Infrastructure Monitoring from an In-Service Light Rail Vehicle

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. The project managers 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, the project managers have embarked on a long- term monitoring project with the Port Authority of Allegheny County. The project managers have developed and deployed a robust automatic data acquisition and management system. Through this deployment the project managers have been testing and refining the technique. The project managers 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. The objective is to provide accurate, rapid, nearly continuous assessments of the tracks, track structures and bridges along the line as cost-efficiently as possible. The project manages already have seen promising results, as they have been able to detect changes in the recorded signals after construction activity on both the track and ballast. As the next stage of the overall project, the project proposes 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, the 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, this project will enable safer more efficient transportation.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Contract to a Performing Organization has not yet been awarded.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    Carnegie Mellon University

    Pittsburgh, PA  United States 
  • Project Managers:

    Ehrlichman, Courtney

  • Principal Investigators:

    Bielak, Jacobo

  • Start Date: 20160101
  • Expected Completion Date: 20170101
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01595751
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation University Transportation Center
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Apr 7 2016 9:16PM