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

Pavement managementPostponing timely pavement maintenance may buy more time., but that time will be expensive.  Escalated costs for more extensive repairs are the likely result. You 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. Exposure to sunlight, rain, freeze/thaw cycles, traffic, and time all have damaging effects on pavement. Pavement deterioration begins immediately after construction and without timely maintenance, environmental and structural stresses can accelerate the process.

Understanding Pavement Life Cycle Aids in Management

Pavement quality deterioration follows a typical life cycle as shown on the attached graph. The initial 40 percent reduction in pavement quality occurs over the first three quarters of the pavement’s lifespan. This is the point at which the pavement has reached a critical level of wear. Beyond that point, the pavement quality will experience a rapid decline. The next 40 percent of pavement quality reduction will occur 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 these 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%, 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 and/or biased opinions.

Planning Helps to Establish Engineering Budgets

Pavement management brings applied science and engineering into the process of identifying requirements needed to maintain pavements at certain levels of quality. An engineered pavement management program consists 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.

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 future condition of the pavement. Projections of future condition provide the information needed to identify and schedule potential project-level areas that will require maintenance and rehabilitation in current and future years.

At the network level, forecasted maintenance requirements can be compared with the actual amount of money which can be allocated for pavement maintenance and rehabilitation. Using this comparison, coupled with projected pavement condition, priorities can be established for the entire pavement 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 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 with any of these pavement management services for town, 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 LechJennifer TranRon 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.