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O&M IS Critical Infrastructure

During these times of uncertainty, we have all heard the call from our respective Governors about “critical industries” such as healthcare and first responders. Our infrastructure is also “critical”. As for Maintenance: Rust doesn’t stop, potholes still form, debris doesn’t stop building up, trash and debris continues to accrue. As for Operations: the trucks, busses and automobiles that keep it all moving are still out there. Motorists will need our help, meaning the Safety Service Patrol (or whatever it is called in your state) must continue – all while maintaining our “social distancing”. Electronic tolling is increased, as most states have removed human toll takers due to the obvious concerns with viral transmission.

We have noticed that while automobile traffic has subsided, truck traffic is still present, if not increasing. Our clients have seen this lower traffic volume overall and decided to take advantage of the lower traffic volumes by INCREASING the amount of preventive maintenance by extending or lifting lane closure restrictions.

While future state budgets will undoubtedly be affected, we must continue to maintain our assets, even during an impending budget crunch. If not, as we have seen time and again, the cost to play catch up will be multiple times the cost of doing it right while we can.

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Perfomance Based O&M Webinar Recap

In the AIAI’s recent webinar: Performance-Based O&M, PILLAR joined forces with Claudio Andreetta from Johnson Controls and Alistar Sawers from ATHS Consult to discuss performance-based O&M. With over 90 attendees, this was a hot topic among industry professionals!

View a recording of the full webinar!

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Are You Prepared?

The Boy Scout Motto “Be Prepared” keeps popping up in my mind with the recent COVID-19 virus and corresponding fallout. Looking beyond the COVID-19 crises and towards your industry and business opportunities; leaders of today need to be prepared in a multitude of ways. From hiring new young talent to managing various demographics in the workspace to looking towards future business opportunities and growth – to being flexible enough to bend and shift with the influx of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning – being prepared is synonymous with success.

One of the key podcasts I listen to is How I Built This by Guy Raz. At the end of every interview Guy asks the owners and entrepreneurs of the profiled business, “How much of your success is built on hard work and how much is built on luck?” It’s always interesting to hear the answers and almost everyone inevitably banks some of their success on luck. Whether that is being in the right place at the right time, catching a break via some generous offer, or getting a helping hand at a critical moment.

Reflecting on Pillar, I know a lot of people have worked hard to place us in our current position, with great generosity from individuals both inside and outside the firm. What about luck? I would argue it isn’t luck, but rather being prepared enough to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Whether this preparation is financial, relationship, location, or confidence driven – being prepared to take hold of opportunities is what will define that opportunity as successful.

Looking back at our “failures” as well as our “successes”, both are defined by how prepared Pillar was to tackle the assignments. In fact, it is rather obvious when reflecting and analyzing the end results of either case. The challenge remains to be forward-thinking and positioned in such a way as to be prepared to seize on the correct opportunity and avoid the distractions.

Pillar is prepared, are you?

To learn about how Pillar can help more efficiently manage your Operations and Maintenance projects contact Mark Boenke, President, at

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P3 Market Outlook for 2020 in USA & Canada | Inframation News

PILLAR’s Dan Dennis, Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships was quoted on the positive trend of risk allocation in the P3 model. 

Read the full article to see Dan’s comments on risk allocation.

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Delivering Maintenance Cost Efficiencies in P3/O&M Projects

If you are performing an outsourced O&M project, it is very likely you have a fixed budget based on your contract price. Your cash flow is known upfront, the day you sign the contract. As the Maintenance Manager, your job is to meet the contract performance requirements as efficiently as possible while meeting your budget. How do you do this? Simple: Spend resources wisely and efficiently. Basic planning can help you do this.

A typical example could be: The roadway shoulder has accumulated dirt, weeds, etc. in the longitudinal joints on a narrow shoulder next to a barrier wall. Simple enough to clean up, right? But the work area is three feet wide and adjacent to the left (high speed) lane on a 75-mph urban interstate. MOT requirements called for a full lane closure – in both directions.

What does this all mean? Before any work starts, you have already spent $2,800 for the two lane-closures. To save money and be efficient, how many other tasks can be done in that lane closure?

  • Burn out the roots with a propane-hot lance torch.
  • Seal the joints with hot or cold-pour asphalt joint sealer = no more weeds for five years.
  • Jet-vac all the drop inlets within the lane closure.
  • Install barrier-wall mounted delineators.
  • Repair any potholes or crack-seal the longitudinal joint
  • Sweep/vacuum the dust and debris.

These additional tasks will be required at some point. Why not do it all at once? The additional labor is minimal, and you likely have all the small tools; if not then rent them. By combining the activities, you have saved multiple lane closures and perhaps up to $10,000. This adds up.

This is basic preventive maintenance. And all it takes is – a little planning.

To learn more about how Pillar can help more efficiently manage your P3 project, contact Mark Boenke at

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Transportation Asset Management

iPad showing screenshot

There have been numerous developments in recent years in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that are transforming our daily lives. Among the most commonly recognized are self-driving vehicles and voice recognition devices such as Amazon’s Alexa.

While perhaps not as flashy as having your virtual personal assistant, Pillar Operations & Maintenance Advisors is a leader in the important integration of AI into the world of transportation asset management.

Using AI, Pillar can collect and assess vastly larger datasets in less time with fewer resources than ever before. What once took months to identify, collect and assess transportation assets can now take as little as three days.*

Why does this matter?

Pillar can help clients make cost-effective, data-driven transportation maintenance decisions and plans based on actual priorities derived from clear and comprehensive data. This data results in safer, better-maintained roadways for the traveling public.

For example, we gathered guardrail length inventory by assessing its condition in accordance to the Maintenance Rating Program for a state Department of Transportation. This data enabled the state DOT to develop a maintenance plan, allocate the workforce and secure a budget for the project.

Here’s a more in-depth look at how AI is being used in Pillar’s proprietary CAPE approach to transportation asset management:

Collection – We are using AI to help identify assets for gathering a database of inventory. To do this, we have trained algorithms that scan our imagery and point cloud data to locate assets. We also utilize a system that automatically extracts these features into a legible format. The two systems provide a level of redundancy and quality assurance that is integrated with your GIS. Together, these systems create a sophisticated level of detail that was previously unattainable.

Assessment – AI helps us assess the condition of transportation assets by using algorithms to identify items such as a leaning sign, clogged ditch, and much more.

Planning – AI is an extremely useful aid in conducting research. By combining “big data” with the inventory collection and assessment data, we developed algorithms to build predictive analytics that make proactive maintenance possible.

Execution – We use AI to monitor operations to ensure quality standards are met. Further, the data stays current as tasks and projects are completed.

*Timeliness will vary from project to project based on size and number of assets collected.

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How Outsourcing with a P3 Project Makes Good Business Sense

What is outsourcing?

Outsourcing is simply using contractors to do things traditionally done by in-house staff.

In the P3 space, virtually the entire project is outsourced, by definition. In a traditional, publicly owned and operated roadway, the Owner (DOT/Ministry, etc.) provides operations and maintenance for the roadway with in-house staff, trucks, equipment and materials. Similarly, a facility such as a hospital, manufacturing facility, port or other large fixed asset will have maintenance staff and operational support.

What are the benefits?

In a word, “Efficiency.” But how? For one, you get more efficient use of your people resources.

Good workers generally want to do a good job – finish it properly and move to the next task. Contractors and mechanics know this. If they have a lump-sum price to replace your HVAC system, they will get it done quickly and efficiently and move on to the next job. If you pay all of your subs a T&M rate, you won’t get this benefit. If all your maintenance personnel are hourly in-house staff, you are essentially paying them a T&M rate. They are not motivated to get the job done faster.

What’s so special about specialists?

With today’s technology and ever advancing and inter-related systems, it is much more difficult to hire, train and keep a “jack-of-all-trades” maintenance staff on hand. It is more efficient, safer, faster and cheaper to utilize a team of highly trained, on-call specialists. With new technologies on the horizon, you may not even need to “fly in” the technician.

Get better use of your equipment resources

  • Don’t let it sit idle: If the machine sits in the yard most of the time, you don’t need to own it. Maybe it seemed to make sense when you bought it, but you are not in the business of amassing a fleet of equipment that sits most of the time. Instead, try subcontracting, renting or leasing it. Construction companies know this and have a fleet of lowboys working every night to get idle equipment to the site of a (paying) job.
  • Paid-for equipment is not free: Maybe that motor grader sitting on your property is paid for. But if it’s not being used, that’s a $150,000 pile of cash sitting in your yard that could get another thousand feet of ditch cleaned or 200 potholes filled. At a minimum, share it or make it available to another location.

Finally, we mention profit. The profit motive drives efficiency and productivity. Although it can be a dirty word sometimes, the profit motive – coupled with performance standards – will undeniably drive innovation and ultimately result in lower costs.

About PILLAR, Inc.
PILLAR is a multi-discipline firm focused on collecting, analyzing, and turning data into efficient and effective strategies for operating and maintaining roadways, bridges, tunnels, and other forms of infrastructure. We are a trusted partner that DOTs, municipalities, and P3 stakeholders rely on for expertise in safely managing roadway infrastructure in a fiscally sound and responsible manner.”

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PILLAR, INC. Part of Team Chosen for Canadian Roadway P3 Project

North Star Infrastructure Team to build and maintain Northwest Territories Tłı̨chǫ All Season Road

WYTHEVILLE, Va. (February 27, 2019) – PILLAR Operations and Maintenance Advisors worked with its client, North Star Infrastructure, on a project to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the Northwest Territories Tłı̨chǫ All Season Road in Canada. Working closely with North Star staff as the technical advisor, Pillar contributed to the success of the winning bid by developing operations and maintenance (O&M) budgets for the 25-year concession.

Construction on the public private partnership (P3) project starts in the fall of 2019 and includes construction of a new 2-lane, 97-kilometer (60.27-mile) gravel, all-season road. The project will create an essential year-round connection from the community of Whatì to Highway 3, southwest of Behchokǫ, Canada. The project team will also handle routine maintenance as well as lifecycle and handback provisions.

About PILLAR, Inc.
PILLAR is a multi-discipline firm focused on collecting, analyzing, and turning data into efficient and effective strategies for operating and maintaining roadways, bridges, tunnels, and other forms of infrastructure. We are a trusted partner that DOTs, municipalities, and P3 stakeholders rely on for expertise in safely managing roadway infrastructure in a fiscally sound and responsible manner.

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The Case for Pavement Management

Why is pavement management important?

The nation’s road system represents an asset valued at more than $2.4 trillion. Nearly 90% of passenger-miles traveled and 60% of the nations’ total freight is transported via the nation’s highway system. There is no doubt, it is an asset worthy of substantial investment for the sake of our economy and the safety of our citizens.

Two constant elements unrelentingly diminish pavement’s value and cost the nation billions of dollars every year: traffic loads and environmental conditions.

The budgets allocated for the construction, repair and ongoing maintenance of pavement grow increasingly tighter. As a result, it has become obvious that relying solely on traditional experience-based maintenance and repair (M&R) techniques is not sufficient. We have the tools and knowledge to proactively manage the maintenance of our nation’s highways, taking into consideration a number of factors such as life cycle cost analysis, timing of projects, prioritization and optimization, as well as the prediction of pavement performance. This modern approach to the pavement management process takes all these factors into consideration to develop a proactive, cost-efficient approach to protecting and preserving the valuable asset our national highway systems represents.

In his wonderfully informative and helpful book, “Pavement Management for Airports, Roads, and Parking Lots,” M.Y. Shahin describes pavement management as “systematic, consistent method for selecting M & R needs and determining priorities and the optimal time of repair by predicting future pavement condition.”

The importance of maintenance timing is illustrated nicely in the following figure from the book:

pavement management graph

The figure clearly shows that conducting M &R before the sharp deterioration of the asset results in significant savings on repair costs. These financial savings are in addition to avoiding long roadway closures, detours and traffic delays.

The pavement management process consists of the following steps (each of which will be discussed further in another Pillar Talk column):

  1. Pavement inventory
  2. Pavement inspection and assessment
  3. Pavement condition prediction and analysis

Every dollar spent on thoroughfares is an investment in the economy and public good. Indeed, pavement management is a valuable tool in ensuring taxpayers that their investment (tax dollars) are providing them with a safe, accessible, sustainable, and long-lasting network of roadways.

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What does Rehabilitation mean for a Public-Private Partnership?

A Public-Private Partnership (P3) is a contract vehicle where a private developer – working with a public entity – designs, builds, finances and operates the infrastructure. This Pillar Talk will focus on the rehabilitation, or handback portion, of a P3.

P3 transportation projects have two varieties: availability payment or revenue risk.

In an availability payment model, the public entity pays a fixed amount on a monthly or annual basis, usually after making some larger “milestone” payments during or at completion of construction. The funding could come from general transportation funds, a bond issue or indirectly from tolls generated from the new roadway but retained by the public entity or any combination of these. An availability payment P3 is generally of shorter duration, generally 25 years.

A revenue risk project is funded directly by toll revenue generated by the facility. The developer takes on much more risk and is not guaranteed any level of funding from the public. Unless the public entity “buys down” the tolls by injecting cash, there is generally no “milestone” payments during or after construction. Due to these risks and funding variables, the revenue risk project duration is usually much longer: Often 50 years but it could be up to 75 years or longer.

Once the project is complete, it is turned over to the public entity. To ensure the public entity receives an asset in good condition, certain “handback” requirements must be met. The rehabilitation process is the manner in which the developer meets these requirements. The requirements are usually limited to major assets, such as pavements and structures.

Handback requirements generally require an asset be in a certain condition or have a set number of years of remaining service life on handover. For example, pavements could be required to have a maximum IRI or have structural capacity requiring no more than a 2” overlay within 10 years. Bridge structures may have to meet an NBIS rating of “7” or better.

Other items such as sign structures or high mast light structures may require 15 years of remaining service life. A high mast light structure may have a design life of 40 years. On a 25-year project, it would not need to be replaced. On a 50-year project, it would likely be replaced in year 40.

Longer projects tend to have lower handback requirements – this allows the project to be more affordable as it will likely be too expensive to expect a “brand-new road” be given back to the public at the end of the term.

To ensure the asset is in acceptable condition, a series of inspections will occur over the last five years of the project. The inspections would be made by an acceptable third-party engineer, with reports and recommendations made as to what the remaining service life is projected to be at project end. Some projects will have an escrow account where the developer sets aside money to guarantee funds will be available to complete the rehabilitation, with any remaining funds at handback kept by the developer.

Pillar, Inc. can help developers and owners understand the potential costs of handback requirements and can assist with bid-level budgets that ensure a quality asset is returned to the public. For more information, call 276.223.0500 or contact us online.