Technology Enabling Smaller Communities to Better Manage Their Roads

Every City or Town has a number of assets such as buildings, parks, schools, water and sewer systems, and its road system. Even the smallest of communities has tens of miles of roadways. In many cases, a municipal roadway system is one of the largest, if not the largest, asset owned by a community. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a roadway system is the single largest financial investment for a public agency to invest in and maintain. Protecting that asset and transportation investment, while critically important, has been increasingly challenging over the past several decades as available funds continue to shrink. What if there was a lower cost, high tech method to use in evaluating and managing your roads?

Well, now there is a solution!

The Life of a Roadway

A typical service life of a well-built road without any maintenance would be 10 to 15 years on average before degrading to fair or poor conditions. Constructing a two lane roadway is a costly undertaking today with new and reconstruction costs well above a million dollars per mile – more like between $2M and $3M. Proper maintenance of the roadway surface and infrastructure includes low cost treatments that effectively extended the life of the pavement to well beyond 20 years. If the early period of a pavement surface is not adequately maintained, its useful life will sharply reduce and also result in more damage that requires higher cost treatments to repair. Due to various causes and distresses, the pavement surface can quickly wear away if it is not properly maintained.

How do you know what to do and when?

Pavement Management can be an effective and efficient process to help monitor and program pavement treatments. It involves:

  • Assessing the conditions of all the roadway mileage
  • Determining the type of treatment that can be considered
  • Estimating costs of the treatments
  • Setting priorities for treatments

Implementing the Plan provides for a sustainable pavement that will perform in a condition more acceptable to the traveling public during its life cycle. Understanding the life cycle of pavements and taking the proactive steps to maintain roadways will be a less painful process that saves money and time no matter the condition.

Why haven’t more communities jumped all in with pavement management?

Largely in the past, the high cost dissuades communities as it can be both labor intensive and time consuming to implement and continue a pavement management system. The traditional methods of pavement management could also take up to a year or more to complete. The good news is that recent technology advancements, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, have enabled the pavement management assessments to become much more efficient and at significantly lower costs.

TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A GREAT TOOL!

Applying New Technology

While searching for ways to improve services to municipalities that are both cost-effective and useful, Green partnered with the technology firm, RoadBotics. RoadBotics developed its proprietary tool that employs machine learning and artificial intelligence to collect and evaluate the conditions of roadway surfaces. In 2018 they received the ASCE Overall Greatest Impact on Delivering the ASCE Grand Challenge Award for its high tech tool. Green engineers confirmed the validity of the method and reasonableness of its use in assessing and programming pavement maintenance work. Subsequently, we have developed a strong working relationship with RoadBotics and have since applied this method in a number of Massachusetts communities including the Towns of Sherborn and Ashland. This high-tech method has provided a low-cost technique to complete a full assessment of their respective road systems and enabled them to plan for the future. Its cost-effectiveness, simplicity and its transparency led these municipalities to create, in some cases, their first ever pavement management plans. As the conversation with the Ashland Public Works Director, Doug Small, reveals, the method provides for quick turnaround, low cost and importantly, the transparency.

The Towns of Sherborn (MA) and Ashland (MA) were some of the communities that made the decision to “jump in” in 2019 with the Green/RoadBotics team and its efficient, low cost approach. Sherborn with its 55 miles of locally controlled roads actually used some of the information in the middle of the plan development process to provide information to the local governing Board and get approval to treat a certain road sooner rather than later. Ashland with its 80+/- miles under its local aid program has found the initial effort useful for scheduling work for the next two years as well as being able to confirm roads that should be added to the system for State funding. In both of these cases, data collection efforts only took 2 days. Typically, developing the entire pavement management plan itself using our high tech approach will be accomplished in three months – a major improvement over the traditional method.

The benefits of this approach include:

  • Low cost to collect data and prepare a multi-year plan
  • Data and plan can be developed in a much shorter amount of time
  • GIS based approach allows for mapping and easy to understand presentation of information to governmental boards and the public

The success of the Green/RoadBotics Pavement Management System approach provides both small and large communities the ability to better manage their assets and streeeeeeetch their dollars while providing residents improved services.

Interested in learning how the Green and Robotics partnership can help you manage and improve your roads? We welcome you to contact us at manageyourpavement@greenintl.com.

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