When it comes to preserving pavement, not every city’s paving manager is as open-minded as Nashville’s Donald Reid; then again, not every urban paving manager has Reid’s research background, either.
But what virtually every manager does have is awfully tight budgets and ever-expanding miles of deteriorating roads, which means they can learn a thing or two from Reid’s approach, which starts with methodical pavement management and pavement preservation.
“I am willing to test viable products provided by reputable manufacturers and vendors if they fit the profile of our roadways. We don’t put down just anything people contact me about,” says Reid, paving and right-of-way manager for Nashville for the past 10 years. “But I’ve tried a lot of them.”
“There is a definite benefit you get from putting a product down ahead of time to test it out,” he says. “People come to me with new products because of my history with research in the state DOT.
“Because I’ve kept up with the progress made by efforts like the Transportation Research Board’s Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) and the Federal Highway Administration’s Long Term Pavement Performance Program (LTPP), I’ve gotten a reputation for being willing to try emerging techniques and products,” he continues. “And why not? I would rather do that before Metro puts it down on a road in front of someone’s house, only to find out afterward that it was a bad idea. It has worked well for us to make sure a product meets the need and doesn’t cause problems for constituents or the environment before we commit to use it on the roadway.”
Reid says the Nashville effort to preserve its pavement — and his willingness to test out all sorts of materials and processes — is based on a semi-annual survey of all roads under his responsibility. Half the roads are surveyed one year, and the other half are surveyed the next year, so every two years he gets a complete update of state of the roadways throughout his area.
Data for miles and miles of roads is collected, analyzed, and translated into a number — an overall pavement condition index (OCI) rating between 0 and 100 for each road. The higher the number, the better the condition of the pavement, and the less work it needs.
Reid says that, under some systems, pavement managers have to go out to the road and verify what the OCI says. The system Nashville uses not only provides images, but also breaks the data down into segments of roads with images tied to each road segment.
“We have digital images of every 20 feet of roadways in the county,” he says. “To me, it’s well worth it. We thought that when Google Earth came out we might not need this, but Google Earth just isn’t detailed enough. You can’t tell if the road is a 50, 60 or 75 rating, and you don’t have any control at all over when or how often the images are taken.”
TDOT Background Supports Efforts
Prior to joining Nashville, Reid had worked for 15 years for the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation (TDOT), where the state recognized it had to get its arms around the preservation of state-maintained pavement, and where Reid implemented a pavement management program for the state.
But working at a state level can be difficult.
“At the state DOT level, you’re dealing with a very large organization with many, many stakeholders, and it can be difficult to get consensus on implementing and utilizing new products,” he says.
“During the years we’ve been doing it here at Metro, whenever I deploy a new test site, my counterparts come down from TDOT and from other local governments across the state to check it out,” he explains. “Here I can just decide I want to test a new product or process, identify a suitable test case, and supervise having the product applied under ideal conditions. I don’t have to go through bureaucracy to get approval to do it.”