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OxBlue Corp. installed solar-powered cameras in four locations to document construction of the Nevada DOT's Galena Creek Bridge. Cameras to the north and south (view shown here) of the bridge were positioned near the right-of-way line on the west side of the freeway alignment: close enough to provide good views, but far enough away to be protected from construction activities. Photo: OxBlue Corp.
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General contractor Emery Sapp & Sons used camera images to coordinate the efforts of bridge-jacking subcontractor Mammoet. The process held lane closures on the Gasconade River Bridge Replacement to 20 days instead of 60, the amount of time traditional reconstruction methods usually require. Photo: OxBlue Corp.

By Chandler McCormack

In two very different regions of the country, construction cameras have proven their value beyond project documentation. Nevada and Missouri road managers installed them to improve public relations, manage remote projects, and resolve contractor claims, but ended up saving money as well.

Resolving claims: The camera never lies

Project: Galena Creek Bridge
Return on investment: Documentation that averted a $1.5 million contractor claim

Taxpayer buy-in for a $400 million bridge that had been the topic of debate since the 1950s was the reason Nevada DOT managers decided to monitor construction of the 1,719-foot-long structure. A significant element of the Interstate 580 extension between Reno and state capital Carson City, the Galena Creek Bridge will be the nation's largest concrete arch bridge when completed later this year.

Knowing they'd be offering Nevadans a constantly updated view of the project's progress, managers included the cost of construction cameras in the project's construction management budget.

Because the jobsite lacks access to power or landline communications, they chose to install four solar-powered cameras made by Atlanta-based OxBlue Corp.. Though this added $3,600 for each camera's solar panels, storage batteries, enclosures, and control components to the investment, monitoring expenses average out to $16/day since installation in 2004.

The power stations are engineered for solar autonomy, meaning that with a full charge they can operate for more than five days without sunlight. This was critical due to the location's harsh weather, with limited winter sunlight, 80-mph mountaintop winds, and below-freezing temperatures coming off Lake Tahoe. The service package also supports time-lapse videos and a feed of recent images to the agency's Web site.

Most — but not all — viewers have been local. An engineer in Great Britain starts his day by checking in on the project's progress. The project's Web site has been accessed 71,799 times in the last 12 months.

“The cameras provided us with a visual form of transparency and a public information tool,” says Todd Montgomery, an NDOT assistant construction engineer who oversaw planning and design. “They also improved trust between stakeholders and increased accountability for the department and our contractors.”

At least three contractor claims have been denied because of evidence captured by the cameras. One claim — for $1.5 million — was rejected in its entirety.