Detection of Buried Trolley Tracks Using Multichannel 3D Ground Penetrating Radar Tech

Unforeseen conditions are one of the leading causes for costly construction delays on transportation projects. Underground anomalies or unknown utilities when encountered during construction can have a crippling effect on a project’s schedule and budget. Therefore, a properly scoped project must include cost-effective locating and mapping of underground features during a project’s scope development phase. Investigative techniques, such as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology, are a value-added investment that can result in a more predictable and trouble-free construction environment. As an example, abandoned railroad or trolley tracks can be a troublesome problem for transportation engineers. On many occasions, these linear features are paved over time and records are non-existent, inaccurate or difficult to find. Sometimes, abandoned tracks are found when resurfacing or rehabilitation operations are conducted on existing roads, causing costly project overruns and construction delays. In this study, a section of municipal road in New Jersey was investigated to identify buried trolley tracks and determine the thickness of asphalt over these tracks. Trolley tracks were known to have existed within the project limits many years ago and been subsequently overlaid with asphalt. However, the exact location, extent and asphalt overlay thickness were unknown. To shed light on these unknowns, non-destructive GPR testing was employed. The GPR survey was conducted using two ground-coupled (G.C.) systems, a single antenna retrofitted to a push-cart vehicle and a high-density, multichannel trailer system. A limited coring program was carried out to verify and calibrate the GPR findings. Based on the GPR findings, two sets of trolley tracks were found within the project limits. Core data was used to calibrate the GPR findings and determine the asphalt thickness over the tracks. All findings were combined into a Microstation file with the New Jersey State Plane Coordinate system as a reference and overlaid on existing as-builts. In addition, a georeferenced Google Earth file (.kml format) was prepared separately for easy reference.

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