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.