community and will allow for future business growth for decades to come.”

The largest project (in terms of cost) in northern Arizona the last two years, the Cordes Junction traffic interchange was completed in four phases and included:

  • Construction of a new traffic interchange approximately one-half mile north of the existing interchange
  • Removal of the outdated on- and off-ramps
  • Construction of new ramps to separate Prescott-bound traffic from local traffic traveling at slower speeds
  • Replacement of the existing bridges carrying I-17 over Big Bug Creek
  • Construction of seven new bridges and three local roads (Copper Star Road, Arcosanti Road, Stagecoach Trail), installation of two roundabouts and improvements to local stormwater drainage.

Paolo Soleri's artistic vision is on display on the project.

With the communities of Cordes Lakes, Spring Valley and Mayer located only a few miles from the intersection, ADOT wanted to incorporate key elements of the area adjacent to the project. To do that, ADOT sought out famed Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri, who established Arcosanti, an artists' community and a popular tourist attraction that is located approximately two miles northeast of the traffic interchange.

Soleri’s artistic vision is on display on some of the retaining walls and abutments on the bridges at the interchange. Soleri, who worked as a project consultant for ADOT, died April 9 at age 93. Most of his artwork was completed prior to his death and his designs will be on display for drivers who pass through the area.

“Cordes Junction is often described as the gateway to northern Arizona,” said Arcosanti General Manager Mary Hoadley. “Working on the designs for the artwork displayed at the interchange was a rewarding experience for Paolo Soleri. In the three years of design development and construction it was eye opening for him to see all the problem solving and teamwork that took place to get his abstract artwork to come to life.”

Project Milestones
August 2011 – Construction begins.
November 2011 – Work begins on new Arcosanti Bridge abutments; Copper Star Road opens to traffic.
March 2012 – Girders placed on the new Cordes Lakes Road Bridge.
June 2012 – New northbound Big Bug Bridge on I-17 opens to traffic; work begins on new west roundabout.
July 2012 – Work on southbound Big Bug Bridge on I-17 begins.
September 2012 – Newly paved Stagecoach Drive opens to traffic (the local road was previously unpaved).
October 2012 – I-17 on- and off-ramps open at Arcosanti traffic interchange; new west roundabout opens to traffic; old northbound loop on-ramp and old southbound loop off-ramp close; new Cordes Lakes Bridge opens to traffic and old northbound SR 69 ramp closes; girders placed on southbound Big Bug Bridge on I-17; SR 69 bridges are painted.
November 2012 – Arcosanti Bridge opens to traffic. Work begins on new east roundabout; demolition of old Cordes Lakes Bridge.
December 2012New northbound I-17 to northbound SR 69 flyover bridge opens.
January 2013 – Southbound Big Bug Bridge on I-17 opens to traffic; northbound and southbound I-17 open to normal lane configuration; completion of east roundabout.
June 28, 2013 – Project completion.
August 2013 – Final lane striping.

‘Move Over’ law protects motorists, roadside personnel

‘Move Over’ law protects motorists, roadside personnel


‘Move Over’ law protects motorists, roadside personnel

‘Move Over’ law protects motorists, roadside personnel

March 26, 2013

Find more on the 'Move Over' law at

By Linda Gorman

AAA of Arizona

Every day, AAA assists more than 1,200 stranded drivers across the state. For these motorists and the roadside assistance workers who help them, being stuck alongside a busy highway can be a scary and potentially dangerous experience.

To prevent anyone who has had the misfortune of being stranded roadside from becoming a statistic, AAA and other agencies worked collectively to lobby for the expansion of the state’s ‘Move Over’ law in 2011. The previous ‘Move Over’ law served as an important safeguard for law enforcement and emergency services personnel, and the expanded law offered this protection to everyone on the road.

AAA applauds state lawmakers for adopting this legislation and protecting roadside assistance professionals and the motorists they serve.

Prior to the adoption of the ‘Move Over’ law, in August 2008, an Arizona tow truck driver and the motorist he was assisting were killed on State Route 202, when a heavy-equipment truck veered into them. In addition, in 2006, two tow truck drivers lost their lives on Arizona roadways while performing their roadside assistance duties. This doesn’t account for the hundreds of near-misses experienced on roadways as a result of drivers neglecting to move over.

Although the law requires drivers to move over for any vehicle, including stranded motorists and emergency roadside personnel that is displaying flashing lights alongside a freeway or highway, many motorists still don’t heed this rule. As a result, thousands of stranded motorists and the roadside personnel assisting them are being put in harm’s way every day.

For the safety and security of everyone on the road, please remember that when approaching a stationary vehicle displaying alternately flashing lights or warning lights:

  • Perform a lane change to a non-adjacent lane from the stationary vehicle if safe to do so when travelling on a four-lane highway with at least two lanes proceeding in the same direction as the stationary vehicle.
  • If changing lanes is impossible or unsafe, reduce vehicle speed and proceed with caution, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions.

Linda Gorman is the communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona.
Connect with AAA at or via Twitter.

Better safe than sorry: Arizona school zones aim to provide safe crossings

Better safe than sorry: Arizona school zones aim to provide safe crossings


Better safe than sorry: Arizona school zones aim to provide safe crossings

Better safe than sorry: Arizona school zones aim to provide safe crossings

August 16, 2011

By Kohinoor Kar and Mike Cynecki, Guest Bloggers

The need for pedestrian and bicyclist safety at schools, especially involving young students, cannot be overemphasized. While federal, state and local agencies are encouraging fit and healthy lifestyles by promoting walking and biking to school, the safety of these children should be our highest priority.

Arizona has been a leader in providing a system for safe school crossings, and there is some important information motorists should know while driving around schools in our communities.

Arizona has a unique way to establish low-speed school zone crossings. The system was first established in 1950 through adoption of Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 28-797. This state law provides a uniform application of 15 mph school zone traffic control that can only be used for elementary and middle schools (kindergarten through eighth grades) in Arizona at authorized school crossings meeting certain minimum criteria.

Rules of the school zone …

  • The 15 mph school zones cannot be used at crosswalks that are controlled by STOP signs or traffic signals.
  • The state law provides for the use of portable signs and yellow crosswalk markings, and the 15 mph provision is only in effect when the portable signs are placed in the street.
  • The school zone signs are placed and removed by crossing guards or school employees under a special operating agreement between the school district and the traffic agency that controls the roadway, and can only be used for legitimate school crossing activities during a normal school day.
  • Each 15 mph school zone is preceded by a permanent fluorescent yellow-green pentagon-shaped advance school warning sign showing two walking school children.
  • The first portable sign placed in the street states, “NO PASSING, 15 MPH, FINES DOUBLED, SCHOOL IN SESSION,” which is located about 75 to 300 feet in advance of the yellow crosswalk depending on the non-school posted speed limit. This portable sign is placed at the location where the 15 mph speed limit begins. Furthermore, motorists cannot pass any other slower or stopped vehicles between the first portable 15 mph sign to the yellow crosswalk. At the yellow crosswalk, a different portable sign exists which states, “STOP WHEN CHILDREN IN CROSSWALK.”

A few guidelines …

Unlike white crosswalks where drivers are required to “yield and stop if necessary” to pedestrians crossing on their half of the street, ARS 28-797 requires all drivers to stop if anyone (including children, adults or crossing guards) are present anywhere within the yellow school crosswalk when the portable signs are in the street. After all pedestrians exit the yellow crosswalk, drivers may proceed.

Motorists should be very careful while driving near 15 mph school zone crosswalks, especially when the crossing guards are placing or removing the portable signs from the street. The crossing guards are most vulnerable during these times.

In addition, motorists need to be careful any time while driving in neighborhoods near schools or school crossings, especially during the start and end times of the school day. Motorists also need to be careful around school buses and cannot pass them in either direction if they are displaying their STOP paddle while stopped to pick up or drop off students.

Regardless of the time of the year, motorists should be vigilant while driving in neighborhoods, since young children may dart out from behind a parked car or ride their bike in the street without looking for approaching vehicles. Undoubtedly, it is better to be late for an appointment than to race through a neighborhood and experience a tragic crash with a child.


Kohinoor Kar, Ph.D., P.E., PTOE, a professional engineer with 22 years combined experience in the roadway, traffic and safety field, has been with the State of Arizona for past seven years.

Michael J. Cynecki, P.E. recently retired from the City of Phoenix after a career of 26 years in the Transportation Department, and is currently with the consulting firm of Lee Engineering, LLC.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors or references cited herein and may not necessarily represent the views of the agencies they are affiliated with. Information contained in this article are for general awareness only and are not intended to substitute for professional advice to any particular person or case. Some of the information might change over time in which case the current practice would supersede all previous practices.