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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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Mobile LiDAR’s fully automatic asset extraction capability sets it apart

Modern technology has catapulted the maintenance of roadway infrastructure to a new level.

When it comes to collecting data about your assets, PILLAR utilizes the Leica Pegasus: Two Ultimate as its choice for mobile LiDAR. The laser scanning and mapping technology platform provides what we need to get the job done.

This device utilizes two back-to-back cameras to create 360-degree images from a vehicle, boat, 4-wheeler or train. A removable SSD means you have the information at your fingertips when you walk into the office.

Fully automatic feature extraction

Semi-automatic feature extraction is good. Fully automatic feature extraction is the best, quickest, and most helpful. It allows you to get started on projects as soon as possible.

Using our full automatic feature extraction program, we can extract assets and their quantities quickly and accurately. If saving time appeals to you, contact us to see how much time we could cut out of your project and add back into production.

More than 20 assets can be extracted into your own geospatial information system. This comprehensive transportation infrastructure management application includes:

  • Signs
  • Guardrails
  • Bridge Clearances
  • Trees
  • Ditches
  • Overhead Utilities
  • And More

Collection and Execution

The information collected provides the most detailed data possible on your assets, helping you determine what you have and where it is located. This information can then be used to identify which work needs to be given the highest priority, helping you work within your budget.

InfraTrak is a GIS system asset management application agencies purchase as an additional tool to better manage assets. It is an iPad-based app with a GIS interface, able to overlay assets on aerial maps for an interactive set of field plans. InfraTrak is completely compatible with the most popular GIS software such as Esri’s ArcGIS software and many others.

For more information on PILLAR’s Asset Management Solutions, contact us or call 276.223.0500.

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What does the “O” mean in Roadway O&M?

We understand generally what roadway operations and maintenance is: everything it takes to care for and operate the roadway while keeping it safe for the traveling public in the short- and long-term. We use the terms “operations” and “maintenance” together as if they are inseparable. For most projects, they are. They occur simultaneously.

But what exactly are operations? Can they be separated from the maintenance?


Operations consist of a suite of services that are distinct and can be separated from maintenance. Operations can be further defined by the following major services: Snow and Ice Control (S&I), Incident Management (IM), and Courtesy Patrol/Towing (CPT). This paper does not include Toll Operations, which is a separate and distinct discipline.


IM is any response to an abnormal situation on the roadway which includes man-made situations (accidents, terrorism or other law enforcement activities), major weather events, or sudden failure or damage to the road. Most items require basic or complex traffic control installations and detours. Large crashes involving commercial vehicles can include hazardous materials spills, damage to infrastructures, and prolonged cleanup times.


S&I is just what it sounds like: removal of snow and/or ice to make the roads safe to use. The work generally consists of plowing snow and spreading salt, sand or various liquid anti-icing chemicals. Depending on the climate and expected snowfall, the work may include heavy equipment like motor graders, snow blowers and rubber tire loaders.


CP/T generally includes providing a fleet of well-equipped service trucks and trained staff to help stranded motorists by providing fuel, water for overheated radiators, jump starts or simply pushing a vehicle out of a lane and into a safe area such as the road shoulder. The frequency and duration of the patrolling will be specified in the contract performance section and is usually limited to peak travel times.


While all these services are usually provided under the “operations” mantra, they can be removed all together or included as separate parts.

Some owners are reluctant to give control over to operations services. This may be due to poor experiences with outsourcing or the belief that poor service and negative publicity is undesirable, so the service must be retained by the owner. Another reason may be that the owner already provides a successful, integrated Courtesy Patrol and Incident Management service and wants to continue providing it.

The decision to outsource or retain the various operations services is ultimately the owner’s, but careful consideration must be given to the total cost as well as the risks involved with these decisions.

Want to learn more about operations and maintenance? Contact Us.

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Are You Staying Busy or Being Productive?

As a business owner, I am frequently asked, “How is business?” I often used to reply “Busy” but had a colleague follow my answer up with the question “Is it productive?”

Wow, that was a new one. I stopped dead in my tracks with a blank but inquisitive stare on my face, prompting my colleague to explain the question. Being busy without making progress is like being stuck in the mud with your tires spinning every time you mash the accelerator. Sure, you’re giving the appearance of “working” to get out of the mud, but you haven’t moved or bettered your position. In essence, you’re not being productive.

How often do you catch yourself spinning your wheels in the mud? What can you do to zip out of the mud when you mash down the accelerator?

One of the first things you can do to increase productivity is prioritizing your to-do list, which is exactly what Pillar does when it comes to asset management. We make a list of your assets and determine which items to address based on the needs, resources, time, severity, permits, etc. This helps you maintain your assets as a whole while fully utilizing your budget, staff and resources.

We review and reorganize this “to-do” list frequently to ensure critical projects are being completed and general maintenance isn’t being overlooked. This ensures your roadways are in tip-top shape while also helping you better manage your staff and budget.

You won’t feel like your wheels are spinning in the mud as you complete important tasks on your to-do list. Give us a call at (276) 223-0500 or email us to see how Pillar’s asset management can help you make the most of your budget and time by prioritizing and completing tasks that help you maintain your roadways.

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Assessing The Condition of Your Roadway Inventory

Previously, we talked about the critical importance of maintaining an accurate inventory to support asset management. Knowing your inventory is just the first step in good asset management. It’s also important to know the condition of that inventory, which brings us to the next step, assessing your infrastructure inventory.

None of us is getting any younger, and neither is your infrastructure inventory. Just like our human bodies and vital systems change and decline with age, so does your inventory. We take care of our health by making periodic visits to the doctor to monitor our condition and find problems in their early stages. Imagine you have a bad knee. It may tell you when the weather is going to change, but it can’t tell you when it will need to be replaced. So you go to a specialist who monitors the knee and takes measures to extend its functionality. You may get some physical therapy, then try some shots, but eventually the joint will fail. There are increasing signs and symptoms that will continue to alert you to the problem, like pain or swelling, but the exact moment of the upcoming failure can’t be predicted. But if you’ve done everything you can to maintain that knee, you can delay the replacement for an extended period of time.

The same way you watch and take care of your knee, you need to assess and take measures to extend the lifespan of your inventory. Take pavement, for example. When it’s newly installed, the surface is nice and smooth and provides a comfortable ride. Over time, traffic and the environment begin to take their toll on that nice, smooth surface. Eventually, cracks will start to appear in the pavement, making the ride a bit less comfortable. Like a little ache in our fictional knee, this is your signal to pay attention and take some action. So we apply a crack sealant to help stop the cracking process, slow the overall decline and restore the pavement to a smooth surface.

This will work for a while, but as time and seasons pass, potholes will start to develop and the pavement starts to break apart around the cracks. Time to take action by filling the potholes with patch material, the equivalent of injections in that bum knee. The action is a bit more drastic, because your inventory is nearing the end of its lifespan. Just like the knee replacement, eventually you’ll need to repave.

Assessment Quote

Effective asset management begins with accurately assessing the condition of your inventory to identify the appropriate treatment. Knowing the optimal time to treat the problem will help to ensure your inventory is kept in good condition. This not only extends its viability, but keeps the lifecycle cost as low as possible. Just like you don’t get your knee replaced with the first little pain, you don’t want to repave after just a few cracks. Likewise, you can’t ignore the symptoms and just let potholes get out of control.

Gather as much information on your inventory as possible and you’ll have the basic data needed to make a complete assessment plan. Research all the appropriate service/maintenance contracts and budgetary constraints. Just like the doctor uses x-rays, scans and blood tests, inspect and monitor you inventory, then research your options. Knowing what remedial actions or replacements will be needed in the future will make it easier for you to accurately forecast trends and make better budget and program decisions.

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3 Ways to Save on Roadway Maintenance

The P3 approach includes preventive, lifecycle maintenance for the asset and avoids the problems associated with deferred maintenance. Simply put, deferred maintenance is the practice of postponing infrastructure maintenance activities, usually due to lack of available funding. Lack of proper and timely maintenance leads to early deterioration that costs more to repair later on or shortens the lifespan of the asset. Both of these situations will cost extra over the long term as the asset will have to be replaced well before it was planned, resulting in unanticipated capital costs.

What is the remedy?

Government agencies can participate in a P3 project delivery structure that involves the agency partnering with a private entity to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an infrastructure project. A P3 allows a government agency to mitigate the risks and costs associated with maintenance activities by requiring the builder to maintain the project for the long term drawing funding from a fixed, known payment structure negotiated before the job is even started.

pay me now or later

How exactly does this solve deferred maintenance?

Annual vs. lifecycle budgets

  • Public agencies generally budget on an annual cycle. A private company utilizes longer term budgets and can “roll over” cost savings into later years. Snow removal is a good example: Savings in a “light” year will be sequestered and used in later years during an inevitable “heavy” year.
  • Annual budgeting usually means that savings is “lost” in that year and the money is used for other priorities which may not be related to the subject asset. More importantly when the “heavy” year causes the budget to be expended, other repairs will likely be deferred resulting in an asset in poor condition and likely higher repair cost later as the asset continues to deteriorate.

Resource leveling

  • Aside from a basic level of manpower and equipment for day-to-day tasks such as litter removal and incident management, many specialist tasks will be outsourced.
  • Typically, government agencies will procure equipment and sometimes manpower that only has limited usage, for example tractors for mowing or bucket trucks for lighting repairs and their associated crews. The equipment is expensive but may only be used a few times per year. An outsourced contractor will perform the work, then move on to other unrelated projects. The asset only pays for what is used at the time and avoids expensive capital expenditures for equipment that sits idle.

Handback requirements

  • To avoid having to rebuild or replace an asset prematurely (or at all), preventive maintenance is performed at optimum intervals to ensure the structure meets or exceeds its expected service life. The cost to clean, paint or repair assets periodically is far less than replacement cost if the asset doesn’t last as long as planned.


Using the P3 procurement method allows a private company to construct, service and maintain the asset which allows the government agency to save money through private company efficiencies, risk and responsibility allocation, and a firm funded budget.

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What PILLAR Asset Management Means For Your Company

Is “asset management” more than a buzz-word to you and your organization? Are regulations and costs leading you to question whether you need a better understanding of your assets and their future value, risks, and needs?

You may find yourself wondering “How can we boost asset life-span?” or “Has the cost of this asset been justified?” PILLAR provides asset management to help you with the entire process of properly planning, building, operating, maintaining, upgrading and decommissioning assets.

This is big-picture thinking and long-term strategizing. For assets to be sustainable and cost-effective, you need a broad analysis of engineering, economics, risk management and user needs.

With appropriate asset management methods, you can answer key questions about:


  • Long-term funding, including grants and loans
  • Potential budget fluctuations
  • Total cost of ownership


  • Current state of assets
  • Maintenance scheduling
  • Rehabilitation vs. replacement
  • Risk analysis
  • Gaps in institutional knowledge
  • Internal and external communication


  • Technological and material life-spans
  • Current and future regulations
  • User demands

Asset management results in better business practices and a more proactive mindset. It allows your organization to identify strengths as well as weaknesses, creating a better foundation for decision-making.

With systematic and coordinated asset management techniques, PILLAR will provide your organization with the tools to succeed now and in the future.

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Keeping and Maintaining Inventory for Roadway Infrastructure

“Now where did I put that (insert item here)?” This is a question I ask myself more than I should. Usually I’m looking for some sort of tool around my house that doesn’t get used very often, but, when I need it I need it now. The wrench to remove the element in my water heater is a good example. When an element goes out it’s usually at the worst possible time.

So the quicker I can find the wrench the quicker I can get the heater fixed. I have gotten better about keeping tools, etc. organized and one thing that has helped me with this is to actually bring home skills that I’ve learned at from work. While keeping track of tools around the house and maintaining incredible volumes of infrastructure are vastly different, there is a commonality in that the core of managing both of these is to know what you have and where it is located.

A drainage pipe can be similar to that missing household wrench in that it is an asset that you may lose track of. The original maintenance crew moves on, retires, etc. and they forgot to tell the new crew about it, the maintenance crew doesn’t have access to the original plans, or the area gets overgrown with brush, etc. Then all of a sudden it rains one day and water is backed into the road. Just like that when you need it you can’t find it.

One of the areas PILLAR helps our infrastructure clients is keeping and maintaining an infrastructure inventory. The roadway infrastructure we deal with was mostly built in the mid1900s with some dating back ever further. Most of these roads had design drawings or plans but not always follow up drawings or asbuilts to show field changes made to plans.

We have incorporated a number of methods and technologies to help our clients collect their inventory, and continuously and easily update what is added and removed. We have used everything from;

  • “Boots on the ground” location where we visually identify an asset location using metal detectors, brush axes, shovels, and an iPad loaded with a specialized application InfraTrak®. This allows us to add inventory, edit and remove inventory as well as log inventory conditions and generate work orders from the field. InfraTrak® works disconnected from the internet with information synced to the cloud where the collected field data is shared with office personnel.
  • Mobile LiDAR which generates a digital 3D model of the roadway with corresponding spherical photos taken at specified intervals.
  • Digitizing 5060 year old roadway plans.
  • Survey and GIS grade asset inventory mapping utilizing traditional GPS and survey equipment.
  • Development of a specialized department to explore the use of our cutting edge drone for the generation of digital 3D models, high resolution digital orthophotography, videos, and thermal imaging.

These methods have allowed us to inventory municipal utilities as well as hundreds of miles of roadway for our clients to help them know what they have and where it is located.

Pillar, Inc.’s staff has been involved with highway maintenance and incident response on many different projects with 40+ years of combined experience. We can generate, collect, and maintain digital asset inventories for your existing infrastructure. Please do not hesitate to contact us!

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Snow and Ice Control: Roadway Winter Preparations

Pillar, Inc. offers consulting services to Public Private Partnerships, specifically regarding the many different Operations and Maintenance services these specialized procurements include.

In order to better educate our partners, as part of our Continuous Improvement philosophy, Pillar periodically provides these informational O&M fact sheets to interested parties. 

NOW is the season to order your stockpiles of salt, abrasives, and pre-treatment liquids. Actually, this order should have been placed back in July, but we’ll bring you up to speed just the same.

Asset Managers are tasked with taking care of infrastructure, such as roadways and related facilities. This includes budget, cash flow, finance, credit, etc. Basically, here is some advice from our school of experience to help you manage cash flow with a minimum of pain and a few easy to execute tips. 

Salt. A simple chemical and relatively inexpensive, but in the quantities we use it, with prices from $75-$125 per ton, we need to manage our stockpiles carefully. Industry standards call for having at least 100% of your “worst case” winter inventory on hand before the season starts. While this is a good rule of thumb, it can be costly both in inventory holding costs as well as capital outlays to build a larger than necessary containment facility.

Consider the following operational tips:

If your project is located within a reasonable distance (1-2 hours) of the shipping point, consider ordering less salt at the beginning of the season and being very proactive in re-ordering salt. In order to do this, you must do it with forethought, not a guess.

Place a resupply order a day before the next event happens. You can estimate the salt you will use during the event and simply order that amount before it snows. Your project will be first in line to receive salt after the storm while other projects are ordering after the event and waiting longer.

If your project is too small to demand “first priority” delivery, negotiate this into your purchase agreements; it may cost more per ton but save you the corresponding outlay for facility and holding costs.

Delays in shipment are usually due to lack of trucking availability, especially at the rate negotiated by the salt supplier with their independent carriers. Consider an FOB price to provide flexibility and redundancy: You go pick up the salt with your own truck fleet rather than wait for non-guaranteed resupply by the vendor’s trucks.

Consider keeping the doors of your facility open at offhours or weekends. Many DOT’s will only receive salt between normal operating hours of 8am-4:30pm Monday-Friday, thus creating a bottleneck in the supply lines. If you tell the shipper “we’ll accept your salt 24-7” you’ll probably get it quicker.

The extra few dollars in staff overtime is minor compared to the cost of not having the salt.

At some point the shipper’s dispatch personnel will call you to confirm shipment. Have your on-call staff save this number into their phone. It is likely this trucking company will be your exclusive supplier. You can get more up-to-date delivery information from the shipper than going through your supplier, who is only going to contact the shipper and email you back. Short circuit the runaround.

Use less salt. This seems elementary, but you would be surprised at how much salt can be wasted by ineffective salting strategies or uncalibrated or out-of-adjustment equipment.

  • Salt at the right time.
  • Re-calibrate your equipment if usage seems excessive.
  • Use a well thought out and sufficiently detailed pre-treatment plan to minimize the usage of salt.
  • These are all standard procedures, probably already written into your O&M Plan, but is it really happening on the project?

What is the “right” time to apply salt? There are now rugged and accurate sensors available to measure the slickness of pavement in real time.

Instead of guessing when to put down salt, you can now accurately and remotely measure pavement friction and apply salt if needed, not when it “feels right”. Keep an eye on the temperatures. Salting at 9am at 31 degrees on a slushy road is not cost effective if the forecast is for sunny skies and a high temperature of 40 degrees.

“If we have it, let’s use it.” This mentality is a problem with oversized inventories of any material. It’s just human nature. If your client gave you their existing facility, remember that facility may have been sized to service more road network than you now have. Resist the urge to fill it up.

What is your real “worst case” winter scenario? Re-examine the assumptions used to calculate your annual usage. Is it a case of “that’s how we have always done it”? How much salt is left every year to sit all summer long? If it’s more than 1/3rd of your annual usage, you are probably buying too much. That’s a lot of money sitting there in a pile all summer.

While these ideas may sound counterintuitive to some readers, remember that we are managing the road, our crews and our materials and should be looking for efficiencies and improvements wherever they may exist. Because a lot of money goes into snow & ice control, it’s a good place to look for improvements. If you are satisfied with your current results and expenditures, then keep doing it. Our Asset Management philosophy at Pillar tells us to keep looking for improvements. We think there are methods and techniques to reduce or delay capital expenditures without affecting performance.

Pillar, Inc.’s staff has been involved with highway maintenance and incident response on many different projects with 40+ years of combined experience. We can help write an O&M plan including Snow and Ice

Control procedures for your next project. Please do not hesitate to contact us!

Dan Dennis, PE | Senior Project Manager / P3

To download a PDF version of PillarTalk 2015 please click here.

Save Time


How many times have you asked, “where did the time go?” As my oldest child embarks into college life, as I reflect on living in the same town now for 16 years, and as I approach starting the 14th year of PILLAR, I find myself asking that question more and more.

Frankly, I am beginning to sound like my parents. As a youngster, I didn’t understand what they meant by time going by so fast. My kids don’t understand it either since they still have “boredom episodes.” I can’t remember the last time I was bored and couldn’t find anything to do. Time just seems to be flying.

The beauty with time is we all have the same 24 hours in a given day. It is up to you to see what you can make of those 24 hours. You could be a slave to someone else’s time or you can master your own time. Do you find you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish what you want done? The key is productive time management of your goals and priorities. You need to identify your goals and priorities and then schedule realistic timeframes to complete or reach them. If the task isn’t a priority or on the path to reach your goals, it is a time snatcher so don’t fall into the snare. Move on and don’t do that task. Every week, review your goals, objectives and priorities for the year, month and week to create your weekly schedule. This will keep you on your path.

When creating your weekly schedule, you want to make sure you block out task time and assign realistic times to those tasks. Too often we only schedule time for meetings and appointments. Block out time to complete specific tasks and if you aren’t finished by the end of that time, stop so you can move onto your next priority. The key is to stop when you reach the time limit. Otherwise, the proverbial train has come off the tracks will occur with your schedule. Track your time so you can adjust how much time you need to block out to complete the task.

Life isn’t all chasing fish.

Protect your family and your down time. Just like scheduling work time, you need to schedule family and personal down time. You need to make yourself available to spend time with loved ones and develop those relationships as well as recharge your batteries with a little “me” time. If you don’t, you’ll be wondering what happened to the last 18 years during move-in day.

Leverage your time to double-dip or “kill two birds with one stone”. Lunch time is the easiest to perform this method. Pick a couple days a week to go out with someone you don’t know well, but with whom you would like to develop a relationship (business or otherwise). If you are traveling to a jobsite, schedule a meeting with a colleague or representative in the area or on the way to and from the site. Make the time work for you.

Schedule time to take care of you. Yes, this means getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating nutritious foods. You need to energize yourself and mentally prepare for the day. If you don’t take time to take care of yourself, it won’t matter how you manage your time as you won’t be around. Getting enough sleep, regular exercise and nutritious eating habits helps you mentally and physically prepare yourself for the day.

We are all given 24 hours in a day. You could be a slave to someone else’s time or you can master your own time. The choice is yours. Which do you choose?