Pink lines, funky equipment mean infrastructure progress in Harrisburg

Notice a lot of pink lines around Harrisburg? In the case to fix the city's aging infrastructure, pink means progress.

If you didn't know the situation, you'd think a sci-fi flick was being filmed in Harrisburg. Men wearing bright yellow vests were waving wands that looked like leaf blowers, yet sounded like someone was phoning E.T.

Another man was zigzagged his way up and down city blocks with a Lunar Rover-looking lawn mower. And those pink lines made the city look like an urban football field.

Tasia White came to uptown Harrisburg to visit family and was scratching her head.

“These pink lines, they're everywhere,” said White. “All up and down the back streets and everywhere.”

So, what's the deal? GIS mapping. Harrisburg Public Works and The Harrisburg Authority hired engineering companies Herbert Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) and McKim & Creed (M&C) to create a geographical information system (GIS). Basically, it is a digital map of Harrisburg's underground infrastructure.

Currently the city is in analog mode with century-old maps. So these guys with funky equipment have the tricky task of basically taking gramophone records and turning them into MP3s.

GIS specialists have some interesting gear for this process. One piece of equipment has a leaf blower-looking wand that acts like a sonar system. Crews will wave the wand over the street, much like a metal-detector, and bounce frequencies off metal pipes to detect where the lines lead. Each pipes is marked with a spray of pink paint. There are a lot of pipe marks.

The other unique piece of equipment is the ground penetrating radar (GPR). Specialists will push this law mower-looking machine in a zigzag motion across the street. The sonar will bounce underneath and detect pipes and voids.

Daoud Smith was weed-whacking his yard when he noticed the strange wand whiz by his home.

“It's unique,” said Smith. “Modern day technology.”

While many were curious, even alarmed at first, once they were educated on what GIS mapping is, many were glad to see progress. GPR also detects voids that create sinkholes. And, residents understand the importance of preventing and fixing sinkholes in Harrisburg.

Smith said he'd gladly watch workers crawl just so he could walk above ground without fear of falling in.

“We are definitely in need,” he said.” “We are definitely in need and, I can appreciate [the progress].”

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