Tracking Road Quality

The official St. Louis County highway map is Russ Peterson's "calling card."

One of Russ Peterson’s key responsibilities is coordinating information based on MnDOT’s “Pathways” surveys. Every couple of years, the county pays MnDOT to send a high-tech van along every inch of paved road.

The van contains cameras and lasers that measure pavement quality. Peterson transfers those readings into his spreadsheets, then generates color-coded maps that visually highlight which roads are in the worst shape.

“I give them the data they need to derive a conclusion,” he says. “They can see, on a big map, where they should be focusing. I don’t make the decisions – the engineers decide where to spend the money – but it’s better to have numbers and data.”

Peterson’s own conclusion is that, in the eight years he’s been with St. Louis County, road quality is “slowly going downhill.” Others apparently agree. This April, the county added a half-cent sales tax, which is financing $40 million in bonds to replace or repair the worst roads. “The plan is, in 10 years, we’ll be ahead of the game,” he says.

Adapted from the July-August 2015 issue of Council 5’s Stepping Up magazine.