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Good Practices: Incorporating Safety into Resurfacing and Restoration Projects

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U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal Highway Administration

December 2006

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Including safety improvements in pavement resurfacing and restoration projects is a subject of long-standing interest. All transportation agencies have ongoing programs to continuously improve safety. Likewise, all agencies have ongoing programs to preserve the serviceability of pavement surfaces with asphalt overlays and other interventions. The integration of these two endeavors is the focal point of historic controversy, ongoing interest, and a domestic scan. The scan, cosponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the National Association of County Engineers (NACE), and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), was conducted to document and disseminate information on good practices by State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and local agencies to integrate safety improvements into resurfacing and pavement restoration projects.

A scan on this subject was considered timely in light of evolving agency missions and legislative developments. The once-separate domains of maintenance and capital construction are converging. Successive Federal transportation acts, culminating with the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), broadened the eligibility of Federal-aid funds. Since ISTEA, FHWA Division Offices, State DOTs, and local governments have developed innovative approaches to integrating preservation and safety. The purpose of the scan was to identify, document, and disseminate information on these good practices.

Agencies have multiple objectives and limited resources. Programs and projects are developed to balance competing needs and limited funds. Integrating safety improvements into resurfacing is a resource-efficient method of pursuing infrastructure and safety goals. Resurfacing programs are not the only mechanism through which safety improvements are implemented. Further, resurfacing programs cannot be the means by which all existing highways are upgraded to meet all current criteria and standards related to geometry, traffic control, and safety appurtenances; however, incorporating selected, cost-effective safety improvements in resurfacing and restoration projects can provide extended public benefits. Attributes of successful programs include:

These success factors were observed in all of the States visited during the scan, albeit to varying degrees. Integrated resurfacing-safety programs don't come into existence instantaneously. Successful programs are developed over time and may be akin to a journey that involves changing organizational paradigms and culture. The States and counties visited are all on a journey to the goal of well-integrated programs. Some agencies are further along than others.

This report encompasses both how (i.e., process) integrated programs function and what is being accomplished (i.e., completed projects). It is written primarily for Federal, State, and local agency personnel in appointed and career executive positions, bureau and district/region managers that have a role in establishing direction and priorities within transportation agencies.

Scan Team members observed numerous good practices in use by State DOTs and local governments. These practices have been organized into two broad categories - institutional and technical. Some reported practices are widely used; the Scan Team observed others only at a single agency. There is, however, one indispensable attribute of a successful program: the desire and commitment of agency leaders-appointed and career-to routinely enhance safety in conjunction with infrastructure preservation.

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