Asset level optimisation takes AIM at Florida Highway
A full-scale demonstration of AIM 4.0, an innovative platform for managing asset investment decisions, has been carried out on a multi-lane Florida highway. The project could be a gamechanger for road maintenance project delivery, explains Dr Philip Jonkergouw, founder and chief executive of Probit.
A recent demonstration of Probit’s Asset Investment Manager (AIM) 4.0 software on a major US highway corridor has proven that it can assess the condition of the roadway with a higher level of granularity than was previously possible. The platform’s advanced decision analytics functionality can also run scenarios much faster.
The Interstate 595, also known as the Port Everglades Expressway, is a three-lane reversible toll road with general purpose lanes and frontage roads, comprising over 9.5 miles (15km) and 220 lane-miles (354km) of roadway and is situated in Fort Lauderdale. It went into operation in 2014, incorporating an existing state highway into a complex network including flyovers, underpasses and overpasses.
The highway is operated by a concessionaire, who is contracted by the local Department of Transportation to operate and maintain the highway to specified standards. Failure to operate and maintain the roadway at the required performance standards can result in significant financial penalties. The concessionaire is required to collect data that continually demonstrates compliance.
Global engineering company Tetra Tech is a main contractor for this work. The US-headquartered company offers niche asset management services to the transportation sector as part of its broad portfolio and has a dedicated team of engineers with specialist skills in pavement, or road surface, along with roadway data collection services.
Working closely with UK-based Probit over an eight-month period, the two companies were able to prove that it was possible to assess the condition of the roadway in much more precise detail than was previously possible and that scenarios could be run much more rapidly.
Bryan Palsat, manager – transportation asset management for Tetra Tech, says this public-private partnership—PPP or P3—approach has emerged in many cases as a favoured alternative method of project delivery and requires a different mode of thinking about total lifecycle project costs.
“The concessionaire, who is operating and maintaining the road, now has a lot of interest in how it is designed and constructed,” he says, “because those two things have a major impact on long-term performance. They are motivated to maintain a compliant roadway system to not go into penalty,” says Palsat.
“It’s the responsibility of the concessionaire to collect the data and demonstrate back to the owner that they’re compliant. That is where we come in.”
Functional pavement data gathered from road surveys makes possible the assessment of the condition of the highway network, relative to performance specifications. It then helps determine a pavement management system underpinned with an optimal maintenance and rehabilitation strategy.
The initial road assessment establishes the baseline condition of the roadway by collecting data on parameters including surface thickness and smoothness. It is around that data that performance models are developed to forecast future condition.
Palsat explains, “On these types of projects, we programme the necessary road-paving activity required each year to maintain compliance. It becomes a very intricate framework of modelling, condition-assessment, completing a maintenance treatment, resetting condition and restarting the model.
“There are lots of variables—climate, design, materials, construction, repair methods, type of use,” says Palsat. “We do our own testing, to see first-hand how pavement responds to them.
“All that data goes into models we build to forecast future pavement conditions. We’re able to project maintenance and rehabilitation needs based on how the road was designed, built, and operated.
“It is the nature of projects involving technology like AIM that the benefits continually reveal themselves. Based on projects we have run, a properly implemented pavement management system can deliver a 15-40% cost-saving on maintenance and rehabilitation.”
At the core of Probit’s AIM platform are risk maps that reveal and visualise the potential vulnerability of assets and services to failure and the value they represent, now and in the future. They can capture the multiple variables that are needed to make investment decisions, depicting them as risk-nodes, along with linkages between them.
Careful assessment of the need for actions such as road resurfacing for smoothness and adding thickness for strength, along with the sequencing of the works programme, can make a difference of millions of dollars in terms of maintenance costs.
Road rehabilitation can involve costs of around US$150k for a single lane-mile of roadway, if that can be delayed by just one year, and risk of performance managed, then maintenance and refurbishment can be discounted, offering an immediate saving to the client. When scaled up to a typical P3 roadway network, the savings start to add up.
According to Palsat, the demonstration of AIM 4.0 by Probit was successful and the team was able to replicate existing roadway performance models by taking the frameworks and programme into their software environment.
“That integration was important,” says Palsat, because it proved that they were able to assess the roadway with a higher level of granularity than was previously possible and that they could run scenarios much faster. We are very much looking for a project to use it on because if that happens and is successful then it is a gamechanger for everyone.”
He says that the working relationship with Probit was unique, “They are engineers at heart and became very engaged with the process very early-on. We formed a technical working group comprising both teams and there was a lot of mutual respect between all the technical experts.
“At times we were working so closely it was like they were part of our company for that project.”
Palsat, who is based at Tetra Tech’s office in Edmonton, Canada, says a whole new approach to roadbuilding has come into play in both Canada and the US.
“Owners are struggling to find the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to for upkeep, repair and replacement of all of our roadways and bridges,” he says. “It’s all about using the data to analyse lifecycle costs and identify and define the performance requirements upfront.
“The whole pavement management systems approach means applying thoughtfulness and attention to performance requirements, understanding and using data properly, then taking advantage of the benefits these software programs bring in terms of investigating hundreds and thousands of scenarios and piecing together optimal programmes of work.”
Dr Tim Watson, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Probit says, “We are very pleased that our software demonstration has shown how powerful AIM 4.0 can be in supporting road surface management in North America. Decision analytics software like AIM offers asset-intensive organisations the capability to make major investment decisions with much more accuracy, gaining more value from the underlying data and driving cost efficiency.
The flexibility and configurability of AIM allows us to work closely with asset experts and engineers to solve some very hard and unique problems at scale. We look forward to working with Tetra Tech in the future and exploring more opportunities to add value to their clients’ transportation and other asset management operations.”