StreetSaver Blog

3 Cold Hard Truths on Condition Assessment

by Sui Tan | May 04, 2016
Pavement Condition AssessmentI received an urgent phone call from an East Coast user few days ago. “You have to help me!” Before I could say “sure”, he had started telling me the problem. In short, he was asking if there was anything he could do to rectify the distress data that was collected a year ago. This is because without any increase in funding, his network PCI had gone up 10 points.

TRUTH #1: Garbage in, garbage out.

The fact is, you can’t hide the truth about your pavement condition. It is just a matter of time before people find out. If there are poor pavements, the motoring public will find out first. Besides pavement condition, treatment selection in StreetSaver is triggered by PCI. If the PCI is in error, then wrong treatment will be recommended. This will result in unrealistic maintenance needs assessment. You see the domino effect. I have heard many horror stories from local agencies and consultants on pavement condition surveys. The worst enemy of a pavement management program is “I don’t trust the data.”

TRUTH #2: If it is not documented, it didn’t happen.

Since MTC also hires data collection vendors under our Pavement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP), it is important to make sure that quality data is being collected by our consultants. The quality standards are documented in the MTC Data Quality Management Plan. This plan specifies how to pre-qualify consultants before accepting their proposals, quality control before, during, and after production, and data acceptance procedures to validate consultant’s results meet established quality standards. If you are investing thousands of dollars in condition assessment, then it pays to establish a data quality management plan. It doesn’t have to be a 100-page manual, just a few pages will suffice. Some agencies have adopted or modified MTC’s version. Or you can refer to the Practical Guide for Quality Management of Pavement Condition Data Collection by FHWA. Remember, if it is not documented, it didn’t happen.

TRUTH #3: Hire qualified consultant.

I am often asked to provide samples of request for proposal/qualification from MTC and other local agencies. In reviewing their initial proposal, one of my biggest pet peeves is on hiring a low bidder. I always advise local agencies not to rely solely on price. To help our users hire qualified consultants, MTC routinely tests data collection vendors and their pavement raters under the Rater Certification Program as part of the MTC Data Quality Management Plan.

To finish up the opening story, the user ended up paying another qualified consultant to do the condition assessment again. Ouch!