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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > November 1999 > New Report Will Provide Guidance on Contracting Out Maintenance Procedures
November 1999Publication Number: FHWA-RD-99-109

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New Report Will Provide Guidance on Contracting Out Maintenance Procedures

As State highway departments grapple with shrinking or frozen work forces and ever expanding maintenance needs, many are beginning to look at contracting out their preservation and maintenance work. But where do they go for policy and guidance on what is commonly referred to as contract maintenance? Only a handful of States have significant experience with contracting out maintenance, and the existing American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) guide on the subject is outdated. Most international experience is activity-based and not the performance or customer-oriented work that managers are familiar with in the United States.

To tackle this issue, 60 representatives from 25 States and industry met in Nashville in September, at a workshop sponsored by the AASHTO Subcommittee on Maintenance and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Participants at the workshop heard case studies describing contract maintenance experiences from several States and countries, and reviewed and provided input to an outline for a new AASHTO guide on contract maintenance. Most contract maintenance work falls into one or two categories: activity based contracts (i.e., a contract to conduct a specific activity, such as filling potholes or plowing snow from roads) or right of way (i.e., where the contractor is responsible for doing whatever is necessary to ensure the road conditions meet certain performance standards in a specific area or along a segment of route).

"While legislators realize and act on the need for more dollars for maintenance," said Chuck Boyd, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Tennessee Division administrator, Athey expect the work to be done with less people. Contract maintenance is one answer. "

There are many reasons for a State to consider contracting out its maintenance work, but the pros and cons to doing so should be thoroughly considered before any decision is made, according to the workshop participants.

"We want to stress that one size does not fit all, as conditions and situations vary from State to State," says Bill Temple, assistant secretary for operations for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. The new report is not intended to be an endorsement of contract maintenance, but rather to raise issues to be considered by those highway agencies that have already decided to contract out some or all maintenance.

The new contract maintenance report will feature sections on:

  • Background and key issues
  • Case studies/lessons learned
  • Alternate contract approaches
  • Policies and procedures

The draft report is expected to be available for review by the end of the year, with reviews complete and publication expected by summer 2000.

For more information, contact Jim Sorenson, FHWA, 202-366-1333 (fax: 202-366-9981; email: james.sorenson@fhwa.dot.gov).

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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