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Are Your Guardrails Potentially Deadly? Here’s How to Fix It

Guardrails are meant to keep drivers safe on the highways, but improper installation practices make guardrails yet another life-threatening hazard for motorists. 

What are Frankensteined Guardrails?

In the spring of 2020, high school senior Isabella Alonzo was killed after crashing into a guardrail on a Georgia highway. Instead of cushioning the impact, the ‘Frankensteined’ guardrail impaled her car. Like the famous monster, the guardrail was assembled from parts made by different manufacturers.

Frankensteined guardrails occur when a guardrail and a terminal are mixed-and-matched. This practice is against federal guidelines because guardrails are engineered to collapse on impact. When guardrails are piecemealed together from disparate parts, the guardrail may not collapse and instead pierce a vehicle moving at highway speeds.

How to Correct Frankensteined Guardrails

The first step in correcting Frankensteined guardrails is to conduct an inspection of all the guardrails in your asset inventory. These guardrails may be difficult to spot for the untrained eye, but experts have no trouble identifying the potential dangers. For example, PILLAR’s guardrail experts are familiar with installation practices of various types of guardrail systems and can quickly and easily identify Frankensteined or damaged guardrails.

You may consider engaging an infrastructure asset management firm with technological capabilities to conduct a thorough inspection of all your guardrails. At PILLAR, we’re equipped to handle the most complex data collection. Not only can PILLAR perform a manual survey, but we can also leverage data collection from the air through our mobile LiDAR, spherical images, and point cloud technology. This comprehensive method is quick, efficient and prevents dangerous guardrails from being overlooked.

It is imperative to correct any Frankensteined guardrails as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary loss of life. If your current roadside crew is stretched thin, PILLAR provides boots-on-the-ground support to rapidly address safety issues, keep you in compliance with federal guidelines, and reduce the danger to motorists.

Contact PILLAR

Frankensteined guardrails pose a deadly threat to the public, but PILLAR can help. We are a firm of multidisciplined professionals with decades of tactical, strategic, and operational experts who are ethically committed to the well-being and safety of the public. From data collection to staff augmentation PILLAR can help optimize your asset management. Our team of experts is eager to speak with you; contact us today!

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PILLAR Helps VDOT Dramatically Reduce Nutrient Credit Cost

As you traveled Virginia’s roadways this summer, did you notice taller grass and wildflowers in the right-of-ways? It’s not an oversight.

As part of its overall commitment to implementing sustainable approaches to managing Virginia’s roadway system, VDOT implemented a right-of-way maintenance program that significantly reduced mowing and converted eligible right-of-way spaces into beneficial land uses such as meadowland or pollinator habitats. The root systems of plants and grasses allowed to grow in the right-of-way capture nitrogen, phosphorous, and other harmful nutrients and prevent them from polluting waterways in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Additionally, this practice reduces emissions and fuel use from mowing equipment and provides much-needed habitat for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators crucial to our ecosystem. 

Why is this so important?

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed was once primarily comprised of forest and wetlands that absorbed and filtered harmful nutrients and balanced the ecosystem. Today, 18 million people call the Chesapeake Bay watershed home, along with industry, businesses, and farms. The watershed is crisscrossed with roads that are an essential part of daily living but carry a serious environmental impact as stormwater runs off pavement and into waterways that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous fuel algae growth, blocking sunlight from underwater grasses and reducing the amount of available oxygen to marine life.

VDOT Stormwater Management Tools

VDOT operates under a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which provides regulations to protect and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by requiring the implementation of stormwater controls, including effective land use management practices such as right of way conversion.

To cover the cost of offsetting impacts that cannot be fully mitigated, VDOT is required to purchase what is called nutrient credits from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

PILLAR Helps VDOT Quantify the Positive Impact of Right of Way Conversion

VDOT’s stormwater management consultant, Stantec, informed VDOT that the right-of-way dedicated to sustainable practices qualified for a reduction in the amount of stormwater controls or nutrient credits VDOT would need to implement or purchase. However, to achieve a reduction, VDOT had to quantify the total area of right-of-way included in the sustainability program.

PILLAR provided the solution by using mobile LiDAR to scan and collect data on more than 775 miles of roadway and right of way in the VDOT Districts draining to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Using PILLAR’s proprietary real-time Fully Automatic Feature Extraction System (AFES) to extract the data, PILLAR quantified the amount of right-of-way under VDOT’s right-of-way sustainability program.

The result?

The amount of right-of-way in VDOT’s sustainable maintenance program was so significant that it dramatically reduced the cost of implementing stormwater controls and nutrient credit purchases, saving VDOT and the citizens of Virginia millions of dollars.

PILLAR is proud to have been recognized for our efforts to support environmental stewardship and how their maintenance plans positively impact the environment. Contact us to learn more about how our technology can help support environmental preservation efforts.

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DOT Strategies to Alleviate the National Snowplow Driver Shortage

For the third straight year in a row, DOTs are facing a shortage of snowplow drivers. A survey by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials shows that 84% of respondents reported higher to much higher snowplow operator vacancies than normal. 

Snowplows are a critical component of keeping the roadways clear during winter storms. Without the proper number of qualified drivers, municipalities will face difficult decisions. They may call upon their management staff to fill the gaps to provide citizens with services they rely on.

Short-Term Strategies to Do More with Less

When DOTs are forced to put managers and supervisors with CDL driver credentials in snowplows, their regular responsibilities such as planning and other tasks become rapidly backlogged and important tasks get dropped. In other words, this short-term solution creates long-term problems. Pillar can help keep the department on track and moving forward through its staff augmentation services. Pillar works with you to optimize snow management plans and implement efficiencies to take control of snow event response even if you have fewer trucks on the road by rearranging snow routes and developing efficient response plans that work with the resources you have. This same approach can also be used for other tasks requiring CDL drivers.

Long-Term Strategies to Address the CDL Driver Shortage

Navigating from snow event to snow event in crisis mode due to a lack of CDL drivers is stressful and inefficient. And, let’s face it, that stress extends throughout the year with any task that requires CDL drivers. There’s a longer-term strategy to deal with the CDL driver shortage that puts you in control. Our staff helps fill management and planning shortages on demand and can get to work immediately to sustain productivity until the crisis has passed. Through Pillar’s staff augmentation services DOTs have access to experienced maintenance professionals that can provide:

  • Crew and contractor monitoring and inspecting
  • Supplement work and equipment forces
  • Specialized expertise
  • Quick execution of backlogged tasks

Take Control Today. Contact PILLAR.

Pillar stands ready at a moment’s notice to support your team through the remainder of this season’s winter event. With spring in sight, now is the time to start planning for next year’s winter season.  Let us help you take charge of your snow program despite driver shortages by optimizing your plan and creating efficiencies.  Contact us today.

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Is Smartphone LiDAR Right for Transportation Asset Collection?

Apple fully embraced LiDAR technology when they released the iPhone 12 Pro that came equipped with a LiDAR scanner, giving users the ability to engage with augmented and virtual reality technologies more easily.  

With LiDAR now available to any smartphone user, you may wonder if iPhones can be used for transportation asset collection. In short, the answer is no. Read on to find out why.

What is LiDAR technology?

LiDAR stands for light detection and ranging. It works by pinging lasers off objects and calculating how long it took for the light of the laser to reflect from the object. The collected data is then used to create 3D maps. LiDAR was first used in the 1960s when laser scanners were mounted to airplanes and gained popularity in the 1980s for use in GPS technology. [1]

In the world of smartphones, LiDAR enabled devices allow users to create 3D renderings of their environment at distances up to 5 meters. Typical applications for this technology include more accurate photos, improved motion capture, and—most importantly—augmented and virtual reality experiences at home or day-to-day environments.

LiDAR and Transportation Asset Management

The Transportation Asset Management industry regularly uses LiDAR technology to maintain the integrity of transportation assets. It’s a critical tool for keeping an up-to-date understanding of the condition of roads, bridges, tunnels, rails, and more. But the process of collecting and using that data extends far beyond a single smartphone camera designed to collect data at walking speed. Although there may be some specialty use that can come from smartphones, this is limited due to the lack of large-scale data that is able to be collected.

At PILLAR, our imagery scanning technology powers data collection at highway speeds to give you an impressive and detailed understanding at the street level. Our technology includes:

  • 360-degree spherical
  • 6 – 5MP cameras – 30MP
  • Drone aerial collection
  • Faster data collection: laser collection at posted speed limits enables the ability to scale.
  • Street-level imagery: snapshots of roadways during data collection.
  • Global view of infrastructure assets

Not only that, but we are the only company to offer a true, fully automated feature extraction solution by pairing our mobile LiDAR with AFESTM to process the data we collect.  Without AFESTM you could spend hours formatting your data, scrolling through overlapping photos, and linking assets. When you work with PILLAR, you can have reliable, immediately usable data so you can act and plan for the future.

Invest in Professional LiDAR

The stakes are high when it comes to having accurate data because deteriorating assets can lead to injury and death. When accuracy is paramount, using LiDAR-enabled smartphones to capture asset data isn’t a realistic way to get the job done. These cameras can only capture environments up to 5 meters away and at walking speed. The user must manually collect a 360 view. Contrast that with PILLAR’s six 360-degree cameras that can collect images at highway speeds.

In addition, asset management requires more than just data collection, you need data you can use. Between processing time, feature extraction, and access to reliable data, it’s much more cost effective to invest in a LiDAR professional.

Contact Us

At PILLAR, our multidisciplined professionals have decades of experience to keep your assets in a state of good repair. From boots on the ground to points in the cloud, PILLAR has you covered. Contact us to discuss your needs and questions.


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PILLAR to Begin Work on The Virginia Capital Trail

A new partnership between PILLAR and VDOT will utilize cutting-edge technology to make Virginia a safer, more beautiful place for cyclists and pedestrians.

Recently, PILLAR received a task order to inventory assets, assess, and maintain the Virginia Capital Trail. The Virginia Capital Trail was originally a scenic road that connected Virginia’s capital to the coast. Then called Route 5, the drive was widely valued for its natural beauty and character. In 2004, The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation was formed to advocate and fundraise for a recreational trail adjacent to Route 5. In 2008, construction on the project began. Today, The Virginia Capital trail is a 51.7 mile, fully paved trail that stretches from Williamsburg to Richmond and is enjoyed by cyclists, runners, walkers, skateboarders, and more.

Maintenance of the nearly 52-mile trail is no small task. To keep the Trail well-tended, The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation secured a public-private partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation. VDOT is responsible for maintenance of the Trail from making repairs, clearing debris, or cutting the grass. VDOT faced the challenge of proactively monitoring each mile of the Trail to ensure repairs happened quickly and citizens stayed safe. To address the challenge, VDOT partnered with PILLAR to leverage their expertise and engage them to scan the trail with mobile LiDAR.

For maximum efficiency and safety in transportation maintenance, data is key. As part of the Trail inventory process, PILLAR’s modern technology will automatically extract key features important to the upkeep of the Trail utilizing proprietary AFESTM Technology. This data provides a comprehensive baseline overview of the Trail. From this starting point, PILLAR will make validated maintenance plans enabling VDOT to address issues so pedestrians and cyclists can continue to enjoy the trail now and into the future. “We are honored to partner with VDOT in the maintenance of this beautiful and historic trail and play a part in helping Virginians to enjoy the natural beauty of our state,” says PILLAR Vice President Eric Brooks. 

PILLAR is an award-winning organization that has been recognized for their stewardship and the ways in which their maintenance plans have positive impacts on the environment. As the partnership continues, PILLAR and VDOT anticipate that scheduling short- and long-term personnel to address the hands-on work of maintenance will become more efficient. Other areas of impact include brush management, pavement management, signage and more.

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Asset Managers: Take Control of Your Job

Is your job controlling you? With the overwhelming work it takes to keep up with operating and maintaining your transportation infrastructure, it’s easy to feel like you’re not in the driver’s seat. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  

The Problem

You may be tempted to think that the problem is the size of the job. It’s true, asset management is complex, challenging and not for the faint of heart. But often the problem lies with the tools and systems you have in place to do the job. If you don’t have a comprehensive approach that integrates data-collection technology with systematic planning and management, you’ll be stuck reacting to crisis after crisis.

Another important aspect of efficient workflow is data integration. Without proper integration your tools can’t talk with each other, leaving you with data that’s hard to interpret. Working with unusable data makes executing a proactive management plan impossible. You might face:

  • Being unsure of which skilled workers you need to complete a job
  • Difficulty understanding the location of the task
  • Not knowing what equipment is required for the work at hand
  • Contractors who are unable to do their work efficiently and on time

Add to that the ever-growing skill gap between retiring employees and new hires and it can seem impossible to ever get control of maintaining and operating your transportation infrastructure.

The Solution

Asset managers report that 80% of the job is dealing with crisis and only 20% is devoted to planning. PILLAR can help you reverse that ratio because we understand that a big job requires a global perspective. We specialize in data collection, assessment, planning and execution through our proven CAPE method. You can have powerful data to create a systematic planning and management program, be intentional about your asset management, and take control.


We help you harness the power of your mobile LiDAR data. PILLAR’s collection process combines cutting-edge technology with time-proven approaches. We will collect all existing and new data an normalize it with the tools you’re already using.


Gain certainty about the condition of your assets and proactively manage risk. PILLAR uses a combination of modern technology and hands-on field experience to accurately evaluate the condition of your assets.


Harness your data and take control. Unlike other firms, PILLAR offers expert asset management planning. Our data-driven strategies clearly address your assets maintenance needs. With PILLAR you can secure necessary funding and close the skill gap for your company.


PILLAR’s execution process uses the best-equipped Operations and Maintenance managers to help reduce skill gaps, address public concerns, handle financial adversity, manage and monitor contractors, inspect jobs, and adjust existing plans.

Contact Us Today

Responding to unforeseen events is part of the job, but you can reduce reactivity with solid planning and execution. Book a discovery meeting with PILLAR to learn more about how we can help you develop a systematic solution for your transportation infrastructure.

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4 Common Infrastructure Operations and Maintenance Issues & How to Avoid Them

Mismanaging assets can have huge consequences to your bottom line. If you’re not using your resources and tools efficiently, you could be losing time and money. Luckily, many of these issues can be avoided with knowledge and planning. To help, we’ve put together a list of four common problems in transportation asset management and how to solve them.

Unknown Data Streams for Infrastructure Assets

You know that quality data is essential to managing your assets. However, most transportation departments collect data using different technologies that don’t communicate with each other.  On top of that, many are siloed and unaware of all the asset data their department owns.  This lack of internal communication can make it difficult for you to get a full picture of your data, much less use it effectively.

PILLAR can solve this problem. We aggregate and normalize data from many different sources (from paper to pdf to complex databases) and departments, giving your organization far greater flexibility and eliminating the need for costly recollection of data you already have.

Inability to Read Data

All data is not created equally. Agencies often use their own naming structures and report differently than other inventory technology. These reporting discrepancies can cause confusion and inaccurate data interpretation. 

PILLAR has focused our entire agency on creating a clean, streamlined system for collecting, normalizing, and assessing data.  When you work with us, you’ll never have to guess about the quality of your data.

Work Schedules & Ticket Management

Trying to get ahead can be tough when you have a long list of work tickets and a continuously aging infrastructure. How can you possibly get ahead? PILLAR helps save time by logging all assets and mapping out their exact locations.  We also document asset conditions using our high-quality data and assessment processes.

Many agencies use on-site assessment and realize too late that they need a larger crew and specialized equipment.  With PILLAR, you avoid expensive delays and show up to the right location with the right crew, with the right equipment, at the right time.

Insufficient Funds

It’s impossible to manage your assets without proper funding.  If you’re like most agencies, your funding is dependent on state/municipal budgets. Having pristine data, a streamlined plan, and stellar communication will help you communicate your needs to state/municipal officials. 

PILLAR can help you get the budget you need to maintain and operate your aging infrastructure. Our bottom-up estimating forecasts your costs almost exactly, helping you justify program costs and secure funding.

Let PILLAR Help You Streamline Your O&M

There are a lot of details to track when it comes to maintaining resources and machinery. Having a streamlined system can go a long way in establishing high levels of productivity. Our entire agency is focused on maximizing the lifecycles of your assets through inventory collection, assessment, planning, and execution.  Contact us today to start streamlining your operations and management.

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How to Establish Predictive Maintenance for Transportation Infrastructure

You know from experience that operating and maintaining transportation infrastructure is complex. It can be difficult to predict the condition of assets and accurately plan for repairs. Agencies often rely on reactive maintenance schedules and repairs motivated by public outcry, or worse, asset failure.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Get a handle on your asset management with Pillar’s predictive maintenance model.

PILLAR is an infrastructure asset management firm. And we are solely dedicated to maximizing the lifecycles of your transportation infrastructure. We specialize in:

  • collecting and assessing data
  • using that data to plan improvements and repairs
  • executing the planned repairs

Switch to a predictive maintenance model with PILLAR

How would your agency or department change if you felt sure about the condition of your assets? That’s not an impossible dream. That’s a predictive maintenance model. Advances in technology can use data to predict the condition of assets so you can make informed decisions about repairs. Here’s how it works:

Asset Collection and Normalization of Data

Data collection is the first step in replacing a reactive maintenance model with a predictive one. We collect your existing geospatial data. Next, we use Mobile LiDAR to collect new data and strengthen the inventory of your digital assets. Then we organize your data to reduce redundancy and improve data integrity.

Asset Condition Assessment

We can use data collected via the Internet of Things (IoT), or machines with sensors connected to the internet, to understand your assets. Through IoT, we can gather data on thousands of assets like yours to predict the repair needs and lifespan of the assets you own. This mitigates your risk and allows you to budget for repair and replacement.

Maintenance, Operations, & Budgeting Plan

Our quality data will help you secure proper funding, meet performance requirements, and achieve goals. Using a data-driven approach, we’ll make a predictive plan that prioritizes your most urgent tasks. Not only that, but we’re prepared to put the plan into action for you. Our seasoned O&M managers are ready to leverage their skills for your business. We combine our elite data with hundreds of years of combined experience to reduce risk and make roads safer.

Management & Monitoring of Work Flow

You save money, stay on schedule, and meet your goals when you have an effective plan. We help you stay on track by providing crew and contractor supervision, supplement work and equipment forces, specialized expertise, and backlog planning.

Would you like the know the condition of your assets? We can help you make data-driven decisions about repairs, replacement, and maintenance. Increase your efficiency and gain peace of mind with a predictive maintenance model. Call us today.

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It’s True! We Have Fully Automated Feature Extraction

Access to high-quality data is essential to maintaining the integrity of your transportation assets, but ensuring your data is ready to use can be time-consuming and frustrating.  PILLAR’s proprietary automated feature extraction system (AFES™) delivers a truly automated solution. When you work with us, you’ll never have to spend countless hours formatting data, scrolling through overlapping pictures on your point cloud identifying, clicking, and linking assets. 

Fully Automated Feature Extraction

Maybe you’ve worked with a tool that promised automated extraction only to be disappointed with the results. While many companies claim to offer highly automated products, PILLAR is the only company to offer a true, fully automated feature extraction solution by employing mobile LiDAR to gather and AFES™ to process data.

Gather Data Faster

Our imagery scanning technology powers data collection at highway speeds to give you an impressive and detailed understanding at the street level. Our technology includes:

  • 360-degree spherical
  • 6 – 5MP cameras – 30MP
  • Drone aerial collection
  • Faster data collection: laser collection at posted speed limits enables the ability to scale.
  • Street-level imagery: snapshots of roadways during data collection.
  • Global view of infrastructure assets

Extract Features Instantly

We use machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computer vision to process your data as it is gathered. Our technology extracts more than 20 asset types from mobile LiDAR data, including but not limited to:

  • Signs
  • Bridge Clearances
  • Ditches
  • Guardrails
  • Mowing Acreage
  • Overhead Utilities
  • Trees
  • Striping

Your data is delivered in standard GIS formats, shape files, and geodatabases, but we’ve got system-specific formats covered too. You can easily convert data into system-specific formats through data integration and conversion. We also export data visualizations using a colorized point cloud, JPG, video files, and more so you have everything you need at your fingertips.

Contact Us Today

With fully automatic feature extraction of our mobile LiDAR, you’ll save time, money, and stress. If you’re ready to reduce cost and time up to tenfold, contact us today and set up your demonstration. 

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Virginia’s Tie to National Work Zone Awareness Week

This year, PILLAR is celebrating 20 years of ethical commitment to the well-being and safety of the public through transportation asset management.  During our two decades of work, we’ve partnered with transportation departments and roadside workers at both the state and national level and witnessed their tremendous dedication firsthand.  To celebrate PILLAR’s 20th anniversary, recognize our excellent partners, and remember those who lost their lives in work zones, PILLAR made a donation to the National Work Zone Traveling Memorial.  

The Work Zone Traveling Memorial is an integral part of the National Work Zone Awareness Week and is inscribed with more than 1,600 names of individuals who lost their lives in America’s roadside work zones.  Our donation will support memorial visits in locations all over the country and bring awareness to the importance of safety for roadside workers.

Because safety is an integral part of PILLAR’s mission, we observe National Work Zone Awareness every year.  We’re proud to partner with the national leader in work zone safety awareness, VDOT’s Bristol District.  In 1997, VDOT’s Bristol District spearheaded the country’s first Work Zone Awareness Week.  Bristol’s idea quickly gained traction and by the next year, VDOT launched a statewide campaign to encourage both employees and the public to reduce safety hazards to roadside workers.  Thanks to the hard work and dedication of leaders in Virginia’s transportation sector, a national campaign was launched just two years later in 2000. 

Virginia’s leadership toward work zone safety has made America’s work zones safer.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the number of work zone fatalities has decreased in the United States every year since 2002.

The Work Zone Traveling Memorial will stop in Virginia during National Work Zone Awareness Week April 11-15, 2022.  This year and every year, PILLAR is proud to support respect and safety in America’s roadside work zones. Please follow these 8 tips on navigating highway work zones.

8 Points to Follow When Navigating Highway Work Zones

  1. Expect the unexpected
  2. Follow the signs
  3. Don’t tailgate
  4. Don’t speed
  5. Never change lanes in a work zone
  6. Focus and minimize distractions
  7. Be patient
  8. Know before you go by dialing 511 for traffic information

For additional information on work zone safety and distracted driving please visit these links:

Virginia DMV General Distracted Driving

National Safety Council Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Drive Smart Virginia’s Distracted Driving Outreach and Education Toolkit

National Work Zone Awareness Safety Week Information

Handheld Personal Communication Devices Policy Information