Pavement Management is a good topic for discussion because, like the weather, everyone has experience with it. We all know of a street so full of potholes that it is seemingly always under construction. What many people are not aware of is the incredible amount of effort and resources it takes to maintain a network of streets, sidewalks, and right-of-way assets. These assets are valued in the millions of dollars and are utilized by thousands of commuters, pedestrians, tourists, and industry workers every day.
Public works professionals who are responsible for pavement management commonly define it this way:
Pavement Management is the process of planning, budgeting, designing, evaluating, and rehabilitating a pavement network to provide maximum benefit with available funds.
Public Safety and Financial Benefits
Good pavement management practice focuses on two important factors; safety and fiscal responsibility. The first and most obvious reason to invest in pavement management is public safety. By identifying where sidewalks and roads have begun to fail, municipalities can act quickly and responsibly to address areas of potential concern, and improve public safety within the community. The second focus, fiscal responsibility, acknowledges that the local municipality is a steward of taxpayer-funded assets, and to best serve their constitutes they want to get the most value out of each tax dollar spent on maintaining the asset.
A healthy pavement network provides a myriad of benefits to a municipality. In addition to enhanced public safety, better roads encourage industrial development, creating jobs and opportunities within the community. Improving roads and sidewalks has also been demonstrated to enhance overall quality-of-life factors within a community. Better sidewalks and roads mean greater social mobility, especially in low-income communities, where a larger percentage of a citizen’s total earnings are spent on travel-related expenses. Want to encourage citizens to lead a healthy and active lifestyle? Try improving their access to public recreational areas by enhancing the sidewalk network or bike lanes.
Who is Involved in Pavement Management
The public works department in a municipality is responsible for allocating funds and scheduling repairs. They typically have a network-wide overview of the pavements that they manage, and rely on citizen input or outside contractors that survey the network to understand the needs of the community. It is common for municipalities to hold city council meetings as frequently as once a month where vocal citizens can make sure the city hears their needs. Is your neighborhood full of potholes and cracked asphalt? Show up. Make your case. This is what the meetings are for, and council members will thank you for your engagement. After all, it is our tax money at work.
One other group that certainly deserves mentioning in this process is local construction contractors. Even smaller public works agencies are routinely looking to spend up to a million dollars or more on pavement construction/repair projects each year. That means jobs. Much of the funding for pavement management goes directly to the pockets of your friends and neighbors in the construction industry. It is reliable work since pavement requires constant upkeep. Every year, hundreds of thousands of construction professionals across America earn a living maintaining the public assets that we use each day.
Why This and not That
Some distressed roads need to be fixed right away, some don’t. Pavement management involves prioritizing projects with limited rehabilitation dollars. How do public works professionals make these decisions? Objectively. In pavement management, road segments are assigned a score depending on their overall quality; this is known as a PCI or Pavement Condition Index. Depending on the PCI score of a street, professionals will use pavement management software to recommend suggested rehab treatments and factor in the average cost. Pavement management software is important because most agencies can’t prioritize repairs without a clear understanding of their overall network, and the costs of repairing one segment of road over another.
A successful pavement management program develops an accurate performance model of a roadway, and then identifies the optimal timing and rehabilitation strategy for its needs. The benefits of this exercise are long-term cost savings and an increase in pavement quality over time. Ultimately, better bang for your buck.
The city managers have a responsibility to maintain taxpayer-funded assets and keep records of their efforts. This provision is known as GASB 34, and it is a financial accountability standard issued by the Government Accounting Standards Board in the United States. In 1999, when GASB 34 was published, the GASB Chairman lauded the effort as, “The most significant change to occur in the history of government financial reporting.” And given the sheer value of pavement assets and the number of people they impact, we at IMS tend to agree. Become involved, and make sure you know how your tax dollars are being spent. Accountability is a responsibility for us all, and the only viable path forward for a system designed by and for the people.
Remember “Infrastructure Week”? It went from a good-faith effort to focus on our country’s growing infrastructure needs, to a recurring internet joke. The meme of Infrastructure Week almost perfectly sums up America’s attitude towards infrastructure projects over the past several decades. Everyone talks big on fixing our roads, bridges and buildings, but when it comes down to action…Squirrel!
While it remains to be seen if anything actually gets done, it feels like the first time in a while that an actual infrastructure bill is feasible. Many of us are finding the details of these infrastructure plans of meaningful consequence. Let’s take a look at some of the actions included in the newest infrastructure plan, called Build Back Better.
Nearly 20% of the roads in this county are in “Poor” condition (FHWA 2017) with the construction backlog piling up into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Many of these areas have seen dramatic increases in backlog over the past several years, to the point where many local agencies cannot spend money fast enough to dig themselves out of the hole. Typically local agencies appeal to the state for funds when they are underwater, but with state tax revenue and unemployment numbers fluctuating as a result of the ongoing pandemic many states are hesitant to release large sums of money for road work.
The initial proposal is to immediately inject $50 billion over the first year of the administration with the goal of kickstarting the process of repairing existing roads, highways, and bridges. A key component of this proposal is that while a lot of this money will go to the state, much of it will be received directly by cities and towns. This last point is important, as it recognizes that the majority of our roads are maintained by local agencies. We will certainly keep a sharp eye on this money, and so should you.
Invest in Complete Streets
The next goal in the Build Back Better agenda is to work with the U.S. Senate to increase funding for key safety initiatives like the highway safety improvement program. The U.S. DOT will work with local agencies to build “complete streets”, which are streets designed to improve access to roads for pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation, as well as automobiles. The availability of “complete streets” will encourage the use of sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transportation; increasing public safety while promoting a wider range of travel options.
Stabilize the Highway Trust Fund
The Highway Trust Fund is a fuel tax from which proceeds are used to maintain and repair existing roads and bridges, as well as to fund public transportation projects. This effort has traditionally received bi-partisan support as an effective way to fund our pavement infrastructure. The Build Back Better infrastructure agenda seeks alternate revenue sources to stabilize the program. This coincides with the goal of increasing federal investments for electric vehicles. As electric vehicles rise as a viable competitor to the internal combustion engine, gas taxes, such as the Highway Trust Fund will pull in smaller revenues, in-turn driving the need for alternative sources of funding for the program.
Ambitious Transition to Electric Vehicles
Dozens of countries around the world have dedicated themselves to the ambitious goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. Japan, the U.K., Germany, and even the world’s largest emitter, China, have all dedicated themselves to this goal in service of curbing the effects of climate change on our planet. The U.S., in addition to rejoining the rest of the world in the Paris Climate Accord, is also determined to reach net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. To that end, the Build Back Better agenda has proposed major federal subsidies to electric vehicles, including the full restoration of the electric-vehicle tax credit, to encourage families and businesses alike to shift to electric powered vehicles.
These efforts will be supported by a planned $5 billion over 5-years investment into battery and energy storage technology. The goal is to enable Americans to travel anywhere in the country in an electric vehicle by 2030. Finally, the plan calls for a joint effort by the department of energy and the department of transportation to develop new electric vehicle infrastructure and provide grants to local agencies that invest in new charging infrastructure, such as highway pavement technology which charges electric vehicles while in transit.
With so many lofty infrastructure goals and many billions of dollars in funding needed, let’s all keep a close eye on the Build Back Better agenda and ensure that this administration is held accountable to the promises it makes and goals it sets.
With the many challenges of 2020, many municipalities weren’t able to accomplish everything they had planned. If your agency is looking to make up for lost ground in 2021, here are a few tips that you should keep in mind when it comes to Pavement Management.
Knowledge is Power: Survey Your Pavement
If it has been 3-5 years since you last looked into surveying the condition of your paved network, perhaps this year is the time to get it done. Road conditions can change dramatically over 3 years, especially if they are already suffering from load associated distresses or drainage problems. IMS recommends doing a semi-automated survey using the latest and greatest laser survey technology. Using the latest technology to provide comprehensive pavement information is our bread and butter. But even if your agency wants to go with a boots on the ground type of walking survey, that is still an incredible leap forward in your agency’s ability to manage the pavement network. Just make sure that whatever data you get is organized by GIS and properly sorted into the asset management system of your choosing.
Know What You Have: Build Right-of-Way Asset Inventories
In addition to a network of pavements, your network of right-of-way assets cannot be overlooked. There are two common ways to inventory these assets. The first is by using imagery that was captured during a pavement survey. If a semi-automated survey is being conducted on your pavement assets, look into whether the surveyor is capable of capturing images of street signs, pavement markings and the like. Since the images will already be linked to GIS, these assets can be recorded into your asset management system by reviewing all the imagery manually. This is generally a reasonably cost sensitive method for collecting assets, so long as it is done at the same time as a pavement survey.
The other, more efficient and slightly more specialized, method is to record right-of-way assets through the use of a LiDAR point cloud. This requires a specialized LiDAR vehicle to drive the pavement network recording data that then must be analyzed and organized into an asset database. A major benefit of this method is that the LiDAR survey is capable of capturing additional data that may be incredibly useful to your agency. A common asset that is collected through this means is pedestrian curb ramps. Sophisticated LiDAR analysis can provide measurements of these curb ramps to ensure that they comply with updated ADA standards. Taking measurements like this through standard imagery would not be possible, and a walking survey of this type of asset is extremely time consuming.
Make Good Decisions: Incorporate Cost of Deferral
When working with a limited budget, the goal is to maximize the value of each dollar. To that end, IMS recommends that agencies adopt a cost of deferral based approach to pavement rehabilitation. This means capturing roads before they deteriorate into a more expensive rehab category. If a road needs an overlay this year, but deterioration projections suggest that it will need a base reconstruction next year, a cost of deferral approach will prioritize this road in order to save money in the long run. Conversely, if the deterioration suggest that the road can survive a few more years before falling to a more expensive rehab category, the road will be deferred so that the resources can be used on a road that is more urgently in need of service. Adopting this approach to pavement management will consistently save an agency money and maximize the value of each pavement rehabilitation dollar. Complete and accurate data collection, and an organized database of streets is a necessary precursor to this approach.
Is it possible that after everything we have been through in 2020, 2021 can be the year we get back on track addressing the infrastructure assets that our lives and business depend on? That is the focus at IMS, and we hope that you join us in the efforts.
If you are involved with public works management, chances are you are one of the few that truly understand the time, effort, and money that goes into maintaining right-of-way assets throughout your city. When drivers pull their car up to a traffic signal, or merge into a turn lane marked by a painted pavement surface, it is easy for them to take for granted the vital
assets that help manage the flow of thousands of vehicles each day. It is only when these assets are damaged or missing that their value is truly recognized.
Municipalities must determine where the assets are and how many assets they maintain. The first step to organizing this information is performing a right-of-way asset survey. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the end result is similar; an organized database of signs, signals, markings, and more is compiled together. The assets should then be organized using GIS information and plotted to a map of the city.
In addition to the primary goal of improving public safety, local governments may also be subject to regulatory statutes such as GASB 34 that require municipalities to act as good stewards in maintaining these assets. Some states even issue guidelines on proper street sign maintenance and “best practices”. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, for example, has created a thorough overview of the expectations, processes, and literature in reference to their right-of-way assets. Guides such as this one are used by city planners and public works teams throughout the country to plan and maintain their traffic sign inventories.
Wherever there are government regulations, there are bound to be lawyers eagerly awaiting an opportunity to pounce on a municipal government for a failure to fully comply with them. A simple Google search for “missing street sign” will return a litany of local lawyers who actively seek civil damages for their clients in these specific cases; yet another reason for local governments to keep track of their assets and expedite repairs.
A city that can track everything they are required to maintain and properly document repairs proactively improves public safety and expedites right of way maintenance. Information is entered into the record and proper measures are taken to fix the issue as soon as a call is received and before a missing stop sign or failing traffic light can lead to an injury. Demonstrating the ability to track asset repairs may also be important for avoiding potential legal concerns associated with the upkeep of city owned assets.
If you are part of a team tasked with managing thousands of right-of-way assets the value of an organized asset database is not lost on you. Take the leap towards improving public safety and accountability in your city by preparing a GIS integrated database of all right-of-way assets. Just as drivers look to the street signs, city managers can look to the asset database to ensure they are headed in the right direction.
Over the past decade Americans have been clamoring for a focus on infrastructure. As we watch our roads and bridges fall into disrepair, many are left wondering if some of these infrastructure challenges will ever be addressed at the federal level. Though it may be impossible to predict the next big move in Washington, DC, citizens can rest assured that their local governments have not taken their eye off the infrastructure ball, and improvements are always just around the corner. One of the largest investments in infrastructure on the local level, are roads, sidewalks, and right-of-way assets. There are 3 main reasons why local municipalities will not give up on protecting these assets.
The first and most obvious reason to invest in infrastructure management is public safety. By identifying where sidewalks and roads have begun to fail, municipalities can act quickly and responsibly to address areas of potential concern, and improve public safety within the community. This could include filling a pothole on a busy road, eliminating tripping hazards on popular sidewalk routes, ensuring pedestrian curb ramps conform to modern standards, or even improving the visibility and retroreflectivity of a stop sign at a busy intersection. By conducting regular scheduled surveys of these assets, local governments can address public safety concerns before anyone gets hurt. Maintaining and improving public safety is the primary charge given to municipal infrastructure managers. Surveying their assets is an integral first step in this task.
Another reason why municipalities survey their infrastructure assets is to protect the taxpayers investments into city infrastructure. Every year local governments around the country spend millions of dollars in taxpayer funds on infrastructure improvements to sidewalks, streets, and right-of-way assets like pavement markings and street signs. Government regulations such as GASB-34 lay out the guidelines for keeping local agencies accountable for how that money is spent. By conducting infrastructure asset surveys and seeking an independent 3rd party to analyze the data and provide feedback, local governments can provide data that backs their use of infrastructure funds. This process not only satisfies the government regulatory requirements, but it helps improve the transparency that should exist between a local government and their constituents.
Securing Additional Funds
One common reason why a local municipality is likely to seek out a 3rd party consultant for infrastructure management is simply because they need more money. The sad reality in this country is that local governments are frequently and tragically underfunded for managing the assets they are tasked with maintaining. By providing an independent 3rd party expert analysis of their infrastructure needs, local municipalities can secure much needed funding. This is why objective data is key. If an objective, data-driven 3rd party report determines your agency to be underfunded, that same report can be used to gain additional funding from the state. This is extremely common and will likely continue until a broader infrastructure funding plan is passed down from the highest levels of government. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
At IMS we could point to any of the reasons above to justify our significance to the industry, but there is another important value that we tend to focus on even more. IMS exists to protect the bonds of trust between local governments and their constituents. The trust that exists between the citizen and their representatives is foundational to our system of government. By providing our clients with the best possible data and analysis, they can make informed, data-driven decisions, and maintain the bonds of trust with the communities they serve.
Around the country, sidewalks have become major focus areas for infrastructure improvements. Like roadways, sidewalks can display a variety of distresses, from small cracks to severe faults, these distresses should be tracked and addressed by the city to improve public safety and ensure ADA compliance. Some of the most common sidewalk distresses are listed below:
Cracking is the most common sidewalk distress. In inches, a low severity crack will be less than 0.5 inches in width, while severe cracking is anything greater than 1 inch. Typically cracking does not impact the utility of a sidewalk to a degree which renders it inoperable, but severe cracking can be a precursor to more severe distresses, such as faulting. Cracks in sidewalks are not frequently addressed due to the nature of most concrete sidewalks. Rather than replacing an entire panel of concrete, municipalities generally wait until more severe distresses begin impacting the segment before repairs are issued. It is still helpful to know where sidewalk cracking has begun to form, so accurate budgeting and repair plans can be agreed on ahead of time
Faulting is what happens when severe cracks are left alone for too long. The sidewalk eventually breaks apart at the cracked seams and falls away to create large gaps. While a low severity fault can be as small as ½ an inch, high severity faults are anything larger than 1 full inch. Sidewalk faults can expand quickly and may even grow to the point of limiting pedestrian and ADA travel.
Shattered Slabs happen when a segment of sidewalk has been broken up so significantly that parts of the sidewalk are jostled out of place or missing completely. Segments displaying this form of distress severely restrict ADA travel and often present tripping hazards to pedestrian traffic. These segments must be dug out and replaced to return the sidewalk to full service.
Weeds/foliage tend to have significant impacts on neglected segments of sidewalk. Often this comes in conjunction with severe cracking and faulting, where the distressed areas have begun to grow foliage. This has an impact on travel, but it also accelerates the rate of deterioration on the segment. This type of distress is frequently considered an obstruction, rather than a sidewalk defect. In the example image below, the foliage was so invasive as to restrict travel on the segment of sidewalk, and prevent an accurate distress survey from being completed.
Obstructions are calculated and considered separately from the SWCI and should rank higher on the priority for the City to fix. There are two reasons for this. First is the consideration of ADA liability, where even a single obstruction on an overall Excellent SWCI-rated sidewalk will count the entire segment as a failure to comply with ADA regulations. Next is the cost consideration; a majority of obstructions are inexpensive and easily fixed problems. Foliage can be trimmed back, garbage and recycle receptacles can be repositioned so that they do not block the sidewalk and tripping hazards can often be smoothed over without spending a lot of capital.
IMS prioritizes sidewalk rehabs based on need, not worst-first. This methodology seeks to catch a sidewalk when it reaches the steepest point in its deterioration curve, and rehabilitate it to extend the overall lifespan of the sidewalk. Where a sidewalk falls on its deterioration curve is based on the sum of distress deducts gathered from an analysis of the survey recordings. Some distress, such as shattered slab, may impact the deterioration of a sidewalk far more than others. The analysis seeks to optimize rehabilitation funds by spending money in a manner that prolongs the lifespan of sidewalks while minimizing the rate that they fall into more expensive rehabilitation strategies, such as panel replacement.
A lot of the focus around pavement management deals with building a defensible plan for scheduling your planned work. The idea of a “Defensible” plan may mean different things to different people, but to us it means building a foundation based on pavement management best practices and data driven decisions. With the economic effects from the Covid-19 virus pandemic still crippling local government budgets across the country, now more than ever it is important to have a data-driven plan to defend the use of tax dollars.
Sound PMP Logic = Defensibility
Remain data driven even if your management funds have been cut. It is more important than ever when dealing with a tight budget. Setting up the logic and parameters within your pavement management program is one of the most important steps towards achieving this goal. Focus on prioritization. Have a conversation with your team to help determine what prioritization strategy is best for the local conditions that you face. What has worked in the past may not be what is best for the present.
Make sure your prioritization has a focus on cost of deferral. This, in effect, is a cost benefit analysis on the deferral of streets. You know you cannot fix every road in the network, so focus on the ones that are close to falling into a more expensive rehab group. One of the best ways to determine which roads will deteriorate the quickest is to perform deflection testing, or focus on LADD (Load Associated Distress Deducts). Roads with higher concentrations of load associated distresses will deteriorate much quicker and may need to be prioritized higher.
Another great way to limit the amount of work your agency is considering in any given year is to pay attention to ‘critical” or “need year” selections. Roads in these groups have been determined by the factors mentioned above to be at risk of falling into a more expensive rehab category if left alone for another year. Deferral of roads in their need year will just mean that in the years to come, more and more expensive rehab options will be required to return the road to full service. If your agency is facing budget constraints and is looking to limit the number of rehab projects in the next few years, one of the very best ways is to focus primarily on projects in that are in their “need year”.
Pivoting on Project Sizes
A great way to reduce expenses on pavement maintenance is to simply do smaller projects. The Neighborhood approach is certainly spatially efficient, but this is at the cost of optimizing rehab selections and performing non-critical work. A community may prefer an entire neighborhood to be rehabilitated at one time, but when funds are tight, non-critical work should be delayed.
The Block-to-block project selection scheme is another, common, yet extremely inefficient rehab plan. This approach presents the complete opposite problem from the neighborhood approach in that project selections are scattered and, often, extremely small. The rehab map will end up looking like a shotgun blast of scattered rehab selections and mobilization cost will take a serious bite out of the limited rehabilitation funds.
The “onstreet” and “onstreet/side street” approach is preferred in situations where municipalities face an uncertain budgetary forecast. The reason is that projects are large enough to be coherent, but not so large that non-critical work is done. This approach is very good at a maintenance plan that focuses on a few select arterial and collector streets with the occasional local road or alleyway mixed in. It is also one of the easier methods to mobilize for, because projects are more often than not, selected areas recommending a similar rehab strategy.
Resilient PMP Operations
A sad reality of the pandemic economy and the uncertainty that it creates is that many municipalities are faced with staff reductions, early retirements, and furloughs. Navigating through staff reductions can be difficult in an industry like pavement management, where is it not always easy to find candidates with the unique skill sets and training that many have spent decades nurturing. The best ways to manage through a staffing crunch is to have a backup plan. Cross-training is effective, if it is presented the right way. Cross training should be seen as an opportunity, not an obligation. Encourage staff to cross train in an area that they are interested in. Maybe that is GIS, maybe it is QC; if a staff member is training in something that they see value in, the training itself becomes a reward, not a burden. Be careful, however, to set boundaries on training, so that the agency doesn’t lose entire weeks on training activities.
Consider developing a network of consultants with specialized skills that can be on-call, in case the need arises. It is always more cost efficient to manage an ongoing consultant relationship than it is to frantically contract for a last minute emergency. Bringing new consultants up to speed on your PMP needs should not be a last minute endeavor.
Expand your Toolkit
There are literally hundreds of rehab techniques and just as many contractors that will eagerly accept the work. Work with neighboring municipalities and local groups to seek out new and innovative rehab strategies for your pavement network. Even the state asphalt/concrete association may provide contacts or strategies that can save your agency time and money. Connect with local contractors about the rehab strategies that they are best at, and work together to optimize their effectiveness. Design level suggestions from a local pavement engineer may open the door to innovative maintenance strategies, and cost-effective solutions.
A pavement management system is a network level program that forecasts budgets and prioritizes projects; it is not a substitute for design level work. Before your agency dedicates itself to a maintenance project, make sure an in-the-field confirmation supports the planned work. Network level testing helps develop the budgets, while project level testing completes the design. Collaboration with local utility companies can be a great strategy. When planning new project level work, connect with local gas/electric/internet/water providers and see if there are areas where collaboration and cost sharing is applicable.
Sidewalk Condition and ADA Compliance
Sidewalks, pedestrian curb ramps, and curb and gutter repairs can significantly impact your PMP. Ignoring ADA is not an option. Just like with pavement management, a complete inventory and assessment can help identify the potential costs associated with ADA compliance, and a good-faith effort to adhere to the ADA is an absolute requirement for all agencies, no matter the size. Just as with street repairs, make sure to reach out to local utilities for collaborative opportunities when performing maintenance. Sidewalks surrounding parks, schools, and downtown areas generally receive more pedestrian traffic than the other sidewalks in town. Recognize that your budget may limit the areas where sidewalk rehabilitation work can be done, and work with your team to identify the most highly trafficked sidewalks to focus on first.
Successful Management in an Underfunded Covid Environment
Hopefully this has provided you with a few actionable suggestions for improving your pavement management strategies during these uncertain times. Always remember that roads must be treated as an asset, and it is far more cost effective to maintain a good road than to rebuild a failed one. Try your best to achieve the steady state level of funding, which is the minimum funding requirement to maintain the network average. Funding under this level ensures heavier rehab costs years down the road. Review your management strategies and rehab activities, there are inefficiencies waiting to be found, and you want to catch them before they incur additional costs. Finally, having a defensible strategy minimizes outside influences and allows your agency to operate with minimal disruptions. IMS wishes your agency the best in navigating this crisis that we all face, and we will always be happy to connect with you on any subject that our expertise favors. Stay healthy.
It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced significant disruptions on virtually every industry in our economy. In addition to the massive unemployment and devastating hit to our country’s GDP, we are now faced with an unclear assessment of the long term impact on sales tax revenue. For those in the infrastructure and asset management industries, the uncertainty that clouds tax revenue forecasts presents an immediate challenge.
IMS recently held a live webinar discussing some of these impacts both short and long term. We also identified several solutions that municipalities may wish to fall back on as they see their annual budget getting slashed and redistributed to deal with the, still-ongoing, public health crisis.
Pavement managers are challenged with selecting the “winners and losers” of the annual maintenance plan in a defensible manner. The need to provide clear justification for a pavement management plan becomes increasingly more important as budgets tighten and city councils suddenly understand how expensive pavement maintenance and upkeep is. To this end, we hope that these quick tips will help your agency manage its way through the Covid-19 economic fallout.
Level of Service –
One of the very first steps towards realizing a successful pavement management plan is to determine a desired level of service. The arterial network will average a PCI of 75 while the local network will average a PCI of 60. Setting overarching goals such as this will help your agency both to plan for an annual budget, but also to identify where a lot of the upcoming maintenance activities will take place. Will the upcoming several years be full of chip seals, or will they be inundated with reconstruction projects? Setting level of service goals is a great first step toward creating a defensible management plan.
Identify Limitations of Software and Capacity
Pavement management is a complex process and with thousands of segments of road to consider, it is impossible to administer effectively without the aid of modern software programs. But just having any software to aid in the management of your pavement assets is not the solution. It is important to understand the limitations of both the software, as well as your own team.
Some software solutions are rigid. The program may only allow for one specific type of segmentation, or perhaps be unable to process specific types of information, such as IRI or deflection data. If you run an agency that performs deflection testing, or has an interest in the roughness rating of streets, this software may not be appropriate for you.
On the other hand, some programs present an extreme opposite and open configuration. They are fully customizable and can fit the needs of almost any agency, with an important exception. They require a very high level of technical competency to manage. Keep in mind that, to this point, about 1/3 of software implementations just sit on the shelf. In these cases it may be prudent to have an on-call consultant that can run models and present you with data when it is needed. When you are running an asset management agency that is strapped for funds, the last thing you want to spend money on is an overly robust software solution that your team lacks the proper training to tackle.
bSelect an appropriate Data Collection Method
Models are only as good as the data that goes into them. So, just as you should apply a high degree of scrutiny to your management software, you should apply an equal amount of attention to the data collection process. There are various considerations for data collection, walking/sampling, windshield surveys, and semi-automated data collection to name a few. All are valid and acceptable, but understanding the pros and cons of each will help you to select the form which best fits your agency’s needs.
Walking/sampling may be sufficient for an agency that has predetermined a few select areas where the data will be applied and does not have a large network of streets. It would not be ideal for a vast county network with hundreds of centerline miles of pavement stretched out across a large area. Conversely, a semi-automated survey may be ideal for a large network with varying pavement types and conditions, but not ideal for an agency that lacks the time or resources to perform the rigorous QC processes which are required for semi-automated data.
It is also worth considering past collection methods. If a past survey was done with an automated approach, it may not be appropriate to compare the results to a new survey that is done via windshield. The goal should be to minimize the limitations with the data collection method that your agency chooses.
With your level of service goals identified, your software chosen, and your data collection underway, it is now time to educate your team on the concept of equity removal. Pavement infrastructure should be thought of as an asset. It is the most expensive visible asset your municipality maintains, thus it should be managed with the concept of equity in mind. When a pavement analysis is completed, you will be presented with a budget that represents the minimum level of funding required to maintain your agency’s current condition. IMS refers to this as the “Steady State Budget”.
Now, recognize that any amount of funding that is less than the annual steady state budget will incur an additional debt in the form of pavement deterioration. This debt must eventually be repaid in the form of heavier and heavier rehab activities. This money must come from somewhere, so if you are planning to be underfunded, you must also have a plan for recovery. Luckily, many pavement management software solutions have built in functions to help predict the deterioration of the network very accurately, and can therefore help agencies plan for when they will have the funds to reinvest back into the pavement management system. Just remember that the funds will need to be reinvested in the future.
Selecting level of service goals, software and a data collection method should be the first steps toward guiding a successful pavement management program. With the pandemic still causing unpredictable devastation on our communities, as well as our pocket books, the idea of equity when thinking of pavement management needs to become intuitive to your team. These concepts should be enough to get you thinking, but we are just getting started. Next week we will dive straight in to some PMP parameters configurations, as well as some additional considerations of pavement management, such as the need for ADA compliance.
Since 1985, IMS Infrastructure Management Services (IMS) has operated as the premier pavement and right-of-way (ROW) asset management firm across the United States. IMS is a dedicated pavement management consulting firm that operates a fleet of advanced mobile data collection vehicles equipped with millimetre level scanning devices called the Laser Crack Measurement System 2 (LCMS2). Our team completes over 100 pavement and asset management implementations across North America annually, and we stand second to none in our ability to establish cost-effective maintenance management programs for large and small agencies alike.
While IMS has a large national footprint, we also have a local mindset. Not only has IMS been maintaining the pavement management services for local governments around the country for years, we also have pavement engineers and staff throughout the country that take great pride in work within their neighboring communities. As a result of our experience across the United States, the IMS team has an unparalleled understanding of many local roadway conditions, ASTM D6433 protocols, software configurations, and enhanced customized prioritization techniques that have been customized for local needs.
Our philosophy is based on the provision of quality pavement condition data for the implementation of multi-year pavement management plans. As illustrated in the map above, our extensive reach throughout the United States provides IMS with a unique understanding of the pavement condition in cities of varying sizes, conditions and locally-based management strategies. IMS utilizes this knowledge in combination with local maintenance practices and capabilities to develop and provide comprehensive 5-year maintenance management programs. IMS is the only pavement management consultant who has enough local, regional, and national expertise to offer such a wide ranging comparison across multiple software platforms for PCI reporting.
Whether your pavement management needs are for an airport in Providence, a sidewalk in Pasadena or any of the thousands of miles of pavement in-between, you can be sure that IMS has the experience and local knowledge to lead your project to success.
Our approach, and key service differentiator, is based on three, time proven fundamentals:
Answer the questions that are being asked - don’t over-engineer the project or make it needlessly complicated. Databases and the application of technology are meant to simplify asset management, not make it more difficult.
Service and quality are paramount to success – the right blend of technically correct data, condition rating, and reporting will provide the agency with long-term, stable solutions. Providing effective and reliable service to the client remains our top priority.
Local understanding and communication is key – it is important that all stakeholders understand the impacts of their decisions, and have the system outputs react accordingly. We excel in making ourselves readily available and familiar with local needs and conditions.
The core functions of the IMS model include: objective data collection, software configuration, and comprehensive analysis of results.
Specialized Focus - IMS has over 35 years of experience dedicated specifically to pavement and asset management solutions, providing the client an unrivaled range of expertise and service.
No Boundaries - With clients ranging from Florida to British Columbia, and nearly everywhere in between, IMS excels at offering top class services to all clients, regardless of location.
Quality Assurance - Ensuring consistent quality of pavement condition data is just as important as collecting the data. Each step in the data collection process has been designed to require the data to pass a certain standard or validation before moving on to the next stage, or be returned to the source for correction.
Tailored Customer Service Not all municipal agencies are the same, nor can they implement identical solutions. IMS excels at tailoring solutions for each agency. Instead of being a discrete consultant, IMS strives to become an extension of the agency’s staff. We work together to create a custom solution.
Want to learn more about setting up a pavement management program in your city? Check out "Designing and Implementing a Pavement Management System" - An IMS Whitepaper