Long term results from decisions on road maintenance methods and funding options are being evaluated to allow better management of highway assets, using sophisticated software developed by Ringway and Jean Lefebvre UK.
Across the industry network managers have new pressures and therefore new interest in exploring better ways of planning and executing road maintenance activities. They have many different options open to them. Evaluation of which is preferred is reliant on large quantities of good information, which is what Ringway is offering, calling on the company’s expertise in pavement engineering, asset management and materials development.
Ringway’s resources include its Asset Optioneering Model (AOM) developed with Jean Lefebvre UK. This sophisticated system can be used to calculate the whole life costs of different methods of road reconstruction and rehabilitation across entire highway networks. Essentially, AOM can arm highway authority engineers with the rigorously engineered information that is critical for making effective decisions on how road networks are managed, for the short, medium and long term.
How the software is used depends on what highway authorities want to do. AOM can be applied to show how road pavements deteriorate over time to support bids for greater funding or arguments against budget cuts. Alternatively, the software will aid selection of the road surfacing materials and construction techniques that make best use of whatever budget is available. It also gives data on carbon emissions and energy consumption over the whole life of different pavement options or other assets for addressing policies of sustainability.
Furthermore, local authority highway departments are now required by central Government to measure the condition and value of their road networks for adoption of methods of asset management. Valuing the depreciated replacement cost of assets, instead of gross cost to replace from new, is generally recommended for asset management, but is essential for compliance with Whole of Government Accounts (WGA), which are due to be introduced in full for local government in 2012/13.
The message from Ringway is that the necessary engineering expertise is available to aid responses to all of these initiatives, via the Technical Centre of its pavement consultant Jean Lefebvre UK. “Our clients in local authorities are very experienced in the management of their assets, however the broader appeal of AOM coupled with conventional pavement design is that we can link this modelling to existing and new materials of known performance and durability. We can then model them in multiple scenarios with a variety of constraints and needs built in,” says Jean Lefebvre Technical Manager Michael Wright.
“The AOM models are built from network condition data with a series of rules built in, including what will happen without treatment and with the desired lifecycle added. The software then runs through a huge number of scenarios to come out with maintenance levels that give lowest whole life costs. Or with a budget defined, the output can be the work that maximises the lifecycle that can be extracted.”
The AOM systems have been developed by Jean Lefebvre UK and honed by Ringway, subsidiary of EUROVIA and ultimately part of the VINCI worldwide group. VINCI with its concession arm support bids for major privately financed PFI/PPP infrastructure, regeneration and highway service contracts. Accordingly, issues surrounding application of AOM link to discussions on alternative ways of funding the rehabilitation and upkeep of highway networks.
“The whole of our industry has a lot to bring to the debate on how road maintenance could be funded and delivered and it is important that we contribute findings of scientific evaluation,” says Business Development Director Rob Gillespie.
“At a local level, when clients ask us to investigate problematic areas of carriageway, footways or other assets, we are very often advising that the problem lies in the deteriorated condition of the substrate or lower pavement layers. Resurfacing or patching over the top will not prevent cracks or potholes reoccurring within a year or so. Most clients are aware of this but of course the structural repairs are more expensive and may appear unaffordable.”
Private sector investment is one solution. The PFI model – of funding a programme of road reconstruction followed by a period of minimal interventions to keep highway condition at a defined level – has been proven by AOM. “The approach works technically and financially; reducing whole life cost,” Gillespie says. “The way that private funding can be incorporated is currently under review and we are hopeful that this remains accessible and possibly more accessible to clients in the future.
“As a highway term services provider we can work with clients to reduce costs elsewhere, perhaps in reduction of routine services or lighting of street signs. Savings can be put towards structural road repairs, which are vital for overcoming cycles of reactive maintenance that are more costly in the long run because they fail to solve underlying problems of deep set deterioration. AOM provides the evidence for this and for showing how to get the most efficient whole life cost from the initial investment. Similarly street lighting can receive the same asset modelling approach to generate cost savings together with carbon and energy improvements.”
Government has indicated it is open to new ideas on how to generate private sector funding for infrastructure in general, in a way that presents good value for money. For local government road maintenance in particular there are possibilities of tax increment financing – where business rates are used to provide a return for investors – or work with recently established local enterprise partnerships.
“We are finding highway authorities receptive to suggestions for new ways of funding road maintenance and keen to gather the information they need for discussions at a higher level with members, officers and business partners,” says Jean Lefebvre Division Manager Jonathan Core. “Asset management and WGA accounting obligations are already on all clients’ agendas, demanding more of a link between planning and pavement engineering. Reductions in local government budgets have increased the interest in data needed for investigating different options. It is the job of provider organisations and the likes of us in Jean Lefebvre UK to provide evidence and surety of a solutions integrity, to support this”.
The AOM modelling is not the only tool Jean Lefebvre and Ringway have at their disposal. Engineers are also using the Alize pavement engineering software to assess the long term results of individual road reconstruction and surfacing designs. “The two are applied at different levels; AOM across whole networks for asset management; Alize at a site specific level,” says Michael Wright. “For example, Alize has been used to show the importance of the bond between pavement layers as inadequate adhesion can lead to a reduced design life of up to 40%.”
Rob Gillespie adds: “The software and systems we have are used with a great deal of knowledge, experience and evidence of different road surfacing methods and materials and their performance. Overall, it is a well informed asset management approach that is essential for better road maintenance, with detailed information on the long term results of the solutions available, within the needs and constraints of individual networks.”
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