Infrastructure Monitoring from an In-Service Light-Rail Vehicle

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University:Carnegie Mellon University
Principal Investigator:Jacobo Bielak
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Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization):$122,913
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Project Status:Complete
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Abstract:Globally, infrastructure is a vital asset for economic prosperity. However, condition assessment to ensure the continuing safe operation of these assets tends to be subjective and infrequent. We propose a low-cost, objective method to continuously monitor rail systems from the vibrations recorded in a passing train that could complement traditional inspection techniques. The concept of using passenger trains to probe infrastructure assets has been proposed previously, but most work has been limited to simulations, laboratory tests, and short-term experimentation. We have embarked on a long term monitoring project with the Port Authority of Allegheny County; through this deployment we have been testing and refining our techniques. We have instrumented one of Pittsburgh’s light rail vehicles and have been monitoring the rail system from the vibrations in the operational vehicle over the last year. Our objective is to provide accurate, rapid, nearly continuous assessments of the tracks, track structures and bridges along the line as cost-efficiently as possible. We already have seen promising results, as we have been able to detect changes in the recorded signals after construction activity on both the track and ballast. We are working on novel signal processing and machine learning approaches to automate change detection. Ultimately our goal is to build an infrastructure asset management technology which can serve not only the Port Authority of Allegheny County but infrastructure owners for a variety of transportation modes.
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