Ensuring the longevity of local roads
Cities and counties of all sizes have adopted pavement management systems (PMSs) to extend the lives of their paved streets and to stretch the taxpayer’s dollar. Cheyenne, Wyo., is no exception; the city has adopted a PMS to assist with scheduling and tracking street maintenance and repairs.
“If we look at the lifespan of 20-year pavement, its rating of excellent to fair condition would last only 12 to 15 years,” the city’s Public Works Department reports on its Web site. “Within 15 to 20 years, its rating would fall below fair to completely failed. In order to extend pavement life, maintenance and repairs need to be scheduled and performed before the surface falls to a fair condition.”
Pavement management saves time and money, according to the online report. “Scheduling and performing street maintenance and repairs is considerably less [costly] than completely rebuilding the streets every 15 to 20 years,” the department notes. “For every $1 spent on maintenance and repairs, it would cost $4 to $5 to rebuild the same streets.”
Cheyenne relies on pavement management software to assist with scheduling and tracking maintenance. Roadway condition data is recorded using the software program, and the data is updated continuously. The program lists all streets that need to be scheduled for maintenance or repairs.
After a list of road repair needs is generated from the computer analysis, a pavement management team evaluates each road segment to determine the highest priorities. The evaluation is done in coordination with other agencies, such as utility companies, to arrange work schedules years in advance.
Like Cheyenne, any community can take advantage of PMS tools and methods to assist decision-makers with evaluation and maintenance of pavements. The systems can help local governments extend pavement life, better manage budgets and track assets for compliance with GASB 34.
Preservation is the goal
Pavement management and pavement preservation are linked inseparably. In fact, according to the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, preservation is achieved by “applying the right maintenance treatment to the right road at the right time.”
“Pavement preservation has become an important topic in the pavement community in the last few years,” said Roger Smith, pavement program project manager for the Texas Transportation Institute (an affiliate of the Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University, College Station) at a January meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). “Preventive maintenance is a vital part of pavement preservation. All state and most local agencies use pavement management systems to assist in making decisions about pavement maintenance and rehabilitation. Pavement management decision-making processes must support pavement preservation.
“As pavement management systems, pavement preservation programs and pavement preventive maintenance programs are each described, there is a tendency to identify them as three different, independent programs,” Smith said. “However, if [you] look deeper at these three programs, [you] can see definite interrelationships that allow [for use of] one set of data and one set of analysis tools for all three, if they are properly developed.”
According to Smith, a PMS should incorporate specific elements if it is to be useful in pavement preservation. It should include:
a method of identifying segments to which preventive maintenance or minor rehabilitation should be applied;
models that can be used to project the condition of pavement segments with and without treatment;
a ranking approach that considers preventive maintenance; and
analysis over a period long enough to show the impact of not applying preventive maintenance.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) of the San Francisco Bay Area has integrated those elements in its PMS. (The system was developed in response to state requirements for transportation grant funding. To receive funding from the federal Surface Transportation Program or California’s Transportation Improvement Program, California local governments must certify that they have a PMS. The certification requires that the system have an inventory of all existing pavements under the city or county jurisdiction. The inventory must include the number of centerline miles, total lane miles and the date of the last inventory update. The state also requires local governments to identify sections of pavement needing rehabilitation; to determine the total lane miles needing rehabilitation; to estimate the cost of rehabilitating the deficient sections; and to describe the agency’s procedure for identifying rehabilitation strategies that are cost-effective.)
The MTC PMS inventory includes information that defines the pavement sections to be managed. It includes pavement location, limits, size, connectivity to other sections, number of traffic lanes, route designations and functional classification for each section, plus pavement types and past maintenance work.
In the MTC PMS, pavement condition assessment is based on collecting data to determine the type, amount and severity of surface distress for each segment of pavement being managed. “The distress data are used to calculate a pavement condition index (PCI), which is a modification of the PCI used in the American Public Works Association’s PAVER system,” according to Smith. Pavement needs are determined from that information.
Thanks to promotional activities by MTC and a partnership between MTC and the Association of Oregon Counties, the MTC PMS is being used beyond the Bay area. For example, several Oregon counties have adopted the system, as have California cities such as Glendora and Modesto.
Situated in the Los Angeles basin, Glendora has been using its PMS to complete a five-year (1996-2001) program of street improvement projects. The city also is using the system in a 10-year project to restore 100 percent of its pavement network to “excellent condition.”
Glendora is in the first year of its restoration program. According to an online overview of the city’s Pavement Management Program, the strategy for the first year (2001-02) is to upgrade good-condition streets to excellent condition. The city is using slurry seals to bring streets up to par.
A budgeting aid
Although it may at first seem counterproductive to invest resources in pavement of good condition, the practice can make apparently good pavements last much longer. That is the goal in Modesto, where the city is using its PMS to target cost-effective preventive measures.
It is not an easy tactic to pursue. Modesto faces monumental challenges in dealing with an aging infrastructure, according to a report by the city’s Engineering & Transportation Department. “We are seeing many streets that were built in the 1970s and 1980s nearing the end of their economic life,” the report states. “As more signs of aging of our streets become apparent, it becomes increasingly difficult to invest in preventive maintenance of our streets that are still in good condition. It takes discipline to let failing streets decline while you try to preserve those that are not showing obvious signs of distress.”
In addition to helping cities and counties identify pavement in need of maintenance or repair, a PMS can assist in budgeting and targeting resources. For example, it can help officials
determine funds needed to address maintenance and repair;
rank segments needing work;
select feasible funding options and strategies to be tested;
determine the impact of various funding options on the health of the pavement system as well as on the overall welfare of the public;
develop a recommended funding option and funding strategy; and
select sections to be recommended for funding.
“[PMSs] generally provide support for the planning, programming, budgeting and analysis phases,” Smith told attendees of the TRB meeting. “The strategy used to develop a recommended funding option — and to select sections to be recommended for funding — determines whether [a program] is ‘worst-first’ or preservation-oriented.”
Results of a PMS analysis can support recommendations made to legislative, administrative and technical users, and it can interface with asset management systems used for top-level management.
An asset-management tool
Asset management is taking on growing significance in light of Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement 34, which affects financial reporting requirements for major infrastructure assets, including highways, roads and bridges. PMSs, with their inventories of capital assets, will make compliance with GASB 34 easier.
“GASB 34 is going to be an indirect force that will affect every public agency,” says David Peshkin, vice president for Applied Pavement Technology, Downers Grove, Ill. “We see specific implications for agencies with pavement infrastructure. As stewards of those infrastructure investments, [agencies can use PMSs] to track asset value. And, if they’re intent on not losing their bond rating, the PMS will help them maintain that infrastructure value at its current or higher level.”
Conventionally, local governments have used cash accounting methods to report infrastructure capital assets such as transportation structures, and water and sewer treatment facilities. With cash accounting, the capital cost of an infrastructure investment appears in an agency’s annual financial report during the year in which the cost of construction is incurred; the value of existing physical assets does not appear on financial reports.
The value of a jurisdiction’s physical assets is not carried on the books under the cash accounting system. But, in reality, infrastructure, such as bridges and roadways, continues to have value, or usefulness, long after cities and counties have paid the cost of their construction. And, just as other physical assets (e.g., trucks) depreciate in value, the value or fitness of roads, bridges and other physical assets declines over the decades, typically 20 to 50 years.
The new accrual accounting recommended by GASB 34 guidelines offers a more realistic report of an agency’s financial status. The guidelines, which are being phased in for cities of different sizes through 2003, show the existing value of an agency’s capital assets, with the value of an asset spread across the asset’s useful lifetime rather than accounted for in its first year.
The new method of accounting meshes with asset management or pavement management systems. According to GASB, historic costs and depreciation are not effective management tools. “Because effective tools are available, the ‘modified approach’ allowed under GASB 34 — utilizing asset-management systems to monitor infrastructure performance and estimate actual maintenance expenditures required to maintain adequate performance — represents a better course for local and state governments to adopt in conforming to the new requirements,” according to the board.
GASB 34 is bringing government agencies more in line with accounting standards of the business world, and it dovetails with the philosophy of asset management being promoted by FHWA’s Office of Asset Management. The guidelines will be implemented in three phases, based on a government’s total annual revenues in the first fiscal year ending after June 15, 1999.
Phase 1. Governments with total annual revenues (excluding extraordinary items) of $100 million or more should be applying GASB 34 for periods following June 15, 2001.
Phase 2. Governments with at least $10 million but less than $100 million in revenues should apply GASB 34 for periods beginning after June 15, 2002.
Phase 3. Governments with less than $10 million in revenues should apply Statement 34 for periods beginning after June 15, 2003. Earlier application is encouraged.
In addition to supporting asset management for GASB 34, a PMS can be a valuable tool for managing preventive maintenance and budgeting pavement funds. It can serve as a tool for recording assets, setting priorities, scheduling maintenance and repairs, and tracking maintenance efforts. Ultimately, cities and counties that adopt PMSs are using the system to aid in extending pavement life; and that, in turn, extends the life of already-limited local dollars.
Tom Kuennen is principal for The Expressways Publishing Project, based in Wheeling, Ill.
GASB 34 adoption guidelines according to agency revenues Reporting requirements Agency’s annual revenue $100 million or more $10 million to less than $100 million less than $10 million Prospective fiscal year beginning after June 15, 2001 fiscal year beginning after June 15, 2002 fiscal year beginning after June 15, 2003 Retroactive fiscal year beginning after June 15, 2005 fiscal year beginning after June 15, 2006 encouraged but not required to report Source: Center for Transportation Research and Education, Iowa State University