Lenexa City Center ‘smart pavement’ plan moves forward — how and when it could impact drivers

Work on Lenexa's first smart pavement project is slated to begin later this year. Above, a design illustration of the smart pavement technology as portrayed by Integrated Roadways and Kiewit Engineering, the companies heading up the project. File photo.

Lenexa is advancing plans with Integrated Roadways and Kiewit to install “smart pavement” in Lenexa City Center.

In a presentation to the Lenexa City Council on Tuesday, representatives from the two companies gave a status update on the Showcase City Center project, which involves deploying “smart pavement” panels at five key intersections within the city’s centralized hub.

The smart pavement system is a series of precast concrete slabs with sensors inside. The sensors are embedded with digital technology and fiber optic connectivity. The sensors can track real-time traffic data.

The traffic data is fully anonymous, the representatives said, but it shows lane usage, speed metrics and even vehicle types.

The city council will consider approving a master implementation agreement with the two companies for the 10-year Smart Infrastructure Program at its next meeting.

The agreement establishes the requirements for the project, and also prohibits sensors within the “smart pavement” from collecting any personal identifiable information from vehicles that drive on it.

“This allows the city to get experience and familiarity, really be the leader of the pack in the United States for the next generation of infrastructure from nose to tail,” said Tim Sylvester, founder of Integrated Roadways. “And then the implementation of the traffic services and the data collection… which really sets up Lenexa to be one of the smartest cities in the nation and have a long-term program to continue expanding and enhancing that kind of city intelligence, which, as far as I’m aware, is unprecedented around the nation.”

Here are a few takeaways from the meeting.

Next steps

Tim Sylvester, founder of Integrated Roadways, said Sylvester said they see their project as offsetting the city’s costs for future road work improvements.

Kiewit Engineering and Integrated Roadways will submit a project plan for city approval before work on any of the intersections will begin.

Work on the first intersection upgrade is slated for late 2021. After the first intersection is complete, then the city and companies will consider each of the following intersections one at a time. Here are the five intersections slated for smart pavement:

  • 87th and Lennox
  • 87th and Renner
  • 89th and Renner
  • 93rd and Renner
  • 95th and Renner

After the first five intersections are embedded with smart pavement, then the city and companies can decide on where to extend the technology in other areas of Lenexa.

Paving the way for future technology

Representatives of Kiewit and Integrated Roadways as well as city staff said the smart pavement project will pave the way for future technologies within Lenexa City Center.

The smart pavement lays the groundwork for future technology by embedding the framework for “Smart City” capabilities. In general, these potential projects could include in-pavement high-speed wireless services so users could connect to the internet.

Sean McLaughlin, city attorney, informed city leaders that wifi users who connect to third-party systems could be identified, but that is unrelated to the smart pavement.

Electric vehicles could one day charge themselves while driving on the smart pavement. Eventually, autonomous vehicles could also drive on the smart pavement, effectively creating an autonomous vehicle transit loop (kind of like a bus system).

How to pay for it

Integrated Roadways and Kiewit plan to finance the project with private partners. Plus, the Kansas Department of Transportation is committing $250,000 to the project.

Sylvester said they see their project as offsetting the city’s costs for future road work improvements.

“If we work together to select projects appropriately that match to your expectations for capital improvements over this 10-year period, we believe that we can help extend, enhance and improve some of the projects that you’re already planning to do anyway and offset some of those expenses through the use of the smart pavement technology,” Sylvester added.

In addition, the companies solicited feedback from about 300 businesses in Lenexa, asking if they would be interested in the real-time traffic data provided by the smart pavement technology.

Results from that feedback indicate that 88% of those businesses want that type of data to assist with marketing decisions, and about 90% think the data is worth at least $99 a month. In other words, the companies could sell this data (again, obtained anonymously) to businesses to help pay for the smart infrastructure.