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.