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Texas tollway using satellites to monitor condition of road

Satellites will scan SH 130 toll road every 6 days to measure over 30,000 data points

A Texas tollway is using satellite technology to evaluate the condition of the roadway with “millimeter accuracy” to address potential problems before they impact safety or ride quality.

SH 130 Concession Co. has partnered with Richmond, Virginia-based EO59, a technology startup that provides remote monitoring services to measure ground and structural movement.

Satellites will pass over the SH 130 toll road between Austin and San Antonio every six days and provide measurements on over 30,000 points along the roadway. The data is aimed at preventative maintenance, such as examining micro-shifting of soil and pavement that could lead to major issues on the road if unchecked.

Doug Wilson, CEO of SH 130 Concession Co., said that incorporating technologies like InSAR is critical for the company’s predictive approach to keeping the highway safe for both passenger and commercial vehicles.

“SH 130 Concession is taking a proactive approach to maintenance that uses incredibly detailed data to accurately predict potential problems so that we can address those issues well before they begin to impact the driving experience of our customers,” Wilson said. “The Austin-San Antonio corridor is booming, and SH 130 will be increasingly important as more people and goods move through the region.”

State Highway 130 runs 91 miles through central Texas. SH 130 Concession operates a private toll road that runs along a 41-mile stretch of the highway from just southeast of Austin south to Seguin, a town about 30 miles east of San Antonio.

EO59 focuses on using InSAR to track subtle movements as slight as 1 millimeter. The project with SH 130 is EO59’s first in Texas.

EO59 used InSAR to assist officials in Florida last year in trying to find the cause of a condominium collapse in the beach community of Surfside that killed 98 people.

SH 130 Concession Co. is using satellite technology to provide measurements on over 30,000 points along the41-mile tollway between San Antonio and Austin, Texas. (Image: SH 130 Concession Co.)

Jeff Billows, COO of SH 130 Concession Co., said the technology allows the company to assess the performance of its past maintenance projects and its contractors, as well as predict and mitigate future issues.

“We needed an independent, data-driven analysis of our previous roadway repair projects, as well as a tool for looking at future needs and performance,” Billows said. “There will always be a need for in-person visual inspections, but the satellite monitoring allows us to identify areas to concentrate on long before they would be noticed through visual assessment.”

During 2021, tractor-trailer traffic on the SH 130 toll road increased 57% year-over-year to 2.6 million trucks.

Passenger vehicle traffic jumped 64% year-over-year in 2021 to 9.8 million motorists on the SH 130 toll road. Passenger and tractor-trailer traffic increased a combined 64% year-over-year, a record for the toll road.

Despite the increase, the number of accidents decreased 13% to 34 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, the fewest accidents on SH 130 since 2018, according to the company.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact nmahoney@freightwaves.com