The share of federal spending on infrastructure has reached an all-time low, falling from 30 percent in 1960 to just 12 percent in 2018.
While the nation’s ailing infrastructure will require more funding to reach its full potential, recent MIT research finds that more sustainable and higher performing roads are still possible even with today’s limited budgets.
The research, conducted by a team of current and former MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (MIT CSHub) scientists and published in Transportation Research D, finds that a set of innovative planning strategies could improve pavement network environmental and performance outcomes even if budgets don’t increase.
The paper presents a novel budget allocation tool and pairs it with three innovative strategies for managing pavement networks: a mix of paving materials, a mix of short- and long-term paving actions, and a long evaluation period for those actions.
This novel approach offers numerous benefits. When applied to a 30-year case study of the Iowa U.S. Route network, the MIT CSHub model and management strategies cut emissions by 20 percent while sustaining current levels of road quality. Achieving this with a conventional planning approach would require the state to spend 32 percent more than it does today. The key to its success is the consideration of a fundamental — but fraught — aspect of pavement asset management: uncertainty.
The average road must last many years and support the traffic of thousands — if not millions — of vehicles. Over that time, a lot can change. Material prices may fluctuate, budgets may tighten, and traffic levels may intensify. Climate (and climate change), too, can hasten unexpected repairs.
Managing these uncertainties effectively means looking long into the future and anticipating possible changes.
“Capturing the impacts of uncertainty is essential for making effective paving decisions,” explains Fengdi Guo, the paper’s lead author and a departing CSHub research assistant.
“Yet, measuring and relating these uncertainties to outcomes
This article is trimmed, please visit the source to read the full article.