The Massachusetts Municipal Association’s magazine is called the Municipal Advocate. They had the recent article (below) on the benefits on having a pavement management plan. I will be asking that Medfield institute a pavement management plan.
MUNICIPAL ADVOCATE Vol. 27, No. 2 25
Investing in Pavement Management
CAN IMPROVE ROADS, SAVE MONEY
The largest portion of your community’s infrastructure is literally under your feet—or your tires. A community’s pavement network allows residents and commerce to move from place to place, provides for efficient response time during emergencies, and offers safe bus routes to get children to school. Paved roads are, by far, the nation’s primary mode of transportation. For this reason, rebuilding, maintaining and preserving the condition of our pavement should be a top priority.
The aftereffects of serious winter storms can serve to remind us of the generally poor state of local roadway networks throughout Massachusetts. The reoccurring potholes, crumbling roadway edges, and new and deeper cracks that emerge in late winter and early spring are a fact of life, due largely to New England’s freeze/thaw cycles. The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that 41 percent of the major roads in Massachusetts are in poor or mediocre condition. Funding to repair and rebuild municipal roads is woefully inadequate, however. (See related stories, this issue.) A solution to this quandary for cities and towns may be an effective pavement management system.
A pavement management system—most likely the oldest type of asset management known to highway and transportation officials—is a long-term, formalized approach to gathering information about a community’s roadway network. Municipal officials then use the data to make informed roadway repair and maintenance decisions, prioritizing work to ensure the best return on investment. A pavement management system is a cost-effective tool for improving pavement conditions and maximizing the limited roadway repair and reinvestment dollars available to municipalities. A pavement management system can also help to build a case for additional funding for roadway infrastructure.
Some municipalities do an excellent job of pavement management, says John Livsey, the town engineer in Lexington, but most don’t have a strong enough grasp of the concept to benefit from its use. “I find that there is not a good understanding of pavement management among many of my peers,” he says. “For the majority of the towns I’m familiar with, the people who manage the roads don’t follow a pavement management process.”
WHAT IS PAVEMENT MANAGEMENT?
A pavement management system is a geographic information system-based technology used to measure a community’s entire road system, evaluate its road conditions, and log this data in a comprehensive database. The data are then analyzed and used to develop several important tracking metrics, including the average Pavement Condition Index (PCI). The backlog of needs is expressed in
both miles and dollars. Public works staff and other municipal officials respon-
Investing in Pavement Management
CAN IMPROVE ROADS, SAVE MONEY
By William Scarpati and Jerry Guerra
A public works crew does preventive maintenance on a road rated in “good” condition, which will extend its lifespan.
William Scarpati is Senior Asset Management Specialist and Jerry Guerra is Manager of Marketing & Strategic Business Development for Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, a transportation engineering, planning and environmental consulting firm based in Burlington.
MUNICIPAL ADVOCATE Vol. 27, No. 2 23
sible for the pavement management
program monitor the metrics, setting and
measuring goals and results relative to
pavement condition and sustainability.
The idea is to take a comprehensive,
long-range view of a community’s roadway
assets. After completion of an initial
pavement management study, communities
usually make an upfront commitment to an
annual investment in maintenance,
including a strategic and balanced program
of resurfacing and base rehabilitation
improvement projects. Major reconstruction
projects are typically scheduled in later
years of the plan.
After conducting the study, communities
will sometimes, though not always, increase
their roadway budget. Rarely is the
additional investment enough to cover all
the work that’s needed, but with a strategic
program of maintenance and repair in
place (i.e., a pavement management system),
the dollars spent go a lot farther.
Livsey has overseen pavement
management programs in two towns, first
in Billerica and now in Lexington. “One
thing I hear from a lot of my peers is that
they can’t have a pavement management
program because they don’t have enough
funding,” he says. “I’d argue that it’s even
more important to follow a pavement
management program if funding is tight.
Once you begin following the early steps
and seeing how it works, you can make a
stronger case to the community to fund
roadway improvements. It builds on itself.”
A pavement management system can
alter the way municipal leaders think about
roadway maintenance. Typically, it will
turn the “worst-first” mentality completely
around. Fixing streets in the worst condition
first may seem like common sense, but it is
actually not the most efficient or costeffective
way to proceed. With a pavement
management system, municipalities can
clearly see the flaw in this thinking. Rather
than exhausting their budget to reconstruct
a one-mile stretch of roadway in poor
condition, with the same dollars a
community may be able to preserve or treat
eight miles of roadway in somewhat less
“The most important thing to understand
is that you need to do basic repairs and
general road maintenance early in the
process or pavement lifecycle,” says Steven
Tyler, superintendent of utilities and
facilities for the town of Spencer. “Those
are the least expensive repairs and, because
of it, they’re the most valued repairs. That’s
Pavement Deterioration Curve
12% of Life
Will Cost $8
to $10 Here
75% of Life $1 for Renovation Here
PCI Band #1 (100–88 PCI)
Excellent Condition — in need of no immediate maintenance.
PCI Band #2 (87–68 PCI)
Good Condition — may be in need of crack sealing or minor localized repair
PCI Band #3 (37–47 PCI)
Fair Condition — pavement surface in need of surface sealing or thin overlay
PCI Band #4 (46–21 PCI)
Poor Condition — pavement structure in need of additional thickness to resist traffic loading
PCI Band #5 (20–0 PCI)
Failed Condition — in need of full depth reconstruction/reclamation.
The PCI ranges given in this table are general averages. The actual treatment band threshold numbers depend on pavement surface type and
(PCI) Treatment Band Ranges
24 MUNICIPAL ADVOCATE Vol. 27, No. 2
where the gap is. A lot of people in my
position don’t understand how critical it is
to spend money on roads in good condition
before you spend it on roads in bad condition.”
It’s a lot less expensive to maintain
pavement in decent condition—thereby
extending its useful lifecycle before it needs
replacement—than it is to completely
reconstruct a road that’s in poor condition.
At the same time, good maintenance of a
large portion of a community’s roadway
system helps to build public support and a
greater willingness to finance additional
repairs. “When people see the town doing
maintenance, and see that we’re taking care
of fifteen miles of road instead of three,
and it’s not just raw improvements, that
helps to get buy-in from the community,”
There are many ways to do pavement
management. Many cities and towns hire
an outside engineering firm or pavement
management consultant that incorporates
advanced software products, while others
choose to perform the duties in-house.
In the latter case, communities may use
technology as simple as spreadsheet software.
One approach to pavement management
includes the following steps:
1. Project Initiation Meeting: Consultants
meet with key community officials (e.g.,
DPW director, town/city manager, town/
city engineer) to establish goals, collect
existing data and prioritize the work areas.
2. Database Construction: The project
team collects and enters existing data
into the software, configuring the program
to prepare it for additional data entry.
3. Pavement Data Collection: An
inventory and evaluation of pavement
conditions is conducted for the agreedupon
roadway miles. Factors considered
include material type, age, geometry,
drainage, substructure conditions and
construction history, as well as basic
geophysical segmentation, average daily
traffic (if available), functional class,
curb reveal, and thickness (if available).
The comparative measure of this
information is the Pavement Condition
Index, which is rated on a scale of 0
(worst) to 100 (best). PCI surveying
practices and calculation methods
have been standardized by ASTM
International and accepted by the
American Association of State Highway
Transportation Officials. Typically,
communities strive for a PCI in the low
80s on their major arterial/collector
streets and high 70s on their local
4. Quality Assurance, Strategy Meeting
and Data Analysis: After ensuring
the integrity of the data, the consultant
and municipal officials meet to review
the findings, discuss the community’s
repair policies and prioritize objectives
to develop a long-term pavement management
strategy. The consultant then
determines what the repair “backlog” is
and establishes priorities, costs and
alternatives for stemming the pavement
network’s deterioration and moving
5. Report of Findings: Data, costs and
alternatives are condensed into a report,
expressed in layman’s terms and
incorporating graphs, charts, tables and
other illustrations to better explain the
findings and proposed solutions.
6. GIS Integration: If a community has a
geographic information system available,
analysts develop a linear route system to
aid in the development of a new pavement
data layer in the system.
7. Training and Guidance: Consultants
will train community officials to
understand and use the software, while
remaining available to assist with the
implementation of the program. In many
cases, when the consultation is ongoing,
an annual status report is also part of
Even if a community is not willing or
able to engage an outside expert to
implement a pavement management system,
this should not prevent officials from
benefitting from the concept.
“It can be done at many different levels,”
says Lexington’s Livsey. “We had the
money to hire a consultant, so that’s what
we did. But a town can still go out there and
do an evaluation of their roads using a more
rudimentary scaling system. You need
some knowledge of the process, but you
can put together a system in a spreadsheet.
With in-house staff, you wouldn’t have the
power of [a commercial software] model,
and you don’t have someone whose sole
focus is the pavement management system
like you do with a consultant, but you
would at least get a decent understanding of
the funding you need.”
Realistically, communities with more than
100 miles of roadway may have a difficult
time conducting a comprehensive pavement
management review in-house. But the
bottom line is that any pavement management
system is better than nothing at all.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Even communities that invest the time and
money in a pavement management system
can falter in the process. Turnover in key
positions or a shift in funding priorities can
There are, however, some prescribed
steps that can improve a community’s
chances of benefitting from an investment
in pavement management.
• Ensure buy-in at the top. If a municipality’s
governing bodies and officials don’t
support the pavement management
system—or worse, don’t understand why
they’re doing it—it will more than likely
run off the rails. Communities with the
best pavement management results tend to
have political leadership with a strong
commitment to changing for the better
their approach to pavement repair and
• Identify project champions. Change is
often met with fear and resistance. The
person in the organization charged with
ensuring implementation of the pavement
management system must also be its
greatest advocate, stopping at nothing
until it is accepted and considered the
guiding force behind the pavement repair and maintenance process. The higher in the organization this person is, the better. It is also critical to identify additional champions to carry on this leadership should the primary person move on to another job.
• Select a software package that is best suited for your organization. Employing technology to solve problems can sometimes complicate a process, especially in the short term. As noted earlier, small and rural communities with a relatively low number of roadway miles can use a simple spreadsheet program. Larger and more urbanized municipalities should consider investing in a comprehensive asset/work order management software program that can address not only pavement, but also water, sewer, sidewalks, ramps, signs, signals and other systems. Whichever approach a community takes, officials should ensure that the program is robust enough to address issues such as short- and long-term prioritization, spending optimization, reporting and querying capabilities, and so on. And don’t skimp on training; the best system in the world is useless if the people who matter don’t know what it can do or how to use it.
• Conduct a quality assurance review of pavement management data. Proper analysis and planning require accurate data. Identify what you’re going to collect, why you need the information, how you will use it and so on. Identify the appropriate data and models required to produce the desired output. Conduct a pilot—select a snow route, district or ward to test data collection and modeling. Perform tests to ensure that the collected data is uniform and consistent, especially when multiple personnel are gathering and entering data.
• Deliver a readable and useful report. The people reading the data are likely to have a range of technical knowledge, so it is imperative to use language that is understandable to a wide audience. Express data and recommendations with terms such as dollars, miles, and months or years. Recommendations should be clear and candid. Tell it like it is.
• Continually update the pavement management database. Pavement/asset management is a living process. It should not be done once and then followed—or worse, forgotten. If pavement management is to be beneficial, the community needs to maintain accurate and up-to-date records of repairs, costs, schedules and so on. One rule of thumb is to inspect between one-quarter and one-third of the roadway network every year.
It’s tempting to look at pavement management as a quick fix or a silver bullet for all of a community’s roadway woes. While pavement management does offer some immediate benefits, this is not the primary motivation. A pavement management system is a long-range plan that will stretch a roadway repair budget and will eventually result in a vastly improved system. The plan typically covers a period of three to five years, with a focus on the work that is necessary to bring the roadway system up to more acceptable standards.
Identifying a community’s backlog of work, and the costs associated with addressing these needs, helps the community effectively manage the finances of its roadway infrastructure program. The pavement management system becomes the blueprint for a proactive, cost-effective preservation and maintenance program, as well as the foundation for a strategic capital infrastructure improvement plan.
The benefits don’t end with roads, however. Pavement management systems can be shared and coordinated with utility companies, for example. Before a city or town invests in a resurfacing project, it can ensure that any conflicts with utility infrastructure are addressed.
A pavement management plan overlaid with other condition assessments can help communities make better decisions about all of their assets. One example is sidewalk condition data, which allows a community to address issues related to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by identifying problem areas. This includes costs and a timetable for corrective measures.
So what should a community do first? “I suggest talking to some neighboring communities to see what they’re doing and what’s working for them,” says Tyler. “When taking on a challenge of this nature, I feel more comfortable talking with my peers. If they have a pavement management plan, what do they like and what don’t they like, what works, how do they manage the data?
“Despite the challenges, pavement management has definitely benefitted Spencer. We’ve used it to make the public more aware of these concepts, and it has helped us get additional funding to improve the condition of our roads. When you document the issues and show the level of dollars needed, it makes you feel better about the decisions being made on where to spend money.”