Better Roads Staff
Prevention tactics vary according to pavement category. For example, chip seals and crack sealing may be appropriate for rural roads, but not for high-load/high volume Interstates.
Adapted from “Pavement Management System Based on Financial Consequence,” by Sohila Bemanian, Patty Polish, and Gayle Maurer. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1940, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, DC, 2005, pp. 32-37.
The Other Side of Pavement Triage
Pavement professionals prefer to think of triage as a set of priorities: the most important roads are taken care of first, the least important, last. But the idea is, all pavements get treated in due course.
In an emergency medical setting — say, in the wake of a large natural disaster or a bloody battle in a war zone — the dark side of triage is the sacrifice of a patient who is too far gone to save, or whose life can only be saved at the expense of several other lives. Can that happen in a road management program?
Yes, if road funding stays low enough, long enough. But among the agencies contacted for this report, that time is not imminent.
Like most road agencies, Battle Creek, Michigan, has seen a steady erosion in road funding since the early 2000s, and, like most road managers, Chris Dopp, city engineer, has responded by putting more of his budget into prevention.
“We started passing over total reconstructions because they consume so much money,” Dopp told Better Roads. “It just made sense to focus on treating the good pavements at the right time with preventive maintenance.”
Passing over pavements that have exceeded their design lives and need rebuilding is not ideal, but Dopp points out that continued decline does not add to the future cost of rebuilding them. The strategy then becomes one of keeping them safe.
This point was also made by Murl Sebring, PE, a retired regional operations engineer for New York State DOT. Writing in response to a Better Roads column on the subject of sacrificial roads, Sebring pointed out that a poor pavement can be kept safe in an economical manner. “Road safety should be a priority and can be accomplished,” wrote Sebring. “ Smoothness is relative and with quality repairs and timely fixes, even the worst road can be made safely drivable.”
Like most road managers, Dopp’s current strategies run toward stretching his maintenance funds until a stronger economy can begin generating more substantial budgets. “We’re using microseals as an alternative to overlays,” he said. “We’re also using hot-in-place recycling and more chip seals than in the past. The chip seals don’t have the lifecycle of traditional treatments, but they preserve the integrity of the road and we can afford them. It’s like, if your house needs new siding but you can’t afford it, you paint it.”
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