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America's infrastructure problem is no longer a secret, yet the full extent of this issue often remains hidden from the public eye. As we engage with communities, municipalities, and engineering partners, it becomes increasingly clear that our roadways are in dire need of attention. From local gatherings to networking events, questions about the deteriorating state of our infrastructure have become a staple. In this article, we'll delve into the core of the problem and explore a fresh perspective on how to reshape the future of our roadways.

The Funding Challenge: Putting the Pieces Together

When we examine the landscape of America's roadways, a complex picture emerges. Responsibility for maintenance largely rests with municipalities, townships, and village owners. Surprisingly, only around 1.5% of maintenance and repair funding comes from the federal level. The remaining funds are cobbled together from various sources, such as grants, general funds, and taxpayer contributions. This fragmented approach has given rise to a significant issue – the backlog of maintenance and repairs that cities are struggling to tackle.

A Case Study: The Struggle of Small Communities

Let's take a closer look at Heath, Ohio, a community of around 15,000 people. With 60 miles of road under its jurisdiction, over 50 miles are maintained through local tax funding. The rest is divided among state and federal contributions. This reliance on local funding poses a challenge for Heath and countless other small communities grappling with the same issue. The consequences are clear: roads are deteriorating, citizens are dissatisfied, and businesses are affected.

A Shift in Focus: Setting Roads Up for Success

Rather than fixating solely on reactive measures like milling and overlaying, it's time for a paradigm shift. A key solution lies in a proactive approach through preservation and preventive maintenance. Just as we care for our homes and vehicles, our roadways deserve the same treatment. It's time to awaken to this reality and capitalize on the benefits it offers.

The Power of Preventive Maintenance

At Pavement Management Group, we emphasize the significance of preventive maintenance and preservation through our LinkedIn platform. While our core offering revolves around roadway condition assessment and pavement management, we recognize the importance of advocating for long-term road health. This approach is about ensuring that every dollar spent yields a lasting impact on the state of our infrastructure.

Taking Action: Embracing a Comprehensive Plan

To those responsible for maintaining roadways, the call is clear: pause and reflect. Prioritize preservation and preventive maintenance in your budget allocation. By dedicating 20% to 30% of your budget to these proactive measures, you'll unlock a substantial return on investment. Treat your infrastructure like a diversified portfolio, ensuring its long-term growth and stability.

A United Effort: Restoring America's Infrastructure Legacy

The situation demands urgency. It's time to halt the decline and take action. The countries leading the way in infrastructure development, such as China and India, share a commitment to maintaining and preserving their investments. The federal government must mirror this commitment by allocating a more substantial portion of funding to infrastructure. The race to restore America's infrastructure legacy is on, and our roadways are at the forefront of this transformation.

As we reflect on the state of America's roadways, we must acknowledge the urgency of revitalization. By prioritizing preservation and preventive maintenance, we can reverse the decline and pave the way for a resilient future. Let's heed this call, step away from the status quo, and collectively build a foundation that will carry our nation forward. For all those working tirelessly to improve our infrastructure, we salute you – keep paving the way for a brighter tomorrow. Stay tuned for more insights on our journey ahead.

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Lets explore Artificial Intelligence's (AI) role in the realm of pavement and asset management. As we navigate this landscape, it's important to dispel some misconceptions and provide a balanced view of what AI can truly achieve.

The Mixed Signals of AI's Advantages:

Let's cut to the chase—AI is making waves in pavement management. There's no denying that. However, we need to address the mixed signals that have surfaced regarding its advantages. As a seasoned professional, I stand as a witness to these signals. My experience, as well as that of my colleagues, confirms that AI is a game-changer, but not without its limitations.

The Road to AI's Reality:

I've walked the road (pun intended) of applying machine learning to asphalt distress assessment. Here's the scoop: AI is not the ultimate solution. It's an evolving technology with room for improvement. If you're a public works department, engineering firm, or related entity considering AI integration, brace yourself for both excitement and reality checks.

The Quest for Credibility:

Those familiar with my podcast and content know I'm diving deep into payment management issues. However, I don't hail AI as the ultimate savior just yet. Let's address the elephant in the room—AI isn't flawless. While it's progressing, it's not the perfect solution everyone envisions.

Decoding AI's Origin and Accuracy:

In a world flooded with AI-based solutions, the critical question is, where did these AI models learn their values? This origin story matters. While I won't name names, there are reputable companies offering AI-driven pavement condition assessments. But let's ponder the source—is it based on comprehensive data or hastily assembled datasets? This distinction matters immensely.

AI's Imperfections and Distress Recognition Challenges:

Now, let's confront the core issue: AI's struggle with accurate distress recognition. Unlike a smartphone's learning process for facial recognition, pavement distress identification is complex. AI's difficulty lies in categorizing diverse distresses that intertwine over time. This poses a challenge—separating and classifying these distresses accurately for consistent analysis.

The Value of Qualification and Validation:

Why does all this matter? Because AI's assessment of a pavement's condition can dictate major decisions. If AI misreads a pavement's state by even a slight margin, it can lead to recommendations for unnecessary repairs or, conversely, neglecting critical treatments. Validation and verification are essential, ensuring accurate maintenance recommendations.

AI's Roadmap to Maturity:

AI will undoubtedly improve. However, it's not yet a silver bullet. If you've heard claims of infallible AI models, take them with a grain of skepticism. While some may boast perfection, I'm yet to witness it. This isn't to downplay AI's potential; rather, it's a call to ensure we employ AI strategically, in tandem with expert analysis.

Navigating the Future, AI vs. Expertise:

Let's address a common concern—AI taking over jobs. Yes, AI will reshape certain aspects, but it won't overnight replace the value of human expertise. AI's strength lies in rapid assessment, not in inferring the most optimized maintenance plans. That's where your expertise shines—utilizing AI's data for informed decision-making, not replacing human judgment.

The Balanced Approach:

As we pave the way toward an AI-augmented future, remember that AI is a tool, not a magic wand. It's our responsibility to navigate the evolving landscape with wisdom. AI isn't the end-all, be-all, but it's a powerful companion in our journey toward better pavement management. Let's ensure its application aligns with expertise, validation, and a true understanding of our community's needs.

Keep Paving The Way

Author: James Golden, Founder and CEO of Pavement Management Group

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  • Writer's pictureJames Golden

In this episode of Road Insights Podcast, we're delving into a critical topic that affects our roadways and environment—heat.

As we look at the scorching temperatures during the summer, it becomes evident that the heat emanating from asphalt pavements plays a significant role in our urban landscapes.

The Urban Heat Island Effect: Where Asphalt Meets Concrete Jungle

Often characterized by concrete jungles, cities are heavily laden with asphalt infrastructure. As a result, they contribute to the "urban heat island effect." This phenomenon occurs when buildings and asphalt surfaces retain and radiate excessive heat back into the atmosphere, significantly raising temperatures in urban areas.

Walking on Fire: Asphalt Surface Temperatures

Imagine walking on a hot summer day. Now, picture the surface temperature of an asphalt roadway—surprisingly, it can reach a sweltering 160 degrees Fahrenheit, even when the ambient temperature hovers around 104 degrees. Such extreme heat poses risks to pedestrians, pets, and vehicles alike.

Asphalt Challenges: Cracks and Bleeding

Heat not only affects human comfort but also impacts the infrastructure itself. Asphalt's flexibility is crucial to its longevity. However, under intense heat, asphalt may develop micro-cracks or experience bleeding, where excess asphalt material seeps up through the pavement surface. Such issues can lead to accelerated deterioration of roadways, especially in high-traffic areas.

Cooling Solutions: Tackling Urban Heat Islands

Thankfully, some cities are proactively combating the urban heat island effect. One example is the "cool pavement" program initiated in Phoenix, Arizona. By utilizing specialized mixed designs, they reduced asphalt surface temperatures by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. This improves comfort for pedestrians and helps alleviate environmental concerns related to excessive heat.

Pave the Way for a Cooler Future

As we continue exploring heat's impact on our roadways, we encourage innovative solutions to create more sustainable and comfortable urban environments. Keep an eye out for our future episodes on pavement maintenance and other road-related topics. Remember, together; we can pave the way for a cooler and safer future for our communities.

Author: James Golden, Founder and CEO of Pavement Management Group

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