"Pavement preservation represents a proactive approach to maintaining our existing highways. It enables a transportation agency to reduce costly, time consuming rehabilitation and reconstruction projects and the associated traffic disruptions. With timely preservation we can provide the traveling public with improved safety and mobility, reduced congestion, and smoother, longer lasting pavements." Source: FHWA Memorandum on Pavement Preservation Definitions
The concept of preservation is not new, and is in fact prevalent in our daily lives. We change the oil in our car on a regular basis to ensure that we get the maximum life out of our vehicle and protect our investment. Pavement preservation is a similar concept. In short, it is applying the right treatment on the right road at the right time to extend the service life of the pavement. It is basically keeping good roads good. The Federal Highway Administration defines pavement preservation as "a program employing a network level, long-term strategy that enhances pavement performance by using an integrated, cost-effective set of practices that extend pavement life, improve safety and meet motorist expectations". Source: FHWA Pavement Preservation Expert Task Group
We can extend the life of our pavements by applying low cost preventive maintenance treatments while they are still in good condition. Currently, the average cost of preservation treatments is approximately $21,900 per lane mile. Examples of these treatments include but are not limited to:
For many elected officials and members of the public this may be a difficult concept to embrace. The question often asked is "Why spend money on a good road when the one I drive on the most is falling apart?" An appropriate answer to this question is because it costs less to keep good roads good than to allow them to deteriorate, which leads to reconstruction or rehabilitation. There is just not enough funding available to continue the "worst first" way of doing things. Following the "worst first" approach, the backlog of roads that need major rehabilitation and reconstruction continues to grow. The only way to get out from under the avalanche of deteriorating pavements is to stop the rate of deterioration through the application of less costly preventive maintenance treatments. That is, by implementing a preservation program. Research has shown that for every dollar spent on preservation, we save six to ten dollars that would have to be spent on rehabilitation or reconstruction down the road.1
In summary, a pavement preservation program is a proactive approach to maintaining South Carolina's roads using low cost preventive maintenance treatments. Moving from a worst first strategy to one of preservation will ensure that we are getting the most from the limited resurfacing dollars available.
Additional information about pavement preservation can be found at PavementPreservation.org, the website for the National Center for Pavement Preservation.
1. "At the Crossroads, Preserving Our Highway Investment" written by John O'Doherty of the National Center for Pavement Preservation.