Problem Identification and Collaboration

Problem Identification and Collaboration

Transportation safety is a driving force within Departments of Transportation. Kansas ranks 16th in the quality of life for its transportation infrastructure due in part to its aggressive Kansas Highway Safety Improvement Program.

So when KDOT needed a surface model for a pavement rehabilitation project along 7.2 miles of heavily traveled I-35 in Johnson County, the data had to be obtained in the safest manner possible and as quickly as possible. TREKK used its in-house mobile LiDAR to create a DTM of the existing pavement surface and 3D features, such as overhead signs, crash barriers and bridges, to assist in making recommendations for pavement overlay and corrective actions for drainage. We obtained the survey-grade data in 3.5 hours, collecting 12GB of LiDAR data and 15GB of time-stamped, geo-referenced 360 degree HD images. The final RMSe accuracy was 0.014′ to 109 control points.

“KDOT specifically requested the use of mobile LiDAR scanning because of the need to quickly obtain accurate pavement cross slope data for the corridor, as well as overhead signs and bridge structures, drainage inlets, barrier, and guardrail,” said HDR Roadway Design Engineer, Kyle Schomaker. “The project called for a minimum 4.5- inch overlay of the existing pavement. It was critical to be able to evaluate the existing pavement cross slope conditions, guardrail heights and existing vertical clearances to ensure that the final overlay slopes would be within FHWA tolerances in order to receive federal funding for the project. The project schedule was extremely compressed and required the TREKK team to mobilize rapidly for the scan and expedite the post-processing of the data. Additionally, because of the tight schedule, it was requested that the data be delivered in pieces so that the evaluation and recommendation process could take place on a concurrent track. TREKK was able to accommodate this and, ultimately, both KDOT and FHWA were happy with the quality of the results and the timeliness of the deliverables.”

Part of TREKK’s IMPROVING LIVES philosophy is a proactive understanding that every highway situation a land surveyor faces has the possibility of changing a life forever. A surveyor’s workplace is always moving. It is only natural that the tools in the surveyor tool box must be dynamic ones. That tool for design-grade transportation is Terrestrial Mobile LiDAR Surveying (TMLS). Traditionally, land surveyors often spend time by roadsides, close to the danger of fast moving traffic. The power in TMLS is that it moves with the traffic, oblivious to the traveling public.

“Using mobile LiDAR data methods instead of conventional survey methods allowed for a safer collection process on one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the Kansas City region,” said TREKK Associate Partner and Transportation Lead, Tawn Nugent. “The density of the LiDAR data was critical in determining the required pavement resurfacing quantities due to the variable overlay thickness. This level of data is only feasible with LiDAR technology.”

IMPROVING LIVES with Traffic Data

IMPROVING LIVES with Traffic Data

As our streets and highways become more congested, traffic data collection and analysis are becoming even more important. Before we can design any solutions, we must first understand the problem. This is where real-life data and analytics come into play.

Continuing our commitment to providing quality, common sense solutions to our clients, TREKK has recently adopted traffic data collection technology that allows us to safely and accurately collect traffic data at intersections and along roadway segments. The video data collected by this camera technology equips us with the information needed to determine a cost-effective and feasible solution. It also eliminates the need for manual traffic counts, keeping our staff safely out of the way of traffic, especially during peak periods.

How We Collect Data

Traffic cameras are installed onto existing signs, poles or posts along a roadway network to record data for a specific amount of time. Once mounted, the cameras telescope upward for a birds-eye view of the location. They can record anywhere from a few hours to capture peak hour volumes or an entire 24-hour period. The cameras can withstand and record during inclement weather including strong winds, rain, and snow.

Traffic data can be collected along a roadway segment to measure roadway volume or at intersections to gather turning movement counts. We can also collect time-to-travel data to determine the length of time it takes vehicles to travel from one intersection to another. The cameras have a visibility limit of 170 feet during both day and night, which is adequate for most intersections. Larger intersections or roundabouts may require two cameras to collect data.

From Video to Data

After a recording is complete, the camera unit is uninstalled and returned to the office for data processing. Data is typically delivered in under 72 hours, but can be expedited if necessary. By eliminating the human errors that may come with manual traffic counts, we expect accuracy ratings of 95% or more using this technology.

From the data, we can determine vehicle classification and volume for each movement at an intersection or roadway segment. We can also receive data for bicycles and pedestrians. All of the data gathered is saved forever on a user-friendly interface that can be accessed at any time.

Data. Now What?

Whether it’s a high-level analysis or a detailed traffic analysis, the traffic data can be used to determine existing conditions and potential concerns on a roadway network.  During analysis, the video can be revisited to further digest and analyze the data. Below are a few examples of the types of analysis traffic data can be used for:

  • Traffic Impact Study – Determine the impacts to nearby intersections due to a proposed development
  • Intersection Control – Determine the best solution between various control measures at an intersection
  • Traffic Signal Warrant – Analyze operations of an intersection to determine if a traffic signal is warranted
  • Corridor Analysis – Determine if additional lanes are needed or if existing lanes can be removed and reconfigured to service all modes of transportation and create complete streets
  • Signal Re-timing – Collect data before and after a signal re-timing project to verify reduced travel time along a corridor

This safer, more accurate, and cost-effective approach to traffic data collection equips engineers with the information necessary for traffic analysis, helping them to recommend design solutions. It allows our staff to be better utilized as we can be in the office solving other problems, while cameras are in the field collecting data. Due to TREKK’s streamlined approach, traffic data can be collected at a reasonably low cost and turned-around quickly, which is valuable in our funding driven and fast-paced industry.

– Spencer Osborn, EIT, Project Engineer

Reflections From a TREKK Intern



Isabelle Frankel, a rising junior at Kansas State University, was one of two TREKK interns this summer. Here, Isabelle reflects on her internship and the skills she’s gained over the past three months. 

After three months of interning at TREKK’s Kansas City office, I can now look back at how I spent my summer and reflect on the many valuable skills I’ve gained. I’m about to start my junior year at K-State, studying civil engineering. At the beginning of the summer I joined the transportation team, looking to learn about roadway design and how business operates at an engineering firm. Along with this knowledge, I also found great mentors and role models.

When I started here, I was welcomed and began learning design skills on MicroStation. I remember being shocked at how much I was able to learn so quickly. This was largely due to the helpful guidance from others. The people here focused on giving me work that would challenge me and give me insight that will be important in my future. I’m also glad I was thrown right into the work and, therefore, was able to figure things out through trial and error. I found the best way to complete tasks and explore different possible solutions. I was able to learn things more deeply and retain the information. TREKK also did multiple learning seminars for our team that showed me how much this company cares about expanding their employee’s knowledge.

Something that is difficult to teach in a lecture hall is the inner workings of a design team. While I was here, I felt very included in the transportation team. I was invited to a lot of important meetings; at the beginning I would go and I didn’t have a clue what we were talking about sometimes. But, I was able to observe good communication skills that are essential to a successful team. I learned how work is delegated when you have a big project to do. This internship let me see how things go from an idea on a scrap of paper to a final plan that improves our infrastructure.

I was also introduced to outside organizations that have allowed me to network and meet new people with experience in the field. Within the first few days of work I was taken to the American Public Works Association luncheon and got to see engineers from different municipalities and consulting firms. There was also a great speaker who talked about the importance of public works and how we can do our jobs successfully. This was a great way to start the summer because it reminded me of why we’re all here: to ultimately help others and make the world a better place. I was also invited to other social organizations where I was able to meet some very successful people and use them as role models when thinking about my future career.

This internship solidified my interest in road design and transportation engineering and I’m excited to see where this takes me next. I’m so grateful for all of the people here who made teaching me a priority and helped me feel at home.


Stories from the Sewer

Stories from the Sewer

TREKK Design Group provides many different services such as transportation design, construction inspection, survey, asset management, and GIS.  Another large segment of our services falls within the corner that I work within: TREKK’s water and wastewater department.

Over the years, a number of off the cuff stories have been shared about the sewer business. Here’s a compilation of a few memorable ones that individuals at TREKK have experienced.  Enjoy!


“Fun things happen to us all the time, man.  The stories, they come from all over the place.”

-Robby Hartpence, Field Manager


Ballpark Village – Meet This Community

St. Louis, Missouri is known for having a growing large sewer system.  TREKK has inspected some very large sewers in many different cities, but never one quite as inviting as in St. Louis, MO:

“We did a sewer walk a few years ago downtown.  It was this real large underground tunnel, almost felt like a subway system or something.  We were taking some measurements and doing a general assessment of what all was down there, where the sewer was located, and came across a portion where the street was starting to cave-in.  Well, we also came across some kind of homeless village.  Sofas and tents all over the place, there were little huts burrowed in the walls with plywood, tarps, and all.  There were a couple hundred people – it was like a community down there.”

-Ron Thomann, Project Manager


“That was a crazy experience.  Seeing all of those people come out of nowhere.  There were tents and tarps and they had a seating area and tables.  They just didn’t have power but it was pretty much like a house, just under the city.”

-Jose De Los Santos, Field Technician


Storm Sewer Clean-Up After Hurricane Katrina

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, thousands of individuals helped do all that they could to help mitigate the disaster as quickly as possible.  Everyone remembers the images of New Orleans after the storm ravaged the city and surrounding areas.

TREKK was contacted by another Kansas City based firm, Ace Pipe Cleaning, to help clean storm sewers throughout New Orleans.  Six crew members traveled down to New Orleans. They recount the moving experience:

“We were down there for about two and a half months.  Most of the time we were cleaning storm sewers.  The streets weren’t cleaned at all yet so it was a little difficult to get around.  We stayed in a church for the first month and a half or so – there was a hole in the roof of (the church)” – David Hamberlin, Regional Office Manager

“The church allowed us to stay there and they set up some makeshift showers and things like that for us.  We’d sleep on the sanctuary floor at night and during the day head to these little tents Red Cross had set up for the few people that were still there.  One of the things that sticks out to me were the streets – there was lots of silt and mud everywhere.  In the flooded areas you couldn’t drive in your lane.  It was such a muddy, slippery mess that your truck would slide to the curb and all you could do was slide down the road bumping off curbs.  The work consisted of cleaning storm sewers – we’d vacuum up a ton of seashells, lots of mud, building materials and a fair amount of bricks.  Another thing that sticks out was the spray painted X’s or crosses on all the buildings.  I don’t remember what each quadrant meant, but it seemed like about every building had one of those X’s.”  Lemuel Tjardes, CADD Technician

Those spray painted X’s, later known as “Katrina crosses” share another profound story:  < click here >

The City of New Orleans has also documented this history from many City water and sewer employees as they worked to dewater the city only eleven days after the levees were repaired.  These are known as ‘Katrina Heroes My Stories’:  < click here, they are at the bottom of the page >


OK Creek Sewer 

In the past few years, TREKK has performed a number of sewer walks to help determine the condition and exact routing of these very large storage structures.  These structures are often very large and very old and require an immense amount of planning to ensure that the work is performed safely.

“We walked a sewer over by OK Creek.  When we scouted it out, it was pretty clear that the flow levels were relatively low, but the structure itself was quite large (18 feet by 16 feet).  We get about 1,000 feet or so in and the flow has gotten a little higher, nearly up to our knees, but you can tell it’s not going to get any higher in front of us.  The pipe we were walking down was a double box culvert and merges into one large egg-shaped pipe that’s about 25 feet tall.  My partner took a few steps in front of us, into this new opening, and dropped into three to four feet of (excrement) – right up to his waders.  The entire bottom of the pipe was missing or eroded away.”  -Jonathan Lyke, Project Coordinator

Although there is some humor regarding a scenario that someone goes swimming in the sewer, I want to point out that safety was of chief concern with this project.  TREKK spent many hours ensuring that this project was performed correctly and safely.


Ever Find Anything Interesting On The Job?

“A riding lawn mower in a combined sewer system.  It was over by Arrowhead Stadium. I guess somebody drove it on in and just left it there.”  -Ron Thomann, Project Manager

“Down in Paris, TX I found 25 or 30 old silver dollars.  They were all from the late 1800s, in the 1890s.  Another odd one was over by the Leavenworth prison – we found a ton of old buttons.  I’m talking thousands of these and they were labeled as Leavenworth Penitentiary.  Talked to the guy at the prison and he said they had to have been from a long, long time ago, (because) there are no buttons on the uniforms anymore.”  -Dennis Major, Jetter Operator

“When I worked in the field, I always kept my flip phone on my hip.  I was working in Omaha and getting lowered into a structure and, you know, the harness really rides up on you.   I didn’t notice it, but I think my phone rode down all the way on the side of my hoodie (instead of clipped to my hip).  When my feet hit the bottom of the structure, I heard this ‘plop’ and, yeah, my phone dropped right in the channel.  I took a step to grab it and ‘clank’ – my cable and harness pulled me back.  I was 6 inches away, but my phone ran on down with the current.”

“Well, that didn’t stop us from working.  And you won’t believe it, but four manholes downstream, I found it.  There was a little bend in the channel and right there is my blue and silver flip-phone.”

I had to ask… Did you keep using the phone?  “Yeah.  I just scrubbed it down with bleach water, let it set on the dash for a few days to dry out, and used it for another year and a half or two years.”  -Lemuel Tjardes, CADD Technician


Lions, Tigers, and … Corvettes?  Oh my.

TREKK often performs smoke testing of sanitary sewers to help determine how the system is set-up and where possible illicit connections may exist.  Typically smoke testing investigations will lead to determining why and where possible large amounts of rainwater may be entering the sanitary sewer.

Smoke testing requires ample notification to all properties and individuals in the area affected by smoke.  For example, local fire departments are always notified well in advance to help prevent unnecessary mobilization if calls come in stating that there’s smoke in said area.  It’s pretty common for folks to call 911 if they see smoke billowing out from a building or area an illicit connection exists.  Understandable, right?

Remembers Associate Lucas Gillen: “Smoke testing at the Kansas City Zoo was a whole day deal. Everyone we had was there to make sure everything went as planned.”  The project and smoke testing itself was planned out and went well all day.  “We’re finishing up, heading out to the parking lot and there’s a car on fire – and it’s a corvette.  A nice corvette!”

“I ran to an admin building of the zoo, running around looking for a fire extinguisher.  I came up to someone who was on the phone… they couldn’t help me.  So I ran to another room and opened up a supply closet to find the motherload of all fire extinguishers.  This must have been the supply closet for all the extinguishers for the whole zoo.  I grabbed the two biggest fire extinguishers I could and took off toward that parking lot.”

“Lucas was running about as fast as I’ve ever seen him with those fire extinguishers.  But it all turned out fine; the fire department showed up, and I think the project helped them out.”  -Tim Osborn, CCTV Operator

TREKK was able to help find the source contributing heavy flows to that area of the system.  And the fire department was prepared and able to help everyone out, especially the owner of that Corvette!


Stories help IMPROVE LIVES.  Special thanks to everyone that helped share their personal stories from working in the sewer business over the years.  If you have any memorable stories to share, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Alex Beck
GIS Technician

TREKK Design Group acquires mobile LiDAR firm Terrametrix, Inc.


TREKK Design Group acquires mobile LiDAR firm Terrametrix, Inc.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City-based civil engineering firm, TREKK Design Group, LLC, (TREKK) has acquired Terrametrix, Inc., a mobile LiDAR provider based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Founded in 2008, Terrametrix provides mobile LiDAR survey technology to clients across the country. LiDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging, uses laser scanning and navigation to provide safe and efficient survey-grade data acquisition and processing.

“Adding Terrametrix’s expertise strengthens TREKK’s commitment to providing holistic, common sense solutions through the use of technology and innovation, while helping us to improve lives in the communities we serve,” said TREKK Managing Partner, Kimberly Robinett. “This is an exciting time for mobile LiDAR, and this merger will intensify and strengthen our ability to serve our clients.”

Terrametrix’s five person staff will join TREKK’s survey practice, which provides traditional land surveying on a variety of transportation, wastewater, water and stormwater projects.

“TREKK’s experience in civil engineering design and its commitment to safety makes mobile LiDAR technology the perfect tool to expand TREKK’s services and provide added value to its clients. It’s no surprise the Terrametrix team has landed at TREKK.” said Terrametrix CEO Michael Frecks, PLS, who will now serve as TREKK’s LiDAR Survey Manager.

Terrametrix will operate as “Terrametrix, a TREKK company” for a six-month transitional period. It will assume the TREKK Design Group name later this summer. Terms of the acquisition will not be released.

About TREKK Design Group. TREKK Design Group is a multi-disciplined, women-owned civil engineering firm, committed to helping municipal, state and Federal agencies and private developers across Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Tennessee plan, build and maintain infrastructure. TREKK is certified as a Small Business SBA 8(a) Enterprise and Disadvantaged/ Women Owned Business Enterprise (D/WBE).