Enact a Pavement Management System Policy

Texas should enact a pavement management system policy to improve the quality, uniformity and standardization of highway construction in the state, while achieving substantial savings.


Background
As competing demands are made on highway construction resources, wisely allocating the state s resources becomes increasingly important to the development of Texas infrastructure. One mechanism that has been proven successful is an efficient pavement management system checking statewide trends in pavement condition and evaluating allocation formulas for reconstruction.

Although the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has a pavement management system (P MS) underway, a number of factors have made it important to establish pavement management as a high priority, full-time job. Pressing issues include the need for better information about the cost of the pavement s life cycle, increased turnover among experienced transportation engineers, improved pavement design procedures and compliance with federal mandates.

PMS is defined by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a set of tools that assist decision makers in finding cost-effective strategies for providing, evaluating and maintaining pavements in a serviceable condition. 1 The most efficient reconstruction specifications can be determined from a PMS. At TxDOT, staff will increasingly use such information to help monitor, select and prioritize maintenance and construction projects and identify new needs. 2

In 1989, the FHWA mandated that all states develop and implement a PMS by February 1993. TxDOT has developed a phased-in implementation schedule to be completed by September 1995. In addition, th e recently enacted Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 requires Texas to implement a PMS which addresses not only highways, but also intermodal transportation facilities and systems. Failure to implement the system by fiscal ye ar 1996 will result in a 10-percent penalty of apportioned highway funds and transit funds. 3

The federal ISTEA also requires a stronger role in planning and implementing transportation programs for metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and funding f rom ISTEA will be channeled through MPOs. Plans for capacity, safety, pavement design and other issues will need to be captured at the state and MPO levels through pavement management information systems. This shifting of state and local responsibilities w ill affect how information for the PMS is collected and used.

TxDOT will be the natural choice to lead in these matters; however, the agency should share this expertise and work with MPOs cooperatively so that their expertise can be available to all 25 MPOs across the state.

A PMS also can use more computer-generated solutions to achieve savings and develop uniform standards within the TxDOT to ensure conformity across the state. The PMS standard will assure that equivalent pavement structures are neither over-designed nor und er-designed and that pavements running across these districts are similarly constructed. A working PMS applied more consistently across Texas also will allow more objective and accurate funding allocations by basing decisions on actu al pavement performance.

Recommendations
A. The Legislature should require the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to expedite the development of a statewide pavement management system (PMS) and encourage both TxDOT and the state s metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to apply it effectively.

In addition, the Legislature should direct TxDOT to provide technical assistance to the MPOs and to county and local governments to avoid duplication. TxDOT should redirect existing resources or seek a dditional federal funds to accomplish this goal as rapidly as possible.

B. The Legislature should direct TxDOT to place a high priority on improving the current PMS and its automation.

TxDOT should identify and remove interdivisional barriers that prevent TxDOT s information resources from meeting the agency s needs.

C. The Legislature should direct TxDOT to report on the use of PMS by both TxDOT and the MPO to establish planning and programming priorities.

TxDOT should prepare a status report on the development and usage of its PMS by October 1 of each year. The report should be distributed to the Governor, the Legislative Budget Board, the appropriate legislative transportation committees, TxDOT Commissioners, the Comptroller of Public Accounts and the State Auditor.


Implications
The PMS envisioned for Texas will improve th e decision-making process at both the administrative and project levels by using life-cycle cost methods more extensively. If available as a resource for MPOs, it will promote uniform pavement across the state. Using such a system s state-of-the art technology and standardized procedures for data gathering will ensure that fiscal decisions are based on objective assessments.

Implementing a PMS within Texas will identify optimum pavement design and construction strategies and save money. Taken together, the initiatives called for here will provide for an improved Texas transportation infrastructure, one that can meet the challe nges of the next century.


Fiscal Impact
Savings to the state s Highway Fund (006) would depend on how quickly and effectively TxDOT implements a full-featured PMS to select pavement designs and prioritize projects. Transportation experts believe that once a system is in place, it should yield savings of 2 to 3 percent of construction costs. Based upon appropriations for the fiscal 1992 and 1993, net savings would have been an estimated $13 million to $19 million, with five-year savings estimated at $64 million to $96 million. These savings, in turn, coul d be used to fund more state transportation projects. While there would be costs to the Highway Fund to expedite the implementation of a PMS, the system is required to be in place by 1996 under federal mandates. There would be no effect on the General Reve nue Fund.



Endnotes
1 Federal Highway Administration, FHWA Pavement Policy (Washington, D.C., 1989).
2 Texas Department of Transportation, Pavement Management Information System, Austin, Texas.
3 United States Department of Transportation, Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, Summary (Washington, D.C.,1991), p. 15.