New Mexico has had some version of an asset management program since the early 1980s, when it utilized the Pavement Management System (PMS), along with district input, to determine system priorities. That system served as the primary means for project prioritization until the late 1990s, when the DOT developed its first long-range plan.
The goal was to come up with a viable means to chart long-term needs, but the first plan had what department analysts call "a lot of feel-good statements." The DOT had good data but no reliable method for analyzing that data 20 years out.
In an effort to address those needs, New Mexico developed long-range program (LRP) software that utilized information from the consolidated highway database (CHDB). The program extracted information on various deficiencies such as surface roughness from eight separate reports. NMDOT soon discovered that the program was difficult to use and over-estimated the State's needs.
Then, within just two years, the DOT decided to migrate from a main frame to desktops, which meant that the LRP software would have to be rewritten or replaced. As the State weighed its options, the DOT received an invitation to the national kickoff for the HERS-ST pilot program. A department planner and two information systems staff members, along with representatives from 16 other States, attended the event in February 2001.
Limited transportation funds and an increase in pavement needs were driving the State to more data-based analyses. As a result, New Mexico was looking for a program that provided a comprehensive systems condition analysis, specifically a comparison of urban versus rural systems. The State also wanted a program that it could customize.
At the end of the pilot program, NMDOT identified three key areas of concern with HERS-ST: 1) the program was DOS-driven; 2) it could only process Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) data in the program's 1993 format (HPMS had changed its format in 1997, which meant that the pilot model was using an obsolete HPMS format); and 3) HERS-ST did not provide concise summary reports. NMDOT wanted a program that was Windows-based, operated on a current data form, and could generate succinct summary reports and customized documents as needed. FHWA's Office of Asset Management reviewed the comments from the participating States and began refining HERS-ST, making it much more user-friendly and responsive to State needs. That commitment to improving the model made it "very attractive" to NMDOT.