Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) develops a Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The 2012 report is due out on March 19, and it’s likely that we will once again be grounded for poor performance. In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama advocated a “fix-it-first” policy that prioritizes spending on repairing and maintaining existing infrastructure. That sounds promising, but specifically where and what are the areas that need to be repaired?

If we follow general guidelines like the “10 Year Rule” for identifying deficient bridges, any bridges built or reconstructed within the past 10 years typically are not eligible for Highway Bridge Program funding. We have come a long way in engineering design since 1940, when Galloping Gertie’s Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed after two months, but new does not always mean safer. Having the tools to identify existing conditions is a crucial prerequisite to applying a preventative fix.

Conducting asset inventories with GIS-grade mobile mapping systems is one option, but a lower level of accuracy will limit the application will limit the future application and potential usefulness of the data to other stakeholders within an organization.

The ideal solution is to include highly accurate asset management and assessment in one package. Conducting assessments with survey/engineering grade accuracy will allow the data to be repurposed for other departments within the agency. “Collect it once, use it many times” can be a powerful tool to cut costs and consolidate resources.

This goal can be achieved with terrestrial mobile LiDAR scanning (TMLS). TMLS is faster and safer than traditional survey methods, and it’s also highly accurate, readily available and proven. It’s a valuable tool to quickly inventory and identify issues like pavement surfaces, bridge clearances, airport runway conditions and overhead utilities.

By conducting asset inventories and collecting survey-grade data in the same pass, we can fix two problems and save taxpayers a substantial sum of money.