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Paving the Way: Preserve and Maintain Your Investment with Pavement Management Programs

Pavement managementYou wouldn’t consider driving your car 20,000 miles without changing the oil, rotating the tires, or having it inspected. Similarly, it is not a good idea to ignore needed maintenance of your pavements. Postponing timely pavement maintenance may buy more time, but that time will be expensive. Escalated costs for more extensive repairs are the likely result. Exposure to sunlight, rain, freeze/thaw cycles, traffic, and time, all have damaging effects on pavement. Pavement deterioration begins immediately after construction and without maintenance, environmental, and structural stresses can accelerate the process.

Life-Cycle Understanding Aids in Management

Pavement quality deterioration follows a typical life cycle. The initial 40 percent reduction in pavement quality occurs over the first three quarters of the pavement’s lifespan. At this point the pavement has reached a critical level of wear. Beyond that point, the pavement quality rapidly declines. The next 40 percent of quality reduction occurs over the next 12 percent of the pavement life. What may cost $1.00 per square foot to maintain pavements prior to the critical point rapidly increases to about $5.00 per square foot for repair if the pavement is left to further deteriorate.

Keeping pavements at certain levels of quality involves timely inspections, application of fundamental engineering decisions, and expenditure of funds. But if critical decisions about how and when to engage preventive maintenance strategies are appropriately made, the life-cycle costs of pavements can be lowered by 400 percent, even when the time value of the money to perform preventive maintenance is considered. Traditional approaches have left these maintenance decisions up to facilities personnel, who may engage a local contractor to select treatments based on reactionary, limited or biased information.

Planning Helps to Establish Engineering Budgets

Pavement management brings applied science and engineering into the process of identifying requirements needed to maintain pavements. An engineered pavement management program should consist of three major components:

  • A regular, scheduled pavement inspection program
  • A database to inventory collected data and consistently rate pavement quality
  • Engineering and economic analyses to evaluate strategies to increase return on investment and provide the engineer’s cost estimate associated with each strategy

This management approach is used to plan annual pavement repair/preservation programs and is an integral part of developing annual maintenance budgets for pavements. The management of pavements generally takes place at two levels, network and project.

This management approach is used to plan annual repair and preservation programs and is an integral part of developing maintenance budgets. The management of pavements generally takes place at two levels—network and project.

Network Level Management
In network level management, a relatively small percentage of the pavement is inspected to obtain a snapshot of the current condition. The data is also used to project the future condition of the pavement. Projections provide the information needed to identify and schedule potential project-level areas requiring maintenance and rehabilitation in current and future years.

The forecasted maintenance requirements can also be compared with the actual costs which can be allocated for pavement maintenance and rehabilitation. Using this comparison, coupled with projected pavement condition, priorities can be established for the entire network.

Project Level Management
At the project level, a detailed condition survey is undertaken to develop actual quantities for maintenance and repair. The results of project level pavement inspection are combined with budget and/or management constraints or both to produce the final maintenance and rehabilitation project list for any particular program year. Final plans and specifications are developed and used in the bidding process.

Terracon’s engineers can help clients with any of these pavement management services for city and county roadways, as well as parking lots and drive lanes associated with commercial developments, educational facilities, hospitals, and airports. In addition to evaluation and engineering services, we can provide construction support to include construction administration management, assist with the bidding process, and construction materials testing and observation. Our teams provide start to finish solutions for your pavement needs.


Ron LechRon S. Lech, P.E., is the Geotechnical Department Manager for Terracon’s Cincinnati office. Ron joined the Cincinnati office in 1994 and is the chairperson for its Pavements Practice Resource Group

Jennifer K. Tran, P.E., is a Project Manager in the Geotech Department in the Phoenix office. Jennifer has been with Terracon for more than 10 years. She works on multiple national accounts related to pavements such as Love’s, Lowe’s, Walmart, and The Home Depot.