Understanding the Alphabet Soup of Pavement Preservation
Like all industries, MDOT and local road agencies use their own language, lingo, and acronyms. Consider this page your glossary of acronyms and a place to answer questions about the data and information that MDOT and local road agencies use to manage Michigan roads.
What is the TAMC?
In 2002, PA 499 created the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC). While TAMC’s responsibilities have evolved over time, the core mission remains consistent.
TAMC is a source for objective data on the condition of Michigan’s roads and bridges and an independent resource for implementing the concepts of asset management.
What are the Requirements for Data Collection?
MDOT and local road agencies are required to report the condition of all public paved roads and bridges to the TAMC.
Since 2003, MDOT and local road agencies have used a uniform rating system called PASER (Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating) to collect pavement data. MDOT routes are rated annually and local roads are rated over a two-year period.
In addition to PASER, MDOT collects other road condition data to help determine the remaining service life (RSL) of pavements.
What is PASER?
The Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) system is a visual (windshield) analysis conducted by a rating team. PASER is a 10-point scale, rating road conditions as good, fair or poor.
Good = Rating 8 -10
Fair = Rating 5 -7
Poor = Rating 1 – 4
The “Good,” “Fair,” and “Poor” scale reflects a road’s condition. The condition rating can be used to help determine the remaining service life of the pavement (how long before major repair or reconstruction is needed) and how much more a repair might cost if delayed.
It costs more to fix a road in “poor” condition than it costs to keep a road in “good” condition. Every $1 spent to keep a road in “good” condition saves $6 to $14 later by delaying costly reconstruction.
Who Rates the Roads?
Since 2004, TAMC has contracted with each of Michigan’s 21 Rural and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (RPOs/MPOs) to coordinate the annual PASER assessment process. A team of three individuals composed of a rater from MDOT, the RPO/MPO, and a local road agency travel together to view and rate the roads.
Individuals must attend annual PASER training before they are allowed to rate the roads. Data quality is of the utmost importance to TAMC. Annual training is part of TAMC’s quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) program.
Who Pays for the Data Collection?
How Do MDOT and Local Road Agencies Use PASER Ratings?
Data is an integral part of asset management. It is crucial to both short and long-range planning and development of investment strategies. PASER ratings (condition of the pavement) and a variety of other factors such as traffic volume can help road agencies select which treatments are most appropriate to maximize a pavement’s life.
MDOT has adopted an asset management approach to manage its diverse transportation investments. This approach relies on extensive data collection and reporting. MDOT released a comprehensive Transportation Asset Management Plan (TAMP) in June 2019. This document describes the detailed process MDOT uses to make program and project decisions.
Roadsoft is provided to local road agencies in Michigan, at no cost, to help them manage the project planning process. It is an asset management system used to collect, store and analyze road data. MDOT developed Roadsoft to ensure that consistent statewide data is available to manage all paved road assets.
What is Remaining Service Life (RSL)?
MDOT and local road agencies use PASER ratings and other data to determine the remaining service life (RSL) of a road. RSL is the estimated number of years until it is no longer cost-effective to perform preventive maintenance on the section of road, and major rehabilitation or reconstruction is required.
Understanding RSL is a critical concept in asset management. It also helps explain why the cost to fix Michigan roads will rise substantially each year until an adequate increase in annual funding is secured!
A 500-mile network loses 500 mile-years of life annually.
Every year, every mile of your network loses 1 mile-year of life. To avoid losing ground, the roadway ownder must design a treatment plan that adds 500 mile-years of life or more!
Michigan has more than 120,000 miles of paved roads. If each of these routes were only two lanes, that would be more than 240,000 miles. In order to not lose ground, improvements must be made to add at least 240,000 years of service life annually to Michigan pavements. That’s a mile of added service life for each mile of pavement.
It costs up to 14 times more to reconstruct a road in poor condition than it costs to keep that same road in good condition. As road conditions deteriorate, the funds needed just to avoid losing ground climbs sharply each year!
MDOT alone maintains 31,958 lane miles of pavement. Much of that is costly interstate, or other urban or high-volume highways. As pavement RSL declines and system-wide rehabilitation and reconstruction costs increase, the funds needed just to maintain current road conditions rise steadily. The following chart shows how road agencies use RSL to forecast future pavement conditions and the costs to maintain and improve roads over time.
*Source: Statewide Systems Management Sectio, Bureau of Transportation Planning, August 2019
How Does TAMC Use PASER Data?
TAMC is required to issue an annual report on road and bridge conditions to the Michigan Legislature. These annual reports have tracked pavement conditions since 2004.
TAMC’s reports and observations have led to improvements in training offered to Michigan’s road agencies and have been instrumental in helping road managers understand the importance of making data-driven decisions.
TAMC Reports dating back to 2011 are available on their website.
Until the 2018 Annual Report, the trendlines on the graphic below have been flat. Now, the arrows are starting to show a curve.
This graphic shows that the percentage of roads in “good” condition has improved following the 2015 road funding package. Still, the percentage of roads in “poor” condition is growing faster.
Forecasts show that even with full implementation of the 2015 road funding package, Michigan’s roads are deteriorating faster than funding allows road agencies to maintain and improve them.
Dashboards on the TAMC Website allow visitors to view road ratings by geographic area and jurisdiction type. Pie charts and trend analysis allow users to look at snapshots of data and review changes in road conditions over time.
Interactive Maps are also available allowing visitors to zoom in and view the most recent road and bridge conditions. The maps have been updated to show data collected in 2018 but will not show current year improvements. Since road agencies are only required to rate half of their road system annually, some construction projects from 2018 may not show up on this map.