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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.