Before you can begin discussing why it's so important to keep good roads in good condition you have to consider the facts:
- Hillsborough County had several funding sources for pavement management. All of these sources have been reduced because of recent economic challenges that have reduced home values and the taxes generated by those depreciated values, as well as the diminished gas tax resulting from reduced vehicle travel in the state.
- FY09 budget for road maintenance was 13.9M
- FY10 is $7.1M
- The FY12 budget could be reduced by another $3.5M, leaving the county with essentially only gas tax funds to maintain roads. The funds are expected to generate between $3.5M and $4.0M to maintain 6,900 lane miles of paved roads throughout Hillsborough County.
Many philosophies on how to maintain roads exist, with 'worst first' always paramount with motorists and taxpayers. This always seems to make the most sense to most people because they do not embrace the idea that anything can be done to a road expect replacement. Worst first may actually make sense if you have lots of cash, or you are talking about an asset you cannot treat any other way - like replacing road signs. Some roads, however, do have a multitude of other options, especially local, low traffic-volume roads, and can often benefit from managing the condition of the road surface.
Fortunately, many municipalities have a large percentage of local roads to deal with, and the authority to apply the right treatment at the right time. Hillsborough County's philosophy is simply to "keep the good roads in good condition," but that requires knowing what treatments to apply based on the condition of the road surface and when to apply those treatments to maximize the value of how the right treatment at the right time can extend the service life of the road.
It's important to recognize that certain defects require specific treatments. Putting the wrong treatment (a misdiagnosed problem) on the wrong road is not only wasteful, but it can actually cost you more money than if you had done nothing. In other words you can make a deteriorating road condition worse.
The treatment arsenal is specific and you have to know which treatment is prescribed for a specific defect to get the performance punch needed. If you do not have the time to do it right, you sure don't have time to do it over.
So it's important to get it right with a well thought out plan as to what will be the best approach, and then monitor progress, report what worked and what did not. An incorrect treatment or timing of treatment will cost you credibility and money.
Having a game plan
W. Roger Cox, P.E., program manager for Hillsborough County's Transportation Infrastructure Management Division, says it's crucial to have a pavement management system based on inspections, planning and implementing the right treatment. That system has been instrumental in helping Cox and other road maintenance officials achieve a 78 Pavement Condition Index (PCI) rating of the county's road network.
Every three years road engineers conduct an analysis of every lane mile in the network, using both the technology of an inspection vehicle that can gather visual evidence of surface conditions, as well as the physical inspections conducted by staff engineers.
For approximately the past six years the Transportation Infrastructure Management Division has also employed the Roadway Activity Planning Program (RAPP), software designed to maintain historical data on treatments and other construction activities performed on the road surfaces throughout the network.
"It's stand-alone software that allows our engineers to select projects that are the best candidates for the treatments our current budgets will support," Cox says. "We're driving our roads every three years to gather information on surface condition, and we have images to back up any identified problem areas.