July 12th, 2010

MAINTAIN THOSE ASSETS

Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.
The Utah Department of Transportation uses a sophisticated asset management process to prioritize road preservation projects.

How does UDOT decide where, when and how to spend money on preservation projects?   Answer: UDOT uses a scientific management system to evaluate and plan how to preserve pavement.

“Every engineer has been weaned on the idea that ‘good roads cost less,’” says Stan Burns, UDOT Director of Asset Management.  If the appropriate road maintenance action is taken at the right time, less public money will be spent in the long run.

Know what you have

Once a year, UDOT takes inventory of the entire state highway system to measure road conditions and catalog that information.  ”This includes measuring the surface roughness, wheel path rutting, surface cracking and other surface defects,” says Gary Kuhl, Pavement Management Engineer for UDOT.

Next, the condition data is loaded into a computer application called Deighton Total Management System (dTIMS), which forecasts the ultimate decline of the pavement condition if no action is taken, showing a downward trending “deterioration curve.” Information about preservation projects is added, and a new deterioration curve is produced.  The difference between the two curves shows the how a potential preservation project can extend the life of the road feature.

UDOT then determines a preservation strategy for every section of pavement based on the two curves and the available funding. For example, maintenance processes for roads include resurfacing projects like roto-mill and overlay for asphalt pavement or grinding and panel replacement for concrete pavement.

Chart

chart

More precision means better decisions

Having the advantage of a scientifically-based process is important, especially during lean funding times. The asset management process shows that UDOT is accountable to the public and “not just winging it,” says Stan.

“Our system allows us to optimize when projects are constructed to maximize the pavement life,” says Gary.

In the future, UDOT plans to evaluate other assets, including bridges, culverts, retaining walls and other components of Utah’s transportation system, using a similar system.

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Responses to “MAINTAIN THOSE ASSETS”

  1. There is another component not specifically mentioned in the story: user costs. The user costs of a major rehab/reconstruction are much higher than user costs for minor rehab, surface sealing, etc. One measure of user costs are “impacts to the traveling public”, our customers.

  2. You’re right. User costs are really important to UDOT and now figure into total cost of projects. In this context, doing major road work less often definitely has an advantage in saved user cost. Delay is expensive!

    Catherine Higgins at July 14, 2010 3:25 pm
  3. User costs are really important to UDOT. In this context, doing major road work less often definitely has an advantage in saved user cost. Delay is expensive and long!

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