Feds Do the Math on Maintenance
“Pay now or pay later” is the mantra of those who support rigorous maintenance of bridges, highways and other infrastructure.
But what does the maintenance math actually look like, both in terms of dollars and structural degradation? And what's the optimal process to confront it?
That's what the U.S. Transportation Research Board wants to find out.
The agency's National Cooperative Highway Research Program has issued a Request for Proposals to "develop processes for quantifying the consequences of delayed application of maintenance treatments on highway pavements, bridges, and other physical assets."
The agency has budgeted $450,000 for a 27-month study, and proposals are due June 6. The work is expected to begin Oct. 1.
The RFP notes that budget constraints and other factors are increasingly leading to reduction (and even elimination) of maintenance treatments for highway pavements, bridges and other assets.
TRB is not challenging the premise that deferred maintenance costs more in the long run; it is seeking better tools to help guide maintenance programs. Current tools for quantifying the consequences of delayed maintenance are insufficient, the board said.
"[P]rocesses for using these tools to demonstrate the potential savings and performance enhancements resulting from applying maintenance treatments at the right time are not readily available," the RFP said..
The 27-month study would develop processes and data for at least five types of assets, including highway pavement and bridges.
"Research is needed to develop such processes. This information will help highway agencies better assess the economic benefits of maintenance actions and their role in enhancing the level of service of the highway system.
"In addition, incorporating these processes in asset management systems would provide a means for optimizing the allocation of resources."
The goal of the project is to develop processes for quantifying the consequences of delayed application of maintenance treatments of at least five asset types, including bridges and pavement.
Consequences will be expressed in terms of performance indicators (e.g., distress and level of service), costs to owners and road users, and other relevant factors.
The processes developed should "flexible enough such that they will not require the use of a specific commercially available analytical tool."
The complete RFP is available here.