Written by: Frank Bronzo, Principal
A Lot to Consider
How thorough is your pavement preservation and replacement program? Have you taken all factors into consideration? Traffic volumes, sub-base condition, underground utility condition, pavement condition rating, and the condition of existing pavement are all critical ones. Apart from that, there are economic, social, and political factors as well.
Those tasked with maintaining transportation infrastructure are faced with these management decisions on a daily basis. Implementing a few best practices can significantly improve your management plan.
1. “Worst First” Does Not Work Best
“Worst first” is the most intuitive answer and seems like the most logical solution. However, long-term, consistent maintenance may help the bottom line. Every tax-paying driver wants to see problem areas fixed first. To approach pavement preservation differently—addressing a street that does not look problematic—seems a waste of money. The fact is that early pavement preservation and maintenance extends the life of the pavement system dramatically. This leaves the worst streets as candidates for pavement replacement projects, especially given the cost of complete street replacement projects.
In a study published by Michigan State University, this idea is discussed as the, “Pavement Preservation Concept.” The Diagram below illustrates the effect of ongoing maintenance in contrast to addressing only the roads in the worst condition.
2. Proactive Vs. Reactive
A complete pavement preservation program will allow you to be proactive in your pavement management program, minimizing reactive pavement management elements such as corrective maintenance, catastrophic maintenance and pavement reconstruction. By reducing reactive maintenance projects, you also gain greater control over your budget. With less unpredicted costs, you can spend the dollars that you do have on other needed improvements.
3. Consider the Whole Network
Breaking our road network down into links is a natural part of the pavement preservation process, but it’s important to keep in mind the big picture. For instance, be sure to program various pavement preservation elements—whether it is routine maintenance, preventative maintenance or minor rehabilitation—so that each link of pavement ages through its life cycle concurrently. Scheduling projects relative to other projects within the network will not only serve as a checks and balance, but it will also allow for a better prediction of future capital improvement projects.
4. Education is the Key
Many industry paradigm shifts are met with resistance. Education and outreach is a way of building consensus and momentum. Do some research yourself to learn more. Michigan State University, for one, is leading collaborative efforts to learn more about pavement preservation through its National Center for Pavement Preservation. They are currently conducting research on life cycle determination of preventative maintenance treatments. Variables in determining life cycle for a particular road and the cost effectiveness of maintenance include functional classification, traffic demand, condition of the roadway prior to application, constructability and environmental conditions.
Knowledge is critical in understanding the right path for your pavement management and preservation program. Lean on professionals in the industry that have experience managing pavement programs. Talk to other industry leaders to see what they are doing.
The benefits of pavement preservation not only provides more control over your budget by reducing the frequency of costly rehabilitation and reconstruction projects, but it reduces the number of associated traffic disruptions.
For more information on learning how to implement a pavement preservation plan, contact me for more information. Together, we can make a greater community impact.