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Asset Management | Bridge Technology | Operations | Pavement

Pavement Management Systems Peer Exchange Program

Findings and Observations

Use of Pavement Management For Non-Traditional Applications

Up to this point, the report has documented the more traditional use of pavement management programs to support the identification and prioritization of pavement maintenance and rehabilitation needs. However, the host states selected to participate in the Peer Exchange have successfully used their pavement management information to support other types of analyses. These additional applications are discussed in this section of the report.

Engineering and Economic Analysis

UDOT pioneered the concept that maintaining roads in good condition was less expensive than allowing them to deteriorate to the point that substantial improvements were required. A report documenting these findings was published in 1977 and it quickly became an important reference for agencies with a strong focus on pavement preservation. The message published in 1977 is equally important in 2008 as agencies face increasing raw material costs and decreases in available funding. Therefore, in 2006 UDOT used its pavement management data to update its Good Roads Cost Less study (Report Nos. UT-06.15 and UP-06.15a). As part of this updated study, the pavement management system was configured to evaluate several different treatment strategies for pavement preservation. The effectiveness of each strategy was evaluated in terms of pavement condition, agency costs, user costs, delay costs, and safety. The results of the analysis were used to establish updated performance targets that set realistic expectations under the current economic climate. The results found the following (Zavitski et al. 2006):

  • A highway network in poor condition has a direct impact on the economy and citizens of Utah through increased accident, delay, user, and agency costs.
  • Lowering the network condition by as little as 10 to 20 percent will cause a funding crisis as the need for more expensive rehabilitation treatments will force UDOT into finding alternate funding solutions.
  • Diverting funding to support improvements for work other than pavement maintenance and rehabilitation (such as capacity projects) will lead to a decrease in overall network conditions that will require significant funding to address.
  • Current funding is sufficient to maintain the UDOT network in good condition, but would be insufficient to restore the network to good condition if a 10 percent drop in network conditions were to occur.
  • Pavements that are in good condition today can be maintained using an appropriate mix of minor maintenance, preservation, and rehabilitation treatments that maximize the OCI and prolong the life of the pavements. Higher conditions were able to be achieved when budget category restrictions were removed, indicating that more flexibility in funding for preservation treatments can lead to improved network conditions.

UDOT is in the early stages of determining how the pavement management database can be used to support future requirements for the calibration of the new Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide (MEPDG) developed through research by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). Initial efforts to prepare for the implementation of the MEPDG are focused on evaluating the performance data to determine its reliability for this application.

The University of Minnesota performed some initial work to investigate the feasibility of calibrating the MEPDG models using Mn/DOT's pavement management data. The Pavement Management Engineer reports that Mn/DOT has most of the data needed for the MEPDG implementation (including a comprehensive pavement treatment history), with the possible exception of fatigue cracking data. Mn/DOT's pavement condition survey procedures were developed using a distress called "multiple cracking," which can be a combination of block cracking and fatigue cracking. A recommendation for how to handle this distress in the MEPDG models had not been developed at the time of the Peer Exchange.

Mn/DOT reported that its pavement management software has been used to conduct a number of different types of economic and engineering analyses. For instance, one engineering study investigated the performance of a full-depth HMA design that repeatedly had performance issues when it was place directly on the subgrade rather than on a gravel base. As a result of the analysis, a moratorium was placed on the design.

Pavement management information has also been used by Mn/DOT to conduct a number of different types of economic analyses. For instance, approximately five years ago Mn/DOT revisited its life-cycle cost analyses (LCCA) to incorporate preventive maintenance treatments into the treatment strategies evaluated during Design's pavement type selection process on reconstruction projects. Using construction histories from pavement management, Mn/DOT was able to support the revisions to its LCCA process when industry questioned the treatment cycles. The availability of actual data to support its recommendations was important to the successful adoption of the proposed changes.

Pavement management "what if" scenarios have also been used to support different types of economic studies for the Department. For instance, the Division Director once questioned spending money on good roads when funding was insufficient to address the performance targets for roads in poor condition. The results of the 20-year analysis from pavement management were used to demonstrate the importance of preventive maintenance, but were also used to set budget levels for the program. In another example, the Governor proposed a big bonding program and pavement management analyzed the impact of the funding. One step in the process involved asking the Districts how they would spend the additional funds if they became available. Pavement management found that most of the Districts planned to use the funds for expansion projects rather than preservation projects so the net result of the funding would have little impact on improving pavement conditions.

Other types of economic analyses have helped the Department establish the performance targets included in the strategic plan. The Pavement Management Unit has used the software to evaluate the impact of changing the definition of "poor," lengthening the time to reach the performance target, and optimizing funding by maximizing the number of pavement sections that are kept from falling into the poor condition. The results of this type of analysis are increasingly important to keep the Districts from diverting from their preservation strategy.

UDOT is working with Deighton and Associates to develop an investment strategy tool that will enable the Department to quickly assess the impacts of changes in investment levels for its assets. Currently envisioned to include funding for pavements and bridges, other assets can be included in the future. As it is currently planned, the tool will be preloaded with the results from several investment strategies for each asset using the bridge management and pavement management programs. The tool will enable upper management to quickly determine how a change in an investment for one asset impacts the level of service provided to other assets. One of the greatest challenges to this approach is developing a method of quantifying the benefits associated with different assets and developing relationships that allow them to be compared on an equal basis.

Availability of Data to Support Other Needs

Pavement management information is often used to support other types of reporting and analysis needs within a transportation agency. At the national level, IRI information is reported annually to the FHWA as part of its Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) program. A reassessment of the HPMA requirements is currently underway and early indications are that more detailed information about the National Highway System (NHS) routes in each state will be required. Because of the comprehensiveness of its pavement management and TIS databases, Mn/DOT does not anticipate any difficulty in being able to respond to the additional data requirements. Because of some of the changes UDOT is initiating to its data collection procedures (to change from the manual collection of distress information to automated collection) the anticipated impact of the reassessment on their agency is less clear.

Support of Upper Management

Both of the host agencies visited during the Peer Exchange stressed the importance of upper management support to the success of their pavement management activities. This support is important not only for providing the resources needed to support pavement management activities, but also to provide support for the recommendations from the pavement management analysis. The true measure of upper level support is reflected in the degree to which pavement management recommendations are influencing investment decisions and project selection decisions in the agency.

Both of the host agencies visited during the Peer Exchange stressed the importance of upper management support to the success of their pavement management activities. This support is important not only for providing the resources needed to support pavement management activities, but also to provide support for the recommendations from the pavement management analysis. The true measure of upper level support is reflected in the degree to which pavement management recommendations are influencing investment decisions and project selection decisions in the agency.

In UDOT, the Director of Systems Planning and Programming and the Director for Asset Management regularly present information regarding network conditions and funding needs to the Executive Director, the Budget Director, and the Utah Transportation Commission. UDOT reports that the Transportation Commission considers the pavement management system very credible, as evidenced by the decision to use the pavement management analysis results as the basis for allocating funding for the Orange Book program to the Regions. Their confidence in the system has developed over a long period of time. Approximately 30 years ago, UDOT pioneered the message that keeping roads in good condition for a longer period of time was a more cost-effective strategy than letting the pavements deteriorate. Each year a workshop is conducted to reinforce this message and it is now well understood by the Commission and individuals throughout UDOT.

Staffing and Other Resources

Both Mn/DOT and UDOT are fortunate to have adequate resources to support their pavement management activities. In both agencies, the engineers responsible for data collection and analysis have been with their Departments for many years. Each organization also has at least two people familiar with the software, which reduces the risk of obsolescence if the sole analyst is no longer available to operate the software.

Mn/DOT's pavement management staffing consists of a statistician, a Preventive Maintenance Engineer, a technician (to perform data quality checks and GIS mapping), and the Pavement Management Engineer. In addition, there are four individuals who operate the Department's two data collection vans and who are responsible for collecting pavement condition data on both the state highway system and the state county road system. The field crew/raters are supervised by an Engineering Specialist who is also responsible for processing the pavement condition data.

There are approximately 30 users of the HPMA software, if personnel in the District offices are included. Each year, training is provided to Regional and District personnel with one day covering the pavement management program and another ½ to 1 day on optimization. Because of the infrequency with which the Districts use the program, they frequently rely on the central office to provide information, but the training provides District personnel with the background needed to be familiar with the logic behind the analysis.

One of the keys to Mn/DOT's success with its pavement management system is the consistency in pavement management personnel. For the past 10 years or so, the Pavement Management Engineer for Mn/DOT has been operating the pavement management system on a daily basis. This has been very good for the Department, and has provided a great deal of consistency to the program. Although others in the Department are familiar with the software, there is no one on staff with a more intimate understanding of the pavement management program than the Pavement Management Engineer.

UDOT's Asset Management Division includes 9 people, including the Director of Asset Management. Included in this Division are four pavement management engineers, one asset management engineer, and a data collection team comprised of one engineer and two technicians (the photolog is not the responsibility of the Asset Management Division). In addition, Pavement Management Engineers are located in each of the four Region offices. At one time, UDOT had copies of the pavement management software in each Region for the Region Pavement Management Engineers to use. However, because the amount of turnover in these positions and the complexity of the software, the pavement management software is currently operated by the central office staff. As a result of the involvement of the Region Pavement Management Engineers in changes to the pavement management program through the Steering Committee, they understand the pavement management activities philosophically even though they no longer operate the software. UDOT found that the software needs to be used on an almost daily basis to avoid forgetting the subtleties of its operation. When it was used only occasionally, the amount of time required for the Region Engineers to get back up to speed deterred them from using the information. Now, the Regions frequently request information from the central office pavement management staff. To assist in providing the most requested information efficiently, the Department is investigating strategies for storing some pavement management information in the Department's new maintenance management system, since it will be more familiar to Region personnel.

The support of the Regions is considered critical to the success of the UDOT pavement management activities so the participation of the Region Pavement Management Engineers on the Steering Committee is an important form of outreach. By participating in these types of activities, the Regions better understand the Department's pavement preservation philosophy and the assumptions upon which the pavement management results are based. This has been an important factor in the success of UDOT's pavement preservation program.

Funding for pavement management activities has enabled UDOT to purchase data collection equipment, including an ICC profiler, a Mandli photolog system, skid equipment, and a Jils truck-mounted FWD. In addition, funds have been provided for photo logging. As stated elsewhere in the report, UDOT is in the process of hiring a vendor to collect pavement condition data in the future, so the amount of data collected by in-house staff is expected to change in the future. However, the amount of funding budgeted for data collection activities is expected to remain at approximately the same level. UDOT also pays a licensing fee to its software vendor and has a $125,000 retainer for the vendor to conduct training several times a year. Special projects, such as the investment tool that is under development, are funded separately.

Future Activities/Directions

The implementation of a pavement management system is not a static process and even agencies that have strong pavement management programs in place regularly make adjustments to keep the models current. Some of the developments that are taking place in Mn/DOT and UDOT are summarized below.

  • Using pavement management information to set District funding levels - This change is expected to take place in Mn/DOT by the time the next funding cycle occurs. UDOT currently uses the pavement management results to set the funding levels for the Regions' Orange Book program.
  • Determining a reasonable investment level to preserve asset conditions - UDOT estimates that it is investing approximately 1.9 percent of the value of its pavements in maintenance and rehabilitation. Participants expressed interest in determining whether this investment level is reasonable and whether it compares to the level invested by other states. Targeted investment levels of 2 ½ to 3 percent of asset values were discussed.
  • Determining how to best convey funding needs to decision makers and politicians - Although Mn/DOT and UDOT regularly present pavement management results to decision makers, they are regularly improving the reporting process to ensure the right information is conveyed quickly.
  • Determining the effectiveness of preventive maintenance - Mn/DOT is initiating work to demonstrate the effectiveness of its preventive maintenance activities using control sections.
  • Identifying strategies for addressing decreasing funding levels - UDOT is considering a process for identifying "Maintenance Only" sections that will receive no treatment more substantial than a chip seal.
  • Strengthening the link with Maintenance and Operations - UDOT is considering the use of the Pavements module within its new maintenance management system to store maintenance work history activities. This change is expected to improve the accessibility of this information within the Department.
  • Improving treatment decision rules - UDOT expressed interest in developing a structural number that can be used in treatment decisions based on the FWD test data collected as part of the pavement management activities. In addition, UDOT expressed interest in improving its PCC treatment rules.

Software Selection and Procurement

UDOT first acquired their current pavement management software from Deighton and Associates in the late 1990s. The vendor installed the software and provided links to any existing agency databases and to load data, but the Department elected to develop its analysis models using its Steering Committee. The Steering Committee met monthly to review progress during the initial development and in-between meetings the pavement management staff would use the software to run scenarios to evaluate the reasonableness of the models. This approach may have taken more time than allowing the vendor to develop the initial models, but it provide UDOT with one form of training that made it easier to understand how the analysis worked. Additionally, since UDOT's models were going to be developed based on expert opinion, the Department had more confidence in their ability to develop representative models than in the vendor's ability to do the work.

Mn/DOT's pavement management software has evolved over time from a FORTRAN program installed in 1987 by PMS Ltd to a MS Windows application in 1995 by Stantec (the company that purchased PMS Ltd.). There have been several enhancements to the software since 1995.

Lessons Learned

Some lessons were learned as a result of the software selection and procurement processes used by Mn/DOT and UDOT:

  • Guard against using a beta version of the software. Be sure the program has been used in other state applications before being installed in your agency. Ask to see screens that contain real data so you can see what they look like when they're populated and you can evaluate the ease with which the software operates. Ask the vendor to demonstrate the software using data from another state rather than try to load sample data from your own state. This way, the vendor is not limited in demonstrating the full range of functionality because of partial or incomplete data sets.
  • The models incorporated into the pavement management system should reflect the way your organization does business. For instance, UDOT created their decision trees to recommend treatment categories rather than specific treatments because it better matched the way they do business. Now, the pavement management system can be used to determine the level of repair necessary and the approximate amount of funding required, but the selection and design of the final treatment is left to the Regions. Over time UDOT found that they needed to separate out their seals in more detail than they had originally to better estimate project costs, but only minor adjustments have been needed to the other models.
  • Key items or functionality that state highway agencies should look for in a system include:
    • Flexibility - A pavement management system is not like "TurboTax©" where you can open it up and start using it immediately. It needs to be customized to the agency's policies and procedures and must be able to be modified (without vendor support) to reflect changes with time.
    • Technical Support - There is a lot of time spent on customization activities during an implementation project to match the software capabilities to your agency's processes. Be sure the vendor is available to provide that level of support during the initial project and in future years. Get the support of Information Technology (IT) personnel to make sure the software runs on your agency's network and environment.
  • Check references and talk to the people who actually operate the software. They will provide you with an honest assessment of the ease with which the software can be used and the logic behind the user interfaces.
  • Identify the process the vendor uses to update the capabilities of the software. Is the process driven by users, or does the vendor decide what updates will be added? Determine how frequently updates are issued and what requirements are in place for obtaining a copy of the new version.
  • Verify that the information from the pavement management system can be easily exported into other programs such as Excel or GIS. Both of the host agencies reported frequent use of external programs to analyze or present the pavement management information rather than use the capabilities internal to the system.
  • Ask about the process for importing the final program into the pavement management system, especially in a decentralized organization. In some instances, the final list of projects and treatments has to be entered manually if substantial changes are made to the recommendations produced during the pavement management analysis. Ideally, the software has a tool that allows the agency to export the recommendations from pavement management to another program where they can be manipulated before being imported back into the pavement management system to determine future conditions.

Institutional or Implementation Issues

The success of the pavement management program in the host agencies has not occurred without having to deal with several institutional or implementation issues. These types of changes are to be expected especially if the pavement management process leads to changes in the agency's policies and practices. For instance, the incorporation of preventive maintenance treatments in a pavement management system requires a corresponding shift in funding allocations and philosophy. The types of issues these agencies have faced, or are continuing to face, are discussed in this section of the report.

One of the most significant institutional issues being faced by the host agencies is shifting the focus of the agency from expansion to preservation in response to the changes in available funding for transportation activities. Not only are the dramatic increases in the cost of raw materials (such as asphalt) impacting the number of miles of highway that can be paved, but other funding sources are also failing to keep pace with the increasing infrastructure needs. For instance, Mn/DOT reports that its pavement conditions are deteriorating due in response to the funding climate. As a result, the current strategic plan places more of an emphasis on preservation activities than on expansion projects and strong, defensible pavement management practices are increasingly important to the agency. Not only does pavement management help determine the best use of available funds, but it also provides the justification for budget One of the most significant institutional issues being faced by the host agencies is shifting the focus of the agency from expansion to preservation in response to the changes in available funding for transportation activities. Not only are the dramatic increases in the cost of raw materials (such as asphalt) impacting the number of miles of highway that can be paved, but other funding sources are also failing to keep pace with the increasing infrastructure needs. For instance, Mn/DOT reports that its pavement conditions are deteriorating due in response to the funding climate. As a result, the current strategic plan places more of an emphasis on preservation activities than on expansion projects and strong, defensible pavement management practices are increasingly important to the agency. Not only does pavement management help determine the best use of available funds, but it also provides the justification for budget

There were several other specific institutional and implementation issues that emerged during the presentations by the host agencies, as listed below.

  • Mn/DOT reported that their strategic plan is really driving their transportation program, but it took a number of years for this change to take place and a strong commitment from the top to stay the course.
  • UDOT expressed interest in having dedicated funding for preventive maintenance activities so it is not such a fight to secure the funding for these activities each year. Currently, most of the funds for these types of activities are vulnerable and may be shifted to address other needs or priorities. The portion that is actually dedicated to preventive maintenance is a very small portion of the budget being spent on these types of treatments.
  • Both organizations benefited from pavement management personnel who have worked in pavement management for many years.
  • It is important to fight the worst-first mentality that is often pervasive in Regions or Districts. It is important to get field personnel to understand that a Region priority may not be the same as a statewide priority and the challenge at the network level is to balance these competing priorities. UDOT has conducted some scanning tours with its Pavement Management Engineers in an attempt to convey this message. As a result of these tours they found that different people approach projects from different points of view. These differences need to be checked and addressed regularly.
  • Over time, the level of acceptance of the pavement management recommendations has been improving. UDOT provides the Regions with a 5-year window for addressing recommendations that are generated by the pavement management system, with the exception of pavement preservation projects that should be addressed within a 3-year window.
  • Pavement histories can provide very valuable information, especially in determining the right treatment for a pavement section. Mn/DOT has built a very comprehensive pavement history database that is available to anyone within the Department. UDOT's construction history is less complete and relies on updates by the Region engineers prior to running an analysis. This has caused problems at times because the data have not always been provided on a timely basis. However, UDOT plans to overcome this hurdle by including the work history in the new maintenance management system that is being implemented. The new program provides better accessibility to the information throughout the Department.
  • It is important to coordinate the timing of automated pavement condition surveys by the vendors with the timing of construction projects so the pavement management database reflects current information. For instance, UDOT is deciding whether to collect the pavement condition data after the construction season (so the surveys reflect the improved conditions) or whether a process will be developed to update the data when surveys have been conducted prior to the construction season.
  • The complexity of the system may impact your ability to respond quickly to queries from upper management about the consequences of various actions. Therefore, agencies have had to balance the need for technical sophistication with practical constraints for operating the software. For example, it takes UDOT approximately 6 hours to run a full analysis, but the length of time is dependent on the number of analysis parameters considered, the number of sections being analyzed, and the length of the analysis period. If the ability to respond quickly to questions about the impact of changes to the program is an important consideration, then compromises may have to be made in setting up the system that favor speed over function.

Key Success Factors

The two host agencies that participated in the Peer Exchange were selected, in part, because of the degree to which pavement management information is used to support agency decisions. Some of the keys to the success of the pavement management programs in these agencies are listed below.

  • Maintain consistency in pavement management personnel - Both of the host agencies have benefited from the consistency in their pavement management staff. These individuals are very familiar with the operation of the software and have gained confidence in the data used to make program recommendations.
  • Use quality data - For the agency to build confidence in the pavement management program recommendations, it is important that the data used in the analysis are defensible and the analysis models reflect the agency's deterioration rates and treatment rules.
  • Develop a strong, cooperative relationship with your software vendor - This has worked to the advantage of both of the host agencies. In Mn/DOT, they can call the vendor's programmer directly if there are problems that arise. In Utah, the relationship with the vendor has allowed them to strategize about the timing of upgrades to their software and to expand the system capabilities to include asset management.
  • Regularly promote pavement management concepts - The individuals influencing the investment and project selection decisions in transportation agencies change on a regular basis. Therefore, it is important that pavement management personnel continually communicate pavement management concepts, and the results of the optimization strategies, to decision makers, politicians, transportation commissioners, transportation planners and programmers, and District Engineers to ensure that the principles are well understood.
  • Build consensus for the analysis models - Both Mn/DOT and UDOT have involved District and Region personnel in the development of the initial pavement management models and any changes that have been made since the initial implementation. The involvement of field personnel in Steering Committees or Technical Panels helps build credibility and acceptance of the analysis results.
  • Implement tools with flexibility - As demonstrated by both of the host agencies, there are a number of different factors that influence the funding available for pavement maintenance and rehabilitation, the types of strategies considered, and the traffic patterns on the state system. As a result, a pavement management program must be flexible enough to be able to adapt to these changes fairly quickly. For example, Mn/DOT was able to incorporate preventive maintenance treatments into its pavement management analysis to some degree because of its use of individual distress data in its decision trees. The availability of this information allowed them to develop rules for triggering preventive maintenance treatments and for resetting the condition indexes after the treatments had been applied.
  • Continue to improve your system with time - The implementation of a pavement management program requires a commitment in time and resources to continue to enhance the quality of the data and the accuracy with which the models can forecast future conditions. Agencies should commit to the software licenses that keep their pavement management program current and to participation in conferences and/or user groups that foster innovation and improvements in the way business is conducted.

Benefits Realized

To a large degree, the benefits associated with the implementation and use of a pavement management program are subjective and difficult to quantify directly. However, each of the host agencies identified several benefits they feel are largely the result of the quality of the pavement management program. Some of these benefits are described below.

  • UDOT reports that one of the benefits they realized from their asset management efforts is the improved analysis capabilities for managing their bridges. Using pavement management as a model, UDOT worked with its bridge engineers to significantly improve their ability to analyze current and future bridge needs.
  • Mn/DOT has been able to make the conversion to an organization that places system preservation as a priority. The strategic plan supports the preservation of existing assets and the investment allocations support these efforts. Pavement management information has provided important support during this transition.
  • Both agencies report having better information to support the decision processes due to the availability of reliable pavement management information. Mn/DOT reports that the greatest reward from the system has been their ability to demonstrate the amount of road deterioration that can be expected with various levels of budget cuts. Additionally, the impact of large expenditures on expansion projects is able to be forecast immediately.
  • Economic and engineering analyses are supported through the availability of field data to evaluate treatment performance.
  • Pavement management has been able to provide useful information to Region and District Engineers responsible for project and treatment selection decisions. On a day-today basis, the pavement management system has enabled these agencies to more efficiently sort through the pavement data to determine candidate projects.
  • On a grand scale, the agencies report that their pavement management programs have enabled the agencies to use money more effectively, which has resulted in the best possible conditions for the funding levels available.
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Updated: 11/01/2012