Making Pavement Performance Measures Matter
155,902. That’s how many total lane miles of roadway need resurfacing or reconstruction in the United States at this time.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act aim to resolve this issue. And last year, the final rule was published in the Federal Register as the third in a series of rules that together established a set of performance measures for state departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs).
The final rule implements performance management requirements by requiring state DOTs to measure and report on transportation resources’ condition using the same metrics and measurements nationwide, as well as set targets and measure progress towards those targets.
Under the final rule, state DOTs are to set statewide 2- and 4-year targets for the non-Interstate National Highway System (NHS) and 4-year targets for the Interstate. The first 4-year performance period began in January 2018, and each state DOT, with help from MPOs, must establish its targets by this May.
“States will set targets based on their expectations of pavement conditions at the end of the performance period given the existing conditions, expected deterioration and investments in the highway system,” said FHWA representatives. “Additionally, states can adjust their 4-year targets midway through the performance period.”
January 2018 also marked the start of DOTs collecting data for Interstate pavements required by the final rule, including International Roughness Index (IRI), rutting, cracking percentage, faulting, and inventory, with the baseline report due Oct. 1 of this year.
Then, they must submit data annually for Interstates’ conditions on or before April 15. States also must submit non-Interstate roadway conditions every two years on or before June 15.
“States have been collecting the data they need to do target setting as part of their pavement management system,” said FHWA representatives. “Reporting that data to Highway Performance Monitoring System on a full extent basis is new in the required regulation.”
FHWA will use that data to determine annually if each state is in compliance with this minimum condition requirement, which is an absolute minimum level of no more than 5 percent poor Interstate pavements, and 10 percent for Alaska.
ARTBA recommended in 2013 a standard balancing both pavement smoothness and an assessment of subsurface conditions and foundations. “A standard relying solely on pavement smoothness would not be adequate because it could be maintained by applying periodic overlays even if the subsurface elements of the road are in poor or deteriorating condition,” said ARTBA President and CEO T. Peter Ruane.
If FHWA determines the state DOT’s Interstate pavement condition falls below the minimum level for the most recent year, the state DOT must obligate a portion of National Highway Performance Program and transfer a portion of Surface Transportation Program funds to address Interstate pavement condition.
“The major impact of the transfer and obligation requirements will be less flexibility on the use of federal funding,” said FHWA representatives, “but many of the states are already investing more than the required amount in the Interstate system.”
For example, California, Florida and Missouri DOTs don’t expect major changes as a result of the final rule.
“The condition of the department’s pavements and bridges ranks in the top of the nation,” said Florida DOT Communications Director Dick Kane. “The department’s existing asset management practices result in pavements and bridges which exceed established department performance requirements founded on Florida Statute and targets for the new FHWA Pavement and Bridge Performance Measures.”
As such, Kane doesn’t expect much, if any, impact to project level reporting for maintenance, rehabilitation or new construction–a sentiment seconded by Missouri’s DOT.
“The final rule required us to report on additional pavement conditions metrics,” said Ben Reeser in MoDOT’s transportation planning department. Historically, MoDOT collected smoothness, or IRI, data for its condition rankings, though it will now also collect rutting, cracking and faulting data to measure pavement condition under the final rule.
Road specific pavement condition data is submitted by state DOTs to FHWA in one tenth of a mile increments through the Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS). This condition data reported quantifies the measurement of specific metrics (i.e. inches of rutting). FHWA uses this information to determine if a roadway segment is in good, fair, or poor condition. The roadway segment information is only directly accessible to state DOTs. However, aggregated information on the percentages of roadway networks in good and poor condition will be reported through FHWA’s Highway Statistic Series.
Despite those measurement changes, Reeser said MoDOT also doesn’t anticipate significant changes in the amount of pavement maintenance or construction as a result of the final rule.
“MoDOT has been measuring performance for many areas, including pavement and bridge conditions, for more than a decade through our Tracker system,” Reeser said. “We will continue to focus on preventive maintenance strategies that have been in place to keep infrastructure in good condition.”
Although California expects to bid more paving projects in the coming years, it is not as a result of the final rule.
“Caltrans already set pavement and bridge performance targets with its Transportation Asset Management Plan, which the California Transportation Commission adopted in 2016,” said Caltrans Public Information Officer Erin Gallup von Tersch. “While a different requirement (state vs. federal), SB 1 states that by the end of 2027, not less than 98 percent of the statewide system must be in good or fair condition.”
To meet that target, Caltrans is committed to fixing more than 17,000 lane miles of pavement and expedited 50 additional pavement projects worth $243 million going into construction as early as this spring.
But this may not be the case for every state.
According to ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black, the following states currently have more than 5 percent of Interstate highways rated below the standards: Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington.
“This is based on our analysis of data from FHWA’s highway statistics,” she said, adding that four of those states are at 6 percent, “so they are pretty close.”
FHWA said that although the MAP-21 and FAST Act granted states more flexibility to use federal funds, they also required additional planning, asset management and performance management programs to define investments and performance of the system.
“In reviewing these programs and participating in the processes, contractors may be able to identify opportunities to help states and MPOs address performance gaps, e.g. identifying innovative solutions to more efficiently and cost-effectively address pavement condition,” FHWA representatives said.
FHWA is currently reviewing how to make target information transparent to the public, but feasibly, knowing the state of your State DOT could benefit your bottom line as a paving contractor.