Pavement Management Systems Peer Exchange Program
The funding situation for transportation agencies is not expected to improve in the next several years, forcing agencies to clearly identify investment priorities. As a result, many transportation agencies have instated or are considering asset management as a strategic approach for managing their highway infrastructure. Some of these agencies are taking actions that are directly related to asset management principles, such as shifting funds away from large expansion projects and focusing available funding on the preservation of existing assets. The implementation of costeffective strategies, such as the use of preventive maintenance treatments on roads and highways in good condition, are becoming increasingly important to make the best use of the available funds by slowing down the rate of pavement deterioration and postponing the need for more costly improvements.
The key to successfully navigating this type of economic climate is the availability of reliable asset condition information and economic analysis tools that can quickly simulate the consequences associated with different investment strategies. A number of state highway agencies rely on their pavement management programs to provide this information to support the agency's decisions about pavement-related investments.
In 2008, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) Office of Asset Management initiated a Peer Exchange Program to promote the effective use of Pavement Management Systems (PMS) in general and more informed decision making in particular. The first two Peer Exchange meetings allowed representatives from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to meet with pavement management practitioners in Minnesota and Utah to learn more about the use of their pavement management program to support investment decisions and to influence project and treatment selection. Through the Peer Exchange meetings, which were held early in February, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) presented information explaining how pavement management tools are being used to:
- Provide the information used for long-term planning to address future pavement needs.
- Establish strategic performance targets based on realistic estimates of future funding levels.
- Set investment levels for pavement preservation programs that extend the life of pavements in relatively good condition before more costly rehabilitation is needed.
- Support the project and treatment decision process in the Districts and Regions by providing them with useful information that can substantially influence their work program.
- Conduct engineering and economic analyses that evaluate the cost-effectiveness of treatment options in support of the agency's asset management practices.
This report summarizes the use of pavement management tools to support agency decisions in UDOT and Mn/DOT, provides tips for procuring new pavement management software, and identifies institutional issues that must be addressed to make the most of a pavement management program. It closes with a summary of the key factors influencing the successful pavement management practices in UDOT and Mn/DOT, which include the following considerations.
- Consistency in the pavement management personnel operating the system.
- The use of quality data so the pavement management program provides reliable recommendations.
- A strong relationship with the software providers so any issues that arise can be addressed immediately.
- A commitment to pavement management concepts throughout the organization.
- The involvement of pavement management stakeholders in decisions regarding changes to the analysis models.
- The use of software tools that are flexible enough to adapt to the changing environment in which they must operate.
The strong pavement management programs in each of the host agencies have resulted in improvements in the quality of information used to make investment decisions. Both Mn/DOT and UDOT have been able to use their pavement management information to effectively revise investment priorities during periods in which competition for available funding has increased. As a result, both agencies have established strategic plans that increase the emphasis on system preservation and align their project and treatment selection process in accordance with those plans.
As the Peer Exchange meetings demonstrated, strong pavement management programs can benefit transportation agencies tremendously. The information provided during the meetings, which is documented in this report, provides valuable insight into the practices of the participating transportation agencies and the factors that have contributed most to their success. The information is provided so that other agencies can benefit from the experience and develop strategies that enhance their own pavement management practices.