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Planning Ahead - The Importance of a Street Condition Analysis in the Capital Improvement Planning Process

A city’s streets are its lifeblood. They can determine success or failure of businesses, extend the life of vehicles, facilitate commerce and emergency responses, and even provide the foundation for a community festival. Streets are extremely important to the day-to-day function of a community. When neglected and not properly maintained, the results are reflected in insurance claims from bent rims or flat tires, slows down delivery times, and reduced traffic in an area, hurting businesses. An important part of maintaining the key infrastructure in a community is proper planning.
Many communities maintain their roads by responding to complaints they receive from constituents. The more progressive communities plan their maintenance through a process called Capital Improvement Planning. A typical Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is usually a four-to-six-year plan which identifies capital projects, provides a planning schedule and identifies financing options. A CIP will provide guidance for the community as it determines how the tax dollars are being spent based on priority items, and identifies shortfalls which need to be addressed through additional funding. One aspect of the CIP that assists in identifying priority items is a Street Condition Analysis.
A Street Condition Analysis (SCA) is the process of evaluating all of the various arteries in a community to determine their condition in order to prioritize street maintenance. A SCA is a proactive, and crucial piece in determining a successful multi-year street maintenance plan. Although a full analysis is the best option, a SCA can be done in phases to satisfy budget considerations. Below are the steps taken to create an effective SCA.

  1. Rideability Test – Every street in the community is driven, providing each street with a ride condition rating.
  2. Average Daily Traffic (ADT) – For streets with higher vehicle traffic and heavier truck routes, which require additional resources to maintain, ADT can be determined for each street segment in order to facilitate maintenance prioritization.
  3. Walk-Through – Each block is physically walked and pavement conditions are documented. Although labor intensive, this approach yields the best results and the best data.
  4. Information Collection – Various characteristics are evaluated including pavement surface defects, deformation, and cracking.
  5. Pavement Ranking – The streets are evaluated using a pavement ranking system to determine the current condition. A ride condition rating is determined for each street segment and is incorporated into a database along with the street classification. Once compiled, the database is used to rank the recommended repairs for each street segment and aid in the prioritization of repairs and maintenance based on condition.
  6. Street Maintenance Schedule – The ranking system is the decision tool used to assist in the prioritization of maintenance, as well as the allocation of street maintenance resources.
  7. Cost Estimate – Depending on the recommended repair for each street, a cost estimate is determined for each section of roadway.
  8. Assign Budget Resources – Once the prioritization is complete, a maintenance program can be separated into program years based on the availability of funds.
  9. Additional Funding – With a comprehensive maintenance plan, need for additional resources can be identified. The CIP and SCA can be a great resource when considering a sales tax referendum, or possibly applying for grant funds.
A Street Condition Analysis is a very effective tool as part of a larger Capital Improvement Plan and can be a great aid in the budget process. Each community is responsible for their own road maintenance and would be wise to employ these planning tools. Looking ahead and prioritizing street maintenance will benefit the community with better roads, improved fiscal responsibility, and overall goodwill.
Fehr Graham provides Street Condition Analysis for communities and can assist in the creation of a basic or comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan. In addition, our funding experts can provide insight into the best ways to finance these projects over the long term. For more information, please visit our website at www.fehr-graham.com.     

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