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are “Best Practices” for Michigan’s Roads and Bridges

 

By Rick Olson
September
7, 2012

 

Getting value for our taxpayers’ money is critical in spending our limited dollars for road and bridge maintenance. Applying the principles of asset management and pavement preservation are ways Michigan road agencies are attempting to get the biggest bang for our bucks.

“The term ‘asset management’ means a strategic and systematic process of operating, maintaining, and improving physical assets, with a focus on both engineering and economic analysis based upon quality information, to identify a structured sequence of maintenance, preservation, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement actions that will achieve and sustain a desired state of good repair over the lifecycle of the assets at minimum practicable cost.’’ H. R. 4348 (2012) MAP-21 Sec. 1103(2) (The new law passed this summer authorizing the Federal highway program for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 named “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”, but more commonly called MAP-21.)

 

“Pavement preservation” methods are the techniques used to implement "asset management", i.e., a structured sequence of cost-effective capital preventive maintenance, preservation, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement actions that will achieve and sustain a desired state of good repair over the lifecycle of the assets at minimum practicable cost.

 

“The goal of infrastructure preservation is to cost-effectively and efficiently improve asset performance, as measured by attributes such as ride quality, safety, and service life.

 

Infrastructure preservation programs represent a departure from traditional approaches to maintenance, in which deficiencies are addressed as they occur. Preservation seeks to reduce the rate of deterioration.

 

The preventive approach is generally less costly and time-consuming than the traditional, more reactive approach. However, a strategy of prevention may be more difficult to justify because the public’s expectation is that the worst roads demand immediate attention. Furthermore, the public often interprets activities related to pavement preservation as “fixing something that isn’t broken.”

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[T]ools such as life-cycle cost analysis . . .  have the potential to demonstrate that implementation of a preservation strategy may cost less over the life of an asset than more “traditional” approaches that wait until the deficiencies are evident.” http://www.pavementpreservation.org/library/getfile.php?journal_id=628

 

In selecting an optimal pattern of preservation practices, one considers the normal life cycle of a specific stretch of pavement and performs the appropriate “fix” at the appropriate time to lengthen the useful life of the pavement at the lowest life cycle cost. Doing the preventive maintenance early in the pavement’s life extends the life of the pavement at a much lower cost per lane mile life than postponing any treatments until the pavement needs more drastic and more expensive treatments.

 

Most people understand this concept, which is why we change the oil in our cars rather than wait for the engine to fail. “Pay me now, or pay me MUCH more later,” as the oil change ad says.

 

So how do you incorporate a sound Capital Preventive Maintenance (“CPM”) element into an overall asset management program? In asset management we are MANAGING GROUPS OF PAVEMENTS not simply individual road segments. This is a critical distinction.

 

When considering an entire network of roads, whether it be a statewide network such as the state trunkline system MDOT is responsible for administering, or the roads that a county road commission is responsible for, an additional analysis is required.

 

This additional level of analysis is more complicated than will be discussed here (but discussed in exceptional clarity in Larry Galehouse’s presentation). Suffice it to say here that responding to political pressure and fixing the worst roads (“worst first”) will not purchase the optimal increases in lane mile lives. That is, not only do we need to select the right fix at the right time, but also on the right roads to fully implement pavement preservation into the asset management program. To preserve or increase the value of the transportation system asset the road agency is responsible for, the right combination of roads need to be worked on utilizing the limited resources utilizing the appropriate fix for the condition of the road.

 

With today's limited resources, pavement preservation must take top priority in the spending of our transportation dollars. Taxpayers are demanding value for money spent on all government services, including roads and bridges.

 

P.S. (Some of these cost effective pavement preservation methods implemented in Michigan were highlighted at the August 16 “Best Practices Conference on Road and Bridge Maintenance” held in Lansing. The presentations from the conference can be viewed here.

See Pavement Preservation Concepts for more specific discussion of the selection of the various methods to be the "right fix on the right place at the right time".