Motorists drive nearly 15 million miles every day on Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise’s (FTE) highways. It’s an unrelenting pounding on the Turnpike Enterprise’s pavement that keeps this pioneering agency on its toes to provide the best possible service at a reasonable cost.
The agency’s $3.6 billion in capital assets includes 449 centerline miles of pavement and nearly 1,200 structures. Like many other transportation agencies, FTE has learned that a reliable, accurate pavement management system can save time and money, while optimizing the highway service life.
The Turnpike spends on the order of $60 million per year to maintain, repair and replace pavement, an expenditure that represents approximately 70% of the total periodic maintenance budget.
As FTE’s chief financial officer, William F. Thorp, CPA, CGFM, spearheads all major decisions regarding how moneys are allocated throughout the operations.
“Optimizing highway maintenance dollars is all about proactive asset management,” said Thorp, “particularly when it comes to the high-dollar ticket items like pavement resurfacing. When you find a way to manage pavement activities effectively, then everything falls into place.”
The Turnpike’s “silver bullet” is called TEAMS, or the Turnpike Enterprise Asset Management System. TEAMS is a comprehensive GIS-driven database with a web-type graphical user interface. It includes detailed information on all FTE inventory assets such as buildings, tollbooths, pavement centerlines, bridges and more.
Developed in 2003 by the Turnpike and PBS&J (FTE’s general engineering consultant), TEAMS enables engineers and budget managers to generate accurate renewal and replacement forecasts, identify optimal asset maintenance funding levels and reap both short- and long-term savings, all while meeting the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement 34 requirements.
TEAMS is available to all Turnpike personnel from their desktop computers through the Turnpike’s intranet. To support and speed common asset management activities, TEAMS features several inventory and reporting modules, including Pavement, Roadway, Facilities and Bridges, as well as a fully functional Finance Module.
Perhaps more importantly, TEAMS is integrated with the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) legacy financial work program administration (WPA) database. The WPA database contains the records of all bridge, public transportation, maintenance, planning, research and other transportation-related projects in the state of Florida. It includes historical and future project information including actual or estimated costs and location information.
“Knowing when—or even if—a project is planned is of paramount importance in forecasting asset conditions and replacement costs accurately,” said Thorp. “We would not want to resurface a pavement section if that section was planned to be widened or replaced in the near future.”
Prior to TEAMS, pavement managers had to assemble a list of deficient pavement sections, then contact the construction office to get an updated list of scheduled projects to see whether the deficient sections were already covered. This was followed by a call to the maintenance office to get an updated list of such assets as guardrails, fencing or drainage culverts within or adjacent to the deficient sections.
The engineer then put together a candidate resurfacing project. This process was continued, pavement section by section, while keeping an eye on the fiscal year’s resurfacing budget. When the money ran out, so did additions to the project list.
“This process was so labor-intensive that little or no effort was invested in benefit-to-cost analyses or forecast analyses for prioritization purposes,” said Thorp. “TEAMS has brought greater fiscal responsibility to the Turnpike’s Renewal and Replacement Program funding process. Facilities and other assets are now maintained at a higher level of service with lower costs.”
Triggering on six
FTE analyses have demonstrated that less substantial—but slightly more frequent—mill and resurfacing keeps pavement in good condition most of the time at less overall cost than more substantial and costly rehabilitations.
FDOT’s pavement condition rating of 6 out of 10 (0 being the worst pavement and 10 being the best) is the trigger value for determining when cracking has progressed to the point that a pavement section is deemed “deficient.”
The traveling public would probably not recognize a pavement section rated 5.5 as “deficient.”
However, pavement managers know that to address extensive cracking in a 6.0-rated pavement, more asphalt must be milled and replaced—at significantly higher cost—than if that same section had been addressed when it was rated a 6.5.
Similarly, if top-down cracking is allowed to progress, the rehabilitation will require more milling and asphalt replacement. A recent analysis showed that if a resurfacing project is delayed and the cracking allowed to progress from 2 in. to 3.5 in. deep, the cost to get the pavement back to a good condition could potentially increase by more than 50%.
Assuming all projects were resurfaced at their optimum time, the potential savings to the Turnpike using the example below is up to an average of $29.6 million over the past four years.
TEAMS allows for the early identification of at-risk pavements through a Remaining Service Life model to forecast pavement performance.
“The analysis tool in TEAMS can be used to predict when a good performing pavement’s condition can be expected to take a turn for the worse,” said Thorp. “This in turn allows our managers to plan for projects in the outer years of the work program in a proactive manner instead of reactively.”
Hopeful about wireless
Down the road, FTE and PBS&J expect to incorporate additional applications that further improve the ability to manage all assets. One of the most recent additions is a mobile data collection technique. FTE has put in place one of the transportation industry’s first Wi-Fi-enabled highway asset data collection systems.
The new system allows FTE staff to collect data electronically on a laptop computer in the field and then instantly link that information to TEAMS. Previously, staff would gather the data through frequent field trips and then input the information when they returned to the office. This mobile system will replace existing manual data gathering processes and is expected to save an equivalent of two to three person-years annually.
Developed by PBS&J, this innovative mobile asset management system is built on Acquis ADE Remote web-based technology and is equipped with Wi-Fi technology connectivity that will allow FTE to migrate to a wireless environment, as it becomes available, without redesigning or redeveloping the data maintenance or data reporting components of the data collection system.
FTE’s vision of the not-so-distant future is for everyone with in-field responsibilities to have a GPS-equipped computer. These data maintenance teams will simply undock the computer and bring it with them to the field, where they will have access to the same data and application capabilities as they do in the office, thanks to a growing Wi-Fi network.
Another project is focused on incorporating a utilities database within TEAMS that identifies and positions all FTE-owned lighting and fiber-optic lines and equipment.
Thorp summarized, “Our goal is to continue building a system that automates and streamlines as much of the highway business as possible so that our people can spend time providing the best possible roads for the best dollar value. With TEAMS, we have that infrastructure in place and moving.”