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.
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.