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Superseded on February 25, 2016 by Guidance on Highway Preservation And Maintenance

Subject: INFORMATION: Transportation System Preservation (TSP) Date: June 18, 1997
From: Associate Administrator for Program Development Reply to:
Attn. of:
To: Regional Administrators
Federal lands Highway Program Administrator

As we proceed towards the 21st century, it is clear the Federal-aid highway program is undergoing a significant transition from its original focus on new construction to that of preservation of the highway system. The investment of over $100 billion has completed the initial construction of the Interstate System. We are now faced with the tremendous challenge of preserving and enhancing the transportation system with particular emphasis on the National Highway System.

The FHWA's stewardship of ensuring timely highway maintenance has been caught up in the evolutionary process beginning in the 1970's. Since that time there have been numerous legislative acts that have recognized the need for Federal involvement in post-construction activities. It is clear that with the passage of the 1991 ISTEA and National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, Congress continues to be concerned with the timely preservation of our infrastructure investment. To address this concern, new concepts that will assist our partners in improving their preservation activities must be identified and successfully implemented. Also, State and local highway agencies' needs and budgetary processes must begin to recognize and provide a greater share of available revenues for system preservation. An important step for the highway community will be to educate elected officials on the importance of system preservation.

The FHWA is at a major crossroads in the administration of the Federal-aid highway program. Our role as stewards of the Federal-aid highway program must be enhanced. Our role must recognize that TSP will be an important foundation for the future. However, we cannot do this alone; we must enlist the assistance of our partners.

There are several activities that have recently been completed that support the need for a new direction on TSP. For example, the National Quality Initiative's "National Highway User Survey" indicates that many highway users are not satisfied with existing pavement conditions. Furthermore, respondents to the survey indicated that "pavement conditions" and "maintenance response time" are in the top five areas where improvement is needed. We should not take this feedback from our customers lightly.

The Office of Program Review released its report entitled, "Maintenance and the Use of Preventive Maintenance of the Interstate System" via a June 18, 1996, memorandum. As discussed in the report, it is evident that both the field and the Headquarters offices must playa greater role in TSP.

In September 1996, FHWA and AASHTO jointly sponsored an "Executive Seminar on Asset Management." Asset management can be defined as a systematic process of maintaining, upgrading, and operating physical assets cost effectively. Participants represented leaders on asset management whose businesses share many common asset management concerns with public transportation agencies. The seminar was a first step towards encouraging the highway community to advance the state-of-the-art of asset management.

At our recent Leadership Team meeting, TSP was discussed resulting in a consensus that this is an area needing stronger FHWA leadership.

Perhaps the most significant activity now underway pertains to formal training. The FHWA, through NHI, will enter into a Cooperative Agreement with the Foundation for Pavement Rehabilitation and Maintenance Research (FPRMR) for the purpose of funding and providing assistance in developing the NHI training course. The FPRMR is a non-profit industry sponsored organization dedicated to increased research and education in pavement preservation. This effort will be significant for FHWA and our partners because it will result in an NHI training course that specifically targets many key TSP issues. Furthermore, the AASHTO Lead State members will also be key players in this effort.

Attached for your information and use is a briefing paper on current and planned activities related to TSP. If there are any questions regarding the TSP activities please contact Mr. Joseph Huerta, Highway Operations Division, at 202/366-1556 or Mr. James Sorenson, Pavement Division, at 202/366-1333.

/s/ original signed by
Thomas J. Ptak


Briefing Issue: Transportation System Preservation Initiatives


The requirement for proper maintenance of a facility has, since 1916, been considered to be a condition of using Federal funds for the construction of highways. However, the FHWA's maintenance programs have been undergoing an evolutionary process. Prior to 1978, FHWA maintenance programs were essentially compliance-based and construction funding was available only for new construction. Since 1978, various legislative acts have recognized the need for Federal leadership in the post construction phases particularly regarding the Interstate system. The Interstate system is the backbone of this country's transportation system. The cost to build the Interstate system has exceeded $100 billion and this fact magnifies the critical need to protect this investment.

Section 1009 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) amended 23 U.S.C. 119 by retitling "Interstate System Resurfacing" as "Interstate Maintenance Program." This legislation also directed that preventive maintenance activities on Interstate highways may be eligible for funding under Section 119 when a State can demonstrate, through its pavement management system, that such activities are a cost effective means of extending Interstate pavement life. Then came the amendment from the National Highway System Act of 1995, which expanded the eligibility of preventive maintenance activities to all Federal-aid highways.

It should be clear, with passage of the 1991 ISTEA and the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, Congress continues to be very concerned with the preservation of the transportation system; logically this includes all components of the system, i.e., structures, pavements, and roadside appurtenances. Current legislation encourages new approaches which will assist the State highway agencies in improving their maintenance programs.

Discussion Points:

If FHWA is to play an effective leadership role in the preservation of the transportation system then we must initiate a transformation of the Federal-aid highway program. New construction and reconstruction activities must be combined with effective "System Preservation" strategies that meet the needs of our partners.

Thus far, five separate memoranda concerning preventive maintenance and eligibility have been issued by FHWA These memoranda were issued to provide guidance on approval of preventive maintenance projects and examples of work which could be considered to be preventive maintenance. The dates and subjects of these memoranda are:

The five memoranda have become the defining limits of preventive maintenance projects insofar as the FHWA approval is concerned.

The FHWA through the use of consultants, is conducting a series of workshops geared towards pavement preservation applications and strategies. The workshop's target audiences are those individuals with practical technical knowledge in preventive pavement maintenance. Thus far, feedback from participants has indicated a need for this type of technology exchange on a continuing basis with the FHWA serving as a focal point. The Office of Engineering is currently pursuing the development of training course on preventive maintenance through NHI.

In 1995, the FHWA's Office's of Program Review (OPR) conducted a nationwide review for the purpose of evaluating maintenance and the use of preventive maintenance on the Interstate system. The report, distributed via June 18, 1996 memorandum, contained several recommendations. Several of the most critical are:

  • "Restate the national interest in the Interstate system,"
  • "Restate the FHWA's commitment to the Interstate by identifying system perseveration as an important program effort," and
  • "Focus on maintenance as an opportunity to add value to the State's Interstate maintenance program and to promote continuous improvement in their maintenance monitoring efforts."

Demonstration Project No. 108 (DP-108) is in developmental stage (HNG-43). DP-108 has two primary purposes:

To demonstrate how various pavement management system (PMS) multi-year prioritization methods are used to identify justifiable and cost-effective pavement preservation strategies, and

To demonstrate how PMS performance data is used to conduct engineering analyses in design, material selection, construction, and maintenance.

  • The demonstration of DP-108's multi-year methods will be available this summer. The demonstration of the PMS engineering methods will be available in the Spring of 1998.

    There is a need for highway agencies to concentrate more of their efforts on preventive or minor bridge maintenance. NHI Course No. 13429, "Bridge Maintenance Training" was developed to provide state-of-the-art bridge maintenance training to maintenance personnel. The States should be encouraged to request a presentation of this training course.

  • Concern for the deterioration of highway structures, together with the desire to stretch limited resources as far as possible, have prompted the FHWA and the States to develop bridge management systems (BMS). Through a joint FHWA and AASHTO effort the Pontis BMS is currently available for use by the States and others. Pontis allows officials to formulate bridge maintenance and rehabilitation policies on a system-wide basis and to identify the best options for meeting network needs, budgets, and other restrictions.

  • NHI Course No. 13051, "Bridge Management" was developed to familiarize upper and mid-level highway agency management with the essential BMS principles, concepts, and objectives; to provide mid-level management practical guidance and information on the development, establishment, and implementation of an effective BMS; and to provide practical training to bridge inspectors responsible for collecting bridge inspection data. The States should be encouraged to request a presentation of this valuable training course.

    The NQI "National Highway User Survey" indicated that many highway users dissatisfied with the effectiveness of pavement conditions and maintenance response time on our highways. We should interpret this an indication on how well we are perceived in doing our jobs.

  • We should remember that system performance can be a measurement of the FHWA's success in delivering to our customers a quality transportation product.

  • In a related activity, the AASHTO SCOH has approved the following definition for "preventive maintenance." The definition is: "Preventive maintenance is the planned strategy of cost effective treatments to an existing roadway system and its appurtenances that preserves the system, retards future deterioration, and maintains or improves the functional condition of the system without increasing structural capacity."


Updated: 07/24/2017
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