How Raleigh Saves Millions on Pavement Case Study
Smarter decision-making helps this fast-growing city overcome limited funding.
As one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing cities, Raleigh is known for its high quality of life, proximity to prestigious universities and research centers, and booming tech economy. The city’s asphalt pavement system is its single largest infrastructure asset, accounting for more than $700 million of its $1 billion in total infrastructure asset value.
Like many local governments, the City of Raleigh relied for years on spreadsheets and subjective data to manage its streets, sidewalks, and other pavement assets. The problem with this manual, subjective approach is that it led to prioritizing major repairs while neglecting routine preventive maintenance. As a result, the overall pavement network continued to deteriorate faster than the city could maintain it.
Less Maintenance Work, Higher Long-Term Costs
A by-product of such “deferred maintenance” is higher capital programming costs because neglected smaller projects lead to more costly larger projects as the infrastructure ages and requires extensive rehabilitation or replacement.
The worst-first approach to pavement management, which focused on repairing the most damaged roads rather than proactively maintaining the entire pavement network, was not a sustainable option. With this approach, the city was not making the best use of its limited funds. Nor was it achieving its long-range vision for a rapidly growing yet sustainable urban center.
Too Much Mill and Fill, Too Little Variety
Raleigh was playing a perpetual game of catch-up, dedicating much of its budget and resources to responding to resident complaints and rebuilding failing roads. The city was also over-relying on one type of treatment—namely, mill and fill—as the primary resurfacing method for most pavement projects. Although mill and fill can be an effective technique, it does not add any structural capacity to the asset, and can create safety hazards for the traveling public.
The city lacked the capacity to explore other, more cost-effective preventive maintenance techniques. For example, an overlay without milling can add structural capacity while providing a new riding surface. Alternative treatments such as microsurfacing, chip seals, and slurry seals provide excellent preservation options at a much lower cost than mill and fill when applied at the right time.
Raleigh needed a way to harness the long-term benefits of a wide range of pavement preservation options while also meeting the immediate needs of the community.
To achieve Raleigh’s goal of providing the right treatment for the right pavement surface at the right time, city leaders needed to take a more modern approach. The city’s pavement infrastructure managers needed to be able to justify their strategic decisions using quantifiable data and rigorous analysis. They needed to align budget allocations with specific performance outcomes to ensure the best use of the city’s funding.
Raleigh set the following objectives for its pavement management strategy:
- Replace the reactive, worst-first approach with a more forward-looking preventive maintenance program.
- Aggregate and analyze large amounts of data to improve budgeting and decision-making.
- Incorporate a wider range of cost-effective maintenance techniques and tools to preserve pavement assets in good condition.
Recognizing that other cities use pavement management software to reduce costs and improve pavement conditions, the City of Raleigh sought out a reliable, easy-to-use solution that would enable infrastructure managers to make objective decisions and accurately monitor the condition of the city’s assets.
With collaboration and expertise from engineering consulting partner Mott MacDonald, Raleigh selected Trimble’s AgileAssets® as its new pavement management system because the solution met the city’s requirements for analytical objectivity, reliability, and accuracy. The Trimble AgileAssets solution is capable of importing and analyzing large amounts of data to generate actionable reports and optimized work plans. With this new solution, Raleigh’s transportation department is able to compare various funding scenarios, identify the best mix of projects to achieve the city’s goals, and make better decisions to deliver a safer, more reliable, and longer-lasting pavement network.
Local agencies often struggle with knowledge gaps when deploying new technology, and Raleigh was no different. Trimble’s AgileAssets implementation team helped the city’s transportation department define the system requirements and the expected benefits from the new pavement management solution. The implementation team shared best practices and strategies that supported those expectations so the city could achieve the best results.
Raleigh has realized a number of benefits from modernizing its pavement management practices. The city has improved the condition of its pavement network, reduced costs, and implemented a wider range of proactive maintenance activities that extend the lifespan of its roads, sidewalks, and other pavement infrastructure.
Better Strategies, Better Decisions
The city is now able to make more strategic use of its funds to move beyond mill and fill resurfacing and implement other, more cost-effective maintenance practices that can provide more long-term value for the public.
An added operational benefit is the ability to negotiate more favorable maintenance contracts based on rigorous data analysis that predicts the real cost of meeting the city’s maintenance needs.
Using Trimble’s AgileAssets solution, Raleigh has replaced subjective performance measures such as “eyeball” surveys of alligator cracking and block cracking with one objective metric: crack density. The city’s infrastructure managers use the intuitive mapping capabilities of the pavement management system to divide Raleigh’s entire pavement network into 2-meter sections, then evaluate each segment following a repeatable, reliable process.
This approach yields evaluations that are 90% accurate, based on the five control sections that the city uses for calibration and testing. More accurate assessments lead to more effective management of each segment of the pavement network.
Digital Transformation & Expansion
Before implementing these modern pavement management practices, Raleigh experienced declines in overall pavement network condition of 2 Pavement Condition Index (PCI) points to 2.5 PCI points each year. Now the city expects to reduce the rate of decline by at least one PCI point per year, which represents $8 million to $9 million in annual maintenance cost savings. The advanced pavement management solution enables the city to invest its funding in the right pavement assets to achieve the maximum benefits.
Because of the results achieved with its pavement network, Raleigh is looking to extend the use of Trimble’s AgileAssets solution to modernize the city’s bridge management strategies as well. One goal is to be able to generate biannual reports from federal bridge inspections to create better maintenance and management contracts.
The city is also in the process of building an inventory of its sidewalks and ADA ramps, and plans to use Trimble’s AgileAssets solution to proactively manage those assets as well. Raleigh already uses other Trimble digital solutions, such as Cityworks to manage a wide range of infrastructure assets, including stormwater, water and wastewater assets and many more. In addition, the city uses Trimble’s e-Builder to manage roadway design, capital construction projects and many other activities related to contracts, inspections and communications. The planned extension of these combined capabilities to manage new asset types through every phase of the asset lifecycle will bring the city one step closer to a fully integrated infrastructure management program.
Within a short time, the City of Raleigh has been able to make better use of limited funds and improve the condition of its infrastructure by modernizing its asset management practices and digitizing its processes. With this track record of success, Raleigh is poised to continue innovating as its population grows, setting an example for other cities to follow.