Bridging the Security Gap

Homeland Security initiative funds innovative CCTV model deployments

BRIDGES are among the greatest accomplishments of human civilization. From early prehistoric structures where logs were simply placed across streams to the long, arched spans from the Roman empire that still stand today, to the modern era's engineering masterpieces -- bridges have served as lifelines while inspiring the imaginations of people.

In times of peace, bridges enable transportation and communication. In times of war, bridges take on strategic value, and throughout history, the destruction of bridges has heavily contributed to the outcome of armed conflicts.

The 9/11 attacks exposed America to a new, more sinister kind of warfare. In times of war, bridges play a critical role in defense strategies. The loss of a critical bridge or tunnel at one of the numerous choke points in the highway system can result in hundreds or thousands of casualties, billions of dollars worth of direct reconstruction costs and even greater socio-economic costs.

The White House report, "The National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets, February 2003," recognizes the close relationship between the nation's transportation infrastructure and other segments of the economy. Interdependencies exist between transportation and nearly every other sector of the economy. Consequently, threats to the transportation sector impact other industries that rely on it.

According to a post-9/11 study conducted by Science Applications International Corp., a terrorist attack on any of approximately 1,000 critical bridges in the United States can result in substantial casualties, economic disruption and other societal ramifications. As a model case study, the PATH commuter rail line in New York was unusable after the 9/11 attacks. The line, which carried 67,000 passengers daily to lower Manhattan, closed for about two years, contributing to the relocation of 103 firms, 1.1 million square feet of office space and 11,700 jobs to New Jersey. The results illustrate the socio-economic loss of a major transportation route.

According to FHWA's 2003 document, "Recommendations for Bridge and Tunnel Security," the highway infrastructure has vulnerabilities which must be addressed. This is important enough to be a matter of national security policy. Improvements in homeland security must address improvements to critical bridges and tunnels.

Enter Homeland Security
Until the Department of Homeland Security initiated the Surface Transportation and Reliability Act in 2003, the forefront of highway infrastructure saw little change. Since the landmark policy shift, however, DHS has taken far-reaching measures to identify the security needs of the U.S. highway infrastructure, including those of more than 600,000 bridges located in the United States.

The first milestone in the development process occurred in March 2003, when DHS awarded a four-year, $10 million grant match to the Federal Highway Administration. The purpose of the grant was to cultivate model security-related deployments in several target areas, one of which addresses finding the best approach to implementing a bridge security system.

FHWA, in turn, allowed state departments of transportation to propose projects to win the grant and, for the first time in history, they awarded the entire grant to a single bidder -- the Florida Department of Transportation and its award-winning proposal for the iFlorida program.

"The goal of the iFlorida model deployment is to provide a transportation information infrastructure or -- infostructure -- to demonstrate how security, reliability and safety can be enhanced through widespread availability of real-time information. Infostructure is a term that blends information and infrastructure for the purpose of enhancing communication and security functionality while the 'I' in iFlorida captures the four objectives of the program -- information, intelligence, infrastructure and innovation," said Anne Brewer, P.E., iFlorida program manager.

Comparative Bridge Analysis

Jacksonville Bridge

Orlando Area Bridge


  • Monitor sidewalks, parking areas and underpasses (dense urban ground coverage)


  • Long bridge
  • Densely populated, urban
  • High-traffic underpasses
  • Poles are close together
  • Needed to minimize impact of installation on motoring public due to a large number of required cameras

Primary Monitoring:

  • Jacksonville FHP Troop G

Secondary Monitoring:

  • D5 RTMC (where FDOT D5 and FHP Troop D are co-located)


  • Monitor pilings under bridge
  • Monitor waterway


  • Short bridge
  • Rural
  • Storage pilings and channel
  • Poles are spread further apart
  • Needed to maximize distance of coverage per camera

Primary Monitoring:

  • D5 RTMC (where FDOT D5 and FHP Troop D are co-located)

Secondary Monitoring:

  • Jacksonville FHP Troop G

Security Command and Control
The model bridge security sub-project -- named Security Command and Control -- focuses specifically on developing video/software-based detection systems for two critical Florida bridges, one in the Orlando area and one in Jacksonville.

The major goals for the video/software-based detection systems are to enable detection of potential security problems, help prevent disaster-related events, improve post-event analysis, and help law enforcement identify hit-and-run suspects via footage captured by surveillance cameras, said project manager Scott Silva.

With a clear picture of what they wanted and who could best help them, FDOT awarded the Security Command and Control contract to MasTec North America Inc. Director of MasTec's Intelligent Transportation Systems division Tim Malone turned to security consultant David Tonsburg for guidance in product specification and Metric Engineering for assistance with plans production.

One of the innovative aspects of the Security Command and Control system is the approach to integration. The video/software-based detection system combines thermal and active-infrared technology to provide 360 degrees of surveillance for both boat and auto-related traffic 100 percent of the time. Fixed cameras, PTZ cameras and infrared illuminators are set up to monitor specific zones while footage from the cameras is monitored in real-time at the traffic management centers. When a potential perpetrator or object is stationary for longer than a given period of time, an alarm is triggered, the video displays on the monitors and TMC operators become aware of the potential issue. TMC operators constantly monitor the bridges and respond to triggered alarm zones using PTZ cameras.

At any given moment, DVRs at field locations record video footage captured by the cameras. In addition to being recorded locally, the streaming video is sent back via a fiber-optic infrastructure to be monitored at separate TMCs for redundancy. The DVRs at the TMC begin recording once an alarm is triggered. The Orlando and Jacksonville bridges are monitored by operators at both TMCs, as well as by the Florida Highway Patrol.

"This approach allows for redundancy, which is helpful in case the footage is destroyed locally or a TMC is taken offline," Malone said.

While both bridges cross the channels of major waterways, the locations selected for this case study are intentionally different. The Orlando area bridge is distinctly rural and most of the traffic below is boat-related. Conversely, the Jacksonville bridge is particularly urban with underpasses and major intersections to consider. As a result, the security goals and equipment selected for the two bridges vary significantly.

Comparative Bridge Analysis
In Jacksonville, the underpasses and sidewalks surrounding the densely populated bridge are the primary focus. This urban environment requires one or more fixed cameras per pole to ensure complete ground coverage, making surface area space and installation time key factors in product selection.

To conserve space on the poles for multi-camera accommodation and to decrease installation time for the large number of installations required, MasTec selected an integrated day night camera with built-in infrared illuminators and power supply by Extreme CCTV. The integrated day-night cameras use infrared illumination, a kind of light which is invisible to the human eye, to produce properly-lit, high-resolution images at night.

"The Extreme CCTV ZX55 model is a viable solution for situations where installation time and pole congestion are key factors," said MasTec ITS engineer Gabriel Pagnotti.

Once installed, the integrated day/night cameras are used for surveillance in fixed areas. Alarm zones are set up in surveillance software so that the cameras help detect and define unknown objects in the alarm zones.

"Active-infrared night vision technology has brought important benefits to city-wide ITS projects across the globe," said Jack Gin, president and CEO of Extreme CCTV. "It is now an expectation that cameras deliver good, usable pictures under any lighting conditions, including total darkness."

The rural, Orlando-area bridge serves as a major commuter route for central Florida residents working in Orlando. The bridge also serves as a primary evacuation route for the area and crosses a fairly busy waterway. The rural environment and fluctuating water levels are major factors affecting this location; thus, key surveillance areas include the pilings beneath the bridge and the actual waterway itself. For these reasons, MasTec deployed a combination of active-infrared and thermal technology to address the location's specific security needs.

For increased visibility, MasTec selected and installed fixed cameras and infrared illuminators as standalone components on each camera pole.

"The Sony Day/Night Cameras and Extreme CCTV -- SuperLED series Supercharged Infrared Illuminators work well together, resulting in excellent surveillance images, even at night," said Chirayu Amin, MasTec ITS engineer.

"Installing standalone infrared illuminators provides a longer range than the built-in components, thus enabling smaller camera-to-coverage area ratios," Malone said.

To monitor the busy waterway, MasTec selected a thermal camera for presence detection. Thermal cameras use heat to detect presence and maintain visibility through fog and rain. For this implementation, MasTec selected a short-range thermal camera made by ISAP. Alarm zones are set up to detect the presence of lingering objects using state-of-the-art surveillance software. The TMC operators are alerted when an alarm zone is triggered and PTZ cameras are used to zoom in on the area of interest.

In light of these and future security deployments, it is apparent that a new era in surveillance technology is on the horizon. After a two-year evaluation period of the iFlorida program, the FHWA will analyze best practices to decide which aspects worked, what could have been done differently, and which applications can be deployed in other parts of the country.

"We expect to see others follow suit in the near future," said assistant district traffic operations engineer Jerry Woods. "Hopefully, other districts and the state department of transportation will benefit, and our innovative prototypes will help improve the security of critical bridges and tunnels across the country."


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