- Report Published -
|Adequacy and Management of VDOT's Highway Maintenance Program|
|Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission|
|§ 30-58.1 (A.)|
|Every year there are more roads added to Virginia’s highway system, and every year the roads grow older. Thus, maintenance needs and associated costs will inexorably increase. The Code of Virginia requires the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to maintain the State’s 56,700 miles major highways and local streets, 18,500 structures and bridges, and other assets such as tunnels, ferries, and rest areas. The Code of Virginia also requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to give priority to the funding needs related to the maintenance of the State’s existing highway systems. In order to accomplish this mission, VDOT administers the maintenance program through staff in district offices, residency offices, and area headquarters around the State. VDOT currently employs a reactive maintenance approach to addressing problems as they arise, although it is trying to develop and implement a preventive approach, known as asset management.|
In November 2000, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) directed staff to undertake a review of the adequacy and efficiency of the highway maintenance program provided by VDOT. Concerns were raised by the Commission regarding the organization, management, and operations of VDOT’s highway maintenance program. Specifically, those concerns focused on the department’s prioritization of funding for the maintenance program, management of the program, and VDOT’s development of an asset management strategy for highway maintenance.
This report presents the results of the JLARC staff assessment of VDOT’s highway maintenance program. To complete the assessment, staff examined the management of the funding and other resources provided to VDOT for highway maintenance, performed site visits to all VDOT districts and several residencies and area headquarters within those districts, attended all seven monthly meetings of the Maintenance Program Leadership Group between February and August 2001, and conducted surveys of all residency maintenance operations managers and the cities and towns that receive payments from the State to maintain the streets in those localities.
The JLARC staff assessment has resulted in four major findings. First, Virginia’s interstate and primary highway pavements are in generally good condition. Second, despite the generally good condition of interstate and primary system pavements, there are significant deficiencies on some of Virginia’s highway assets. Approximately 20 percent of the pavements on the interstate and primary systems are considered deficient as determined by VDOT. About 40 percent of Virginia’s bridges may be in need of repair or rehabilitation based on VDOT-calculated general bridge condition ratings. In addition, there is no statewide systematic approach for measuring the conditions of the pavements on the secondary roads, although about 70 percent of Virginia’s lane mileage is on this system.
Third, costs associated with bringing the deficient pavements and bridges needing maintenance attention to an acceptable level are substantial. JLARC staff analysis indicates that addressing only the asphalt overlay needs of the deficient interstate and primary roads in Virginia would require more than $100 million. In addition, bridge repair or replacement costs may be as much as $1.52 billion, although some of that cost would likely be funded from the construction program. These estimated costs do not reflect repairs to the pavements on the secondary road system. Representatives of the cities, certain towns, and counties that receive payments from the State for the maintenance of the streets and roads in those jurisdictions indicated that there is also a substantial unmet funding need for maintenance of local roads, but this remains unclear because no standardized statewide assessments of the maintenance needs in these localities is performed by VDOT.
Given time, personnel, and funding constraints, it is not possible for the department to fully fund these needs in a single year. Therefore, the primary purpose of this analysis is not to establish specific funding recommendations to the General Assembly, but rather to assess the adequacy of current funding for meeting identified maintenance program needs over the long term.
Finally, VDOT’s implementation of an asset management approach on a statewide basis has been delayed several times and does not appear to be a current priority of the department. Because VDOT discontinued use of its prior system for measuring maintenance productivity in anticipation of the new approach, it is now left with no way to systematically assess the statewide needs or accomplishments of the overall maintenance program. Two automated systems for pavements and bridges do allow VDOT to perform some assessment of the conditions of these assets.
Several VDOT staff indicated that until the maintenance program can accurately address the conditions of the highway assets and assess what maintenance activities provide the greatest return on investment for the entire highway system, the maintenance managers will not be able to determine the true funding needs of the program. Although there is uncertainty surrounding when asset management will be implemented, there are additional management improvements the department could take now to improve the efficiency of the maintenance program.
This report provides a number of recommendations to address the issues that have been identified and highlights some of VDOT’s accomplishments concerning highway maintenance.