C2SMARTER Urban Roadway Testbed

C2SMARTER researchers, in partnership with NYCDOT, have designed and implement cutting-edge sensor technology to monitor, evaluate, and address both long- and short-term structural health needs of the BQE. 

What is Structural Health Monitoring (SHM)?

Structural Health Monitoring mitigates short-term problems while long-term change takes place using smart sensors to monitor the structural health and overall performance of infrastructure. Drawing on urban informatics, connected technologies, behavioral informatics, and city partnerships, structural health monitoring allows for data-driven decisions with analytical tools that will improve future assessments, predictions, and long-term monitoring of city infrastructure such as bridges and roads.

How does it work?

The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has long been planning to rehabilitate the deteriorated reinforced concrete sections of the bridge to accommodate the future traffic volume and weight demands. C2SMART researchers from Rutgers University and NYU have been working with NYCDOT to plan, install, collect, and interpret from various types of sensors to effectively analyze behaviors of BQE’s concrete cantilever structures. The sensors will help to inform existing conditions of the cantilever sections and to warn of any abnormal behavior due to severe structural damages.

Why the BQE?

The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) handles substantial daily traffic, with an annual average daily traffic of more than 153,000 vehicles. The triple cantilever section, which splits the BQE on two cantilevers carrying three levels, has been disproportionately impacted by overweight trucks and environmental conditions. Less than half a mile long, the section became operational in 1948 and contains three eastbound lanes above three westbound lanes, topped by the Brooklyn Promenade. New data on the current traffic loads and state of the cantilever’s deterioration suggests that the presence of many overweight trucks – a function of limited monitoring and enforcement – coupled with deterioration of the cantilever could cause sections of the road to become unsafe and unable to carry existing levels of traffic within five years.

What have we done so far?

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio nominated an expert panel composed of leaders in the field, including C2SMART Director Kaan Ozbay, Associate Director Hani Nassif, and affiliate faculty member Mitchell Moss. This panel was tasked with crafting a comprehensive plan for a redesign of the highway. To do this, C2SMART researchers installed Weigh-in-Motion sensors to collect and analyze data regarding daily use of the BQE. Following this installation, the panel made several proposals for the longterm longevity and decongestion of the expressway. C2SMART researchers designed and constructed a new “smart roadway testbed” along the cantilevered section of the BQE. This testbed collects real-time data on truck loads using weigh-in-motion (WIM) sensors to measure their impact on the roadway.

C2SMART on Mayor de Blasio’s Expert Panel

C2SMART Director Kaan Ozbay, Associate Director for Outreach and Technology Transfer Hani Nassif, and Affiliated Researcher Mitchell Moss were named to Mayor de Blasio’s Expert Panel in 2019, and installation of the Urban Roadway Testbed commenced in order to monitor the roadway during the investigation period and beyond. The final report from the panel was informed in large part by data from the C2SMART Weigh-in-Motion sensors and by USDOT- and other federally-funded research from C2SMART’s portfolio, including work on traffic management, bridge deterioration monitoring, highway capacity control, and collaborative, multi-agency highway construction. 

In 2020, the panel released its recommendations, which included permanent lane reductions, designated and wide shoulders, and the development of a demand management plan to reduce BQE volumes by 15% or more.


Installing the Urban Roadway Testbed

Site Selection

The work began with the development of an autonomous enforcement approach using a Advanced Weigh-In-Motion (A-WIM) System to minimize impact of overweight trucks on infrastructure. In collaboration with local transportation agencies, one segment was chosen to be along the BQE at Summit Street by the Waterfront District, and the other at Pearl Street near DUMBO.

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Site Evaluation

Researchers analyzed the slope, roughness, and apparent cracks and potholes. The team chose the most appropriate roadway segments to maximize the accuracy of the WIM sensors – piezo polymer (PVDF) and piezo quartz (Quartz) WIM sensor. A field computer, data acquisition system, and uninterrupted power supply were designed for each WIM site.

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Site Preparation

Enclosures and junction boxes were attached to pre-existing metal sign frames along the highway, and some excavation was required in order to route cables to the locations where the sensors would be located in the roadway. Once the electronics were complete, the locations of the PVDF and Quartz sensors were marked and scored into the roadway. Each marked section of pavement was cut and the resulting slots were cleaned out.

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Sensor Installation

Grout was poured over the sensors and the surface was smoothened to be level with the existing roadway. For the quartz sensors a much wider slit in the roadway had to be prepared before insertion. Finally all of the sensor installation areas were finished with a polisher. 

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Testbed Calibration

After installation was completed, a 5-axle semi-trailer truck (FHWA Class 9) with known axle weights traveled in each lane at a constant speed in order to determine the sensor calibration factor to process the weight measurement.

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Project Phases

Long-term Structural Health Monitoring

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYCDOT released a comprehensive plan to extend the life of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) cantilever for at least another 20 years, while reimagining the corridor for a long-term future with less reliance on large, diesel trucks.

The four-part plan focuses on preserving the structure; executing immediate and ongoing maintenance; expanding monitoring and enforcement; and developing a long-term, community-based vision for the entire corridor. To achieve this, in May 2021 C2SMART was added to the C2SMART added to the NYCDOT BQE team for long-term structural health monitoring, the Triple Cantilever Joint Venture. 

Later that year, Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assembly member Jo Anne Simon announced that their BQE Overweight Truck bill (S2740B/A2316) was signed into law, effective 2022, by New York Governor Kathy Hochul. The new law authorizes a pilot program along I-278 in Brooklyn allowing for the installation of state-of-the-art Weigh-In-Motion (WIM) technology to issue violations electronically when trucks exceed the existing legal weight limits. It authorizes automated enforcement on the Brooklyn portion of the BQE, enabling expanded enforcement efforts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Project Group

New York University (NYU) was founded more than 185 years ago with the goal of providing New York City (NYC) residents with an education as bold as the aspirations that drew their families to our shores. While remaining a gateway for regional students, NYU has received national and global recognition and today is the largest private research university in the U.S., enrolling approximately 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The NYU Tandon School of Engineering has a more than 160-year legacy rooted in the history of two great engineering schools: Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (Poly) and NYU Heights. In the fall of 2015, the Tandon family made a $100M gift to strengthen the importance and centrality of engineering to the growth of the university, and today NYU Tandon has nearly 5,500 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students.

NYU research lead: Kaan Ozbay

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, stands among America’s highest-ranked, most diverse public research universities. The oldest, largest, and top-ranked public university in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, Rutgers is an academic, health, and research powerhouse and a university of opportunity. Rutgers has the threefold mission of providing for the instructional needs of New Jersey’s residents through its undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs; conducting the innovative research that contributes to the medical, environmental, social, and cultural well-being of the state, as well as aiding the economy and the state’s businesses and industries; and performing public service in support of the needs of the residents of the state and its local, county, and state governments.

Rutgers research lead: Hani Nassif

ThermalStare develops and applies innovative infrared-based nondestructive evaluation technologies. Developed originally for civil infrastructure, ThermalStare technology is used for military, petrochemical, aerospace, automotive, and other applications. ThermalStare instruments measure defects in concrete, coatings, and other materials and measure properties of steel. For highway bridges and structures, measurements include bridge deck and soffit inspection, thermal stress measurement, coating assessment, and long-term monitoring systems. Services related to infrared assessment include inspection of bridge decks, tunnels, or other assets; inspection planning; and web-based inspection planning tools.

With 30 years of equipment manufacturing, SHM project management, data analysis, and expertise, Structural Monitoring Solutions seeks to provide bridge owners with straightforward solutions to complex problems through partnerships with the best universities, engineering firms, departments of transportation, and other proven manufacturing leaders in the field of asset management. SMS uses ruggedized fiber optics technology to minimize replacement cycles and lower incidences of power drops, installation labor, and maintenance, and have experience in remote monitoring, turnkey Installation, project management, instrumentation design, software data automation, long-term maintenance, and monitoring.

and in collaboration with NYCDOT and the Triple Cantilever Joint Venture.