Surveyors Get Started

David Hughes brought a robot and a divining rod to Union Avenue to get the lay of the land—or the street.

He and a colleague, Roger Limmer, were out in front of the police station with their gizmos the other day in order to put together a map offering a “bird’s-eye view” of elevations on the street and sidewalk.

Their mission: Prepare an initial study for a consultant hired by the parking authority to design a plan to improve the fence and repave the 284-space surface parking lot next to the Union Station garage.

Paul Bass PhotoThe $375,000 job, paid from by train station parking revenues, won’t add spaces, but will rather smooth the parking lot and improve drainage, according to parking authority planning director Jim Staniewicz. Stormwater no longer can go to old drainage pipes in the lot’s northern corner because United Illuminating built a substation there.

The job won’t begin until at least this spring. First the authority needs the design plan. And before a design plan can be done, the designer needs to know more about the elevations of the road and sidewalk on the other side of the parking-lot fence.

That’s where David Hughes came in. He runs his own engineer and land surveying shop in Oakville. (That’s way up northwest of Waterbury.) He was hired by the Dewberry engineering firm, which was hired by Desman Associates, which was hired by the parking authority to produce a final lot-repaving design. Hughes’ role: to do the initial “existing conditions” map.

So he and Limmer set up what looked like a camera on a tripod. It looked like a camera. It’s not a camera, they said. It’s a “robot,” or more precisely, a “robotic instrument,” a Leica Pinpoint R400 imaging contraption, to be exact. And they brought what looked like a divining rod. It’s actually a prism.

Click on the play arrow to the video at the top of the story to watch Hughes describe how it all works.

The layman’s version: You put the rod, er, prism, in different spots along the road and sidewalk. The Leica follows it and identifies the point in space,” producing a series of dots that, when connected, create a picture of elevations, angles, distances, and other data about the road, the striping, the trees, etc. That data helps designers figure out how stormwater flows, among other factors.

Hughes compared it to a bird’s-eye view.

“Check out Google Earth,” he said. “That’s what it’ll look like.”

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posted by: anonymous on February 7, 2013  1:26pm

Cool article.

But why are we spending $400,000 (at least, factoring in other costs) to repave the perfectly fine parking lot there, when there’s still no safe bike lane to get to the train station and when the crosswalk by the police station is a pedestrian death trap? 

A huge proportion of New Haven residents do not have a car - especially people with lower incomes.