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  • Writer's pictureJames Golden

Introducing Pavement Management 101: A Systematic Approach to Roadway Maintenance

As a professional in the pavement maintenance and preservation industry for almost 25 years, I've connected with many public works directors and engineers, and it's become clear to me that the concept of pavement management needs to be better! What is Pavement Management?

At its core, pavement management is a systematic approach to the annual maintenance and repair of a pavement network, including roadways, airfields, airport runways, trails, parking lots, and more. The key to pavement management is a systematic approach that maximizes budgetary dollars and identifies the right treatment to apply to the right pavement at the right time.

Why Condition Assessments Aren't Enough While condition assessments are a part of pavement management, they are only part of the picture. More than simply simply simply identifying the condition of the pavement is required to create a comprehensive maintenance plan. Instead, a systematic approach that includes inventory, assessment, prioritization, and treatment selection is necessary to maximize available resources.

The Importance of a Systematic Approach A systematic approach is critical to effective pavement management. This approach includes identifying the right treatment, applying it to the right pavement, and doing so at the right time. With a systematic approach, maximizing budgetary dollars and achieving the desired results is possible.

The Key Components of Pavement Management Pavement management has four key components: inventory, assessment, prioritization, and treatment selection. Starting with an inventory of the pavement network, a condition assessment is conducted to identify areas needing repair. The next step is to prioritize repairs based on the criticality of the pavement section and the available budget. Finally, the appropriate treatment is selected for each pavement section, considering its condition, age, and expected service life.

Benefits of Pavement Management A systematic pavement management approach can bring a range of benefits, including:

  1. Better allocation of resources: By prioritizing repairs based on need and available budget, pavement management allows for better use of taxpayer dollars.

  2. Improved safety: By proactively repairing pavement sections needing attention, pavement management helps prevent roadway accidents and injuries.

  3. Extended pavement life: By selecting the right treatment at the right time, pavement management can help extend our roadways' life, ultimately saving taxpayers money in the long run.

Pavement management is a critical part of maintaining safe and functional roadways. By taking a systematic approach that includes inventory, assessment, prioritization, and treatment selection, we can maximize taxpayer dollars, improve roadway conditions, and extend the life of our roadways. Let's not take the condition of our roadways for granted but instead invest in a proactive approach to pavement management.

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

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1. Network Definition

The first step in creating a successful program is knowing precisely what you have! This process involves identifying ALL of the roadways your agency is responsible for and splitting them into logical maintenance sections. Within each section, gather as much information about the section as possible. Typical items include:

ID, From, To, Length, Width, Additional Area, Total Area, Surface Type, Rank Classification, Curb Type, Number of Lanes, Date of Last Construction, etc.

2. Network Imagery or Video

Establishing the roadway network inventory is good, but expanding on this by viewing high-resolution imagery or video is excellent!

Imagine having the ability, in the office, to access Google Earth, click on a point, and stream high-definition video of that roadway section right within your desktop. Powerful capability, for sure!

3. Standardized Condition Assessment

With a well-organized inventory of your roadway network complete, the next step is to determine the condition of each section within the network and the average condition of the entire network.

There are many condition indices and methodologies in this day and age to determine surface conditions: PCI, PCR, OCI, PASER, etc. When selecting which condition assessment approach to leverage, you will want to make sure that the criteria and measured results align with the goals and objectives of your pavement management plan.

There are four options available for performing your condition assessment:

  • Manual

  • Semi-Automated

  • Fully Automated

  • Artificial Intelligence

When selecting the process for condition assessment, you will want to consider the costs associated, the timeline for completion, the condition index used aligns with your plan, and the software selection (Key 7 Below).

Companies like Pavement Management Group combine experience with ASTM condition assessment standards and AI to produce cost-effective and objective PCI ratings.

4. Needs Analysis

This process involves creating your maintenance and repair decision tree, gathering unit costs for selected treatments, and correlating conditions with treatments.

For example:

Roadways that are in Excellent Condition may be slated for a Rejuvenator application at the cost of $.15 per square foot.

On the other end of the spectrum, roadways in Failed condition may be slated for a Full Depth Reclamation at the cost of $5.00 per square foot.

Once established, correlate each treatment and cost fit each section within the roadway network, add it all up, and voila! You've got the current needs and costs for the entire roadway network.

5. Budget and Target Driven Analysis

Finally, a successful pavement management program must be able to project future roadway conditions and/or costs over extended periods.

This information is the communication piece between your public works department and public officials and is the key to measuring the impact and ROI of your maintenance policies.

For example, if you spend $1 million yearly on maintenance and repair, and your current network condition is a 70 PCI, what will the projected condition be each year over the next five years?

Questions like this will allow you to measure and project how your current program is currently performing and expected to perform in the future.

Are you projecting condition drops?

This opens the forum in a data-driven first to discuss allocating more funds to the program openly.

Funding shortfall?

Let's beef up the maintenance and preservation efforts to stabilize conditions until more funding is available.

These are the countless "What If" scenarios that can be achieved to determine current and future budgets or targets necessary to reach your goals.

This is how you genuinely begin to maximize your general fund and taxpayer dollars while optimizing the conditions of your roadways, all at the same time.

6. GIS Integration

To effectively communicate with the citizens, council, and public officials, you've got to be able to create map-driven deliverables!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...

In my experience, this statement is worth its weight in gold when I'm explaining the results and impact of the maintenance and repair plan through detailed GIS maps.

This establishes a connection between distress, condition, budgetary, maintenance, and repair data, and physical maps that all can relate to and understand.

7. Pavement Management Software

To develop a robust pavement management program, you will need specific software equipped with various tools and features.

The software will serve as the foundation of the entire program, providing access to current and historical data while offering a series of analysis, predictive, reporting, and mapping capabilities.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are a variety of applications in the marketplace today.

Some are stand-alone pavement management systems, while others are offered within an asset management system suite.

Software selection can certainly be a task all within itself! When going down this "road," do your homework upfront.

Identify implementation and ongoing costs, ask about upcoming features, inquire with other agencies who are active and long-term users, ask for a complete demo, highlight all of the keys referenced within this article, and identify the support services available.

Use value-based partnerships from trusted firms and products such as Pavement Management Group to maximize your investment. IN the case of PMG, there is no additional software license or system required on your part! PMG manages the entire effort for you and publishes your data to our GIS and web-based platform, RoadINsights.


Developing a turn-key pavement management program can appear expensive, timely, and daunting experience, but it doesn't have to be!

While all of this is achievable in-house, it may make sense to leverage the experience and services of professional services or engineering firms.

Many firms within the industry today can provide everything your agency needs to establish a successful pavement management program in a timely and budget-friendly manner.

I often summarize pavement management with the following phrase:

"Identifying the right treatment to apply to the right roadway, and at the right time".

When we simplify this definition, we can understand the actual value of a turn-key program that combines the seven keys mentioned...

Maximizing our tax dollars, extending the life of our roadways, and optimizing roadway conditions within our local communities.

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