This year, and every year for the foreseeable future, your city, town, or county is likely to spend millions of dollars maintaining their pavement infrastructure. Large municipalities frequently spend upwards of 5 million dollars or more every year to maintain their roads. This is because the pavement network that you utilize every day is the single most valuable visible asset that a city owns and maintains.
Constant and ever-increasing traffic on these streets means that the pavement network is consistently deteriorating. The City must take an active, preventative maintenance approach if they want to prevent such a vital asset from deteriorating to the point where costly reconstruction is needed. In the pavement management industry this is called, “Pavement Rehabilitation”.
If you are planning a pavement survey or just curious about the process, the PCI score is one of the most important figures to understand. PCI is an abbreviation for Pavement Condition Index. Created by the Army Corp of Engineers, PCI is a number on a scale from 1-100 that is used to summarize the overall condition of a roadway segment.
The PCI score of a road segment can be used to recommend potentially viable rehabilitation methods, costs of repairs, and even to make predictions on the future condition of pavement infrastructure. This makes the task of calculating an accurate PCI score of considerable importance. But how is PCI calculated?
When the time comes to plan a pavement condition survey for your city, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind. Which software do you use? What functional classes will you survey? Do you want to include structural condition data? At IMS, one of the most common questions we are asked is how conducting a deflection test will affect the overall analysis results, and how that might impact budgeting decisions. Let’s examine that question further, using a real world example.
What happens when the base of a road fails? You can expect to see cracks spreading rapidly, for one. These cracks will often compound into a variety of other distresses, resulting in severe raveling and the formation of potholes. Soon the roadway conditions become undrivable and even dangerous. Expensive reconstruction is the only option.
Deflection testing is the process by which the structural strength of a road’s base is measured. By understanding the strength of a pavement base, a municipality can have a better idea of the future rate of deterioration on that street. This leads to better condition and budget projections as well as more accurate rehabilitation plans.
With billions of tax dollars being spent around the country on maintaining pavement infrastructure it is important to know how to spot a road in need of repair, before those repairs become critical and expensive. Some road rehabilitations are far cheaper than others and can help prolong a pavement segment’s lifespan while sensibly optimizing a city’s budget.
The most important things to recognize when doing a visual survey of a street are the types and quantities of pavement distresses that are present. The distresses measured can reflect the rehabilitation method that is best suited for each road segment. They can also provide a glimpse into the future condition of a roadway if it does not receive any rehab treatment. So, what are the different types of pavement distresses and how do they impact the overall lifespan and cost of rehabilitating a road?
Nationwide, billions of dollars are invested in roadway networks by municipal, state and federal governments. It is not uncommon for the smallest municipalities to spend upwards of 1 million dollars per mile of roadway. This means that even very small municipal districts could be sitting on a 100 million dollar infrastructure asset that needs to be maintained. A roadway network that is taken care of properly will provide many economic and social advantages to a city, as well as its people.
Roadway networks form the economic backbone of a community. They provide means for goods to be exchanged, commerce to flourish and commercial enterprises to generate revenue. Higher pavement network quality is strongly correlated with increased household incomes, and provides a valuable incentive to attract new businesses and other outside investments.
On top of the economic boons, the social benefits of a well-maintained pavement network cannot be overstated. Increased social integration promotes diversity, a greater sense of community, and reduced income inequality throughout a city.