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Tools for road managers (for an objective and rational comprehensive approach to road management) – BRRC Synthesis F48/14

Several actors are in charge of constructing and maintaining road infrastructure. They may be regions or municipalities, but also managers of specific facilities such airfield strips, port areas, industrial areas, etc. All of them, however, are faced with the same challenges raised by ageing infrastructures, ever increasing traffic loads, and budget restrictions.

The quality of road infrastructure is important to all actors, but is perceived in different ways:

  • road users are mainly concerned with mobility, safety and driving comfort;
  • roadside users primarily wish to have easy access to their dwellings and to suffer as less (noise) annoyance from traffic as possible;
  • enterprises want to be readily accessible and minimize journey times in delivering goods to their clients;
  • and, finally, road managers have to offer infrastructure which meets all of these requirements. Technically effective maintenance, in which cost effectiveness is sought as well, is essential to keep up quality.

Road asset management is more than just reporting or communicating on the condition and performance of the road network. It also, and mainly, involves efficiency and sustainability in managing and maintaining the existing road transport infrastructure, so as to meet the expectations of the various actors involved in the best possible way.

How to ensure optimum quality and efficient road asset management in this context?
First of all, good (quantitative and qualitative) knowledge of the road asset is required with a view to accurately defining the needs for maintenance (network level) and selecting the appropriate technical solution in any specific situation (project level).

A road management policy based on well-planned preventive maintenance measures will generally be more effective and less costly in the longer run than a policy which restricts itself to merely curative measures.

“Network” and “project” level management
In principle, road management requires two discrete yet complementary analyses:

  • the first consists in a regular general evaluation of the network. It is based preferably on the use of a simplified and realistic methodology, with criteria set as objectively as possible. The object of this analysis is to draw the outlines of maintenance and strengthening strategies and to define priorities;
  • the second takes place at the project level and aims to refine the choice of maintenance measures for a give road or section of road. Before these measures can be implemented, a more thorough diagnosis often appears to be necessary. A project level analysis is also needed when constructing a new road, to enable the project engineer to include precise requirements in the tender specifications.

Network evaluation and management system
The choice of network evaluation and management system is free. In most cases, the system is based on a consistent systematic use of road management procedures and methods and is referred to as pavement management system (PMS).

The simplest form relies on an annual visual condition survey of the entire network, in which the roads are ranked for example into three categories (good, fair, poor). Using this classification as a basis, the most urgent works can be carried while considering, where appropriate, other decision criteria such as available annual budget, mobility demand, annoyance to roadside residents, etc. This PMS approach can be described as basic.

More advanced systems use data from measurements by specific (computer-controlled) techniques and with (in-vehicle) equipment for encoding defects or measuring the longitudinal profile, skid resistance, bearing capacity or rutting of roads. These data are fed to databases and may be processed into performance indicators by specific software. This also makes it possible to determine the residual life of road sections or to define so-called homogeneous zones (with similar performance characteristics), which will suggest priorities for road maintenance and/or strengthening works.

To be comprehensive, a pavement management system must include an analysis at both the network and the project level.

As an impartial research institute, the Belgian Road Research Centre (BRRC) has an obligation to impart the basic principles and tools of good pavement management to road managers.

That is why BRRC has authored a series of fact sheets to provide road managers with extensive information on various diagnostic tools and methods that may result in the selection of objective and rational maintenance and/or strengthening measures.

One of the sheets also describes a simple pavement management system.

List of fact sheets:

  1. Introduction
  2. APL – Measurement of the longitudinal evenness of roads
  3. Cartography – For a clearer diagnosis
  4. Curviameter – Measurement of structural road characteristics
  5. FPP – Measurement of the longitudinal evenness of cycle tracks
  6. FWD – Measurement of structural road characteristics
  7. GPR – Radiography of pavements
  8. Odoliograph – Measurement of the skid resistance of roads
  9. Qualidim – Calculation of the residual life of roads
  10. SAND – Visual inspection of pavements
  11. KPI – Structural performance indicators for pavement management
  12. ViaBEL – Pavement management software