Infrastructure Monitoring from an In-Service Light Rail Vehicle

Source Organization:
University:Carnegie Mellon University
Principal Investigator:Jacobo Bielak and Hae Young Noh
PI Contact /a>,
Project Manager:Courtney Ehrlichman
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization):$85,000
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Start and End Dates:January 2016 - January 2017
Project Status:Active
Subject Categories:Infrastructure-based Technologies
Abstract:Globally, infrastructure is a vital asset for economic prosperity. However, condition assessments to ensure the continuing safe operation of these assets tend to be subjective and infrequent. We are developing a low-cost, objective method to continuously monitor rail systems from the vibrations recorded in a passing train as a complement to 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. With previous support from the University Transportation Center, we have embarked on a long- term monitoring project with the Port Authority of Allegheny County. We have developed and deployed a robust automatic data acquisition and management system. Through this deployment we have been testing and refining our technique. We have instrumented two of Pittsburgh’s light rail vehicles and have been monitoring the rail system from the vibrations in the operational vehicle over the last two years. 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. As the next stage of our overall project, we propose to develop a systematic method of data analysis to fuse data from multiple instrumented vehicles, and detect changes in the condition of the rail/track system, and, thus, provide better insights for the Port Authority on high-priority maintenance issues. Ultimately, our goal is to develop an infrastructure asset management technology that can serve not only the Port Authority of Allegheny County but also infrastructure owners for a variety of transportation modes. Through this improved maintenance technology, we will enable safer more efficient transportation.
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