Road Design for Future Maintenance : Life-cycle Cost Analyses for Road Barriers

Abstract: The cost of a road construction over its service life is a function of design, quality of construction as well as maintenance strategies and operations. An optimal life-cycle cost for a road requires evaluations of the above mentioned components. Unfortunately, road designers often neglect a very important aspect, namely, the possibility to perform future maintenance activities. Focus is mainly directed towards other aspects such as investment costs, traffic safety, aesthetic appearance, regional development and environmental effects.This doctoral thesis presents the results of a research project aimed to increase consideration of road maintenance aspects in the planning and design process. The following subgoals were established:Identify the obstacles that prevent adequate consideration of future maintenance during the road planning and design process; andExamine optimisation of life-cycle costs as an approach towards increased efficiency during the road planning and design process.The research project started with a literature review aimed at evaluating the extent to which maintenance aspects are considered during road planning and design as an improvement potential for maintenance efficiency. Efforts made by road authorities to increase efficiency, especially maintenance efficiency, were evaluated. The results indicated that all the evaluated efforts had one thing in common, namely ignorance of the interrelationship between geometrical road design and maintenance as an effective tool to increase maintenance efficiency. Focus has mainly been on improving operating practises and maintenance procedures. This fact might also explain why some efforts to increase maintenance efficiency have been less successful.An investigation was conducted to identify the problems and difficulties, which obstruct due consideration of maintainability during the road planning and design process. A method called “Change Analysis” was used to analyse data collected during interviews with experts in road design and maintenance. The study indicated a complex combination of problems which result in inadequate consideration of maintenance aspects when planning and designing roads. The identified problems were classified into six categories: insufficient consulting, insufficient knowledge, regulations and specifications without consideration of maintenance aspects, insufficient planning and design activities, inadequate organisation and demands from other authorities. Several urgent needs for changes to eliminate these problems were identified.One of the problems identified in the above mentioned study as an obstacle for due consideration of maintenance aspects during road design was the absence of a model for calculating life-cycle costs for roads. Because of this lack of knowledge, the research project focused on implementing a new approach for calculating and analysing life-cycle costs for roads with emphasis on the relationship between road design and road maintainability. Road barriers were chosen as an example. The ambition is to develop this approach to cover other road components at a later stage.A study was conducted to quantify repair rates for barriers and associated repair costs as one of the major maintenance costs for road barriers. A method called “Case Study Research Method” was used to analyse the effect of several factors on barrier repairs costs, such as barrier type, road type, posted speed and seasonal effect. The analyses were based on documented data associated with 1625 repairs conducted in four different geographical regions in Sweden during 2006. A model for calculation of average repair costs per vehicle kilometres was created. Significant differences in the barrier repair costs were found between the studied barrier types.In another study, the injuries associated with road barrier collisions and the corresponding influencing factors were analysed. The analyses in this study were based on documented data from actual barrier collisions between 2005 and 2008 in Sweden. The result was used to calculate the cost for injuries associated with barrier collisions as a part of the socio-economic cost for road barriers. The results showed significant differences in the number of injuries associated with collisions with different barrier types.To calculate and analyse life-cycle costs for road barriers a new approach was developed based on a method called “Activity-based Life-cycle Costing”. By modelling uncertainties, the presented approach gives a possibility to identify and analyse factors crucial for optimising life-cycle costs. The study showed a great potential to increase road maintenance efficiency through road design. It also showed that road components with low investment costs might not be the best choice when including maintenance and socio-economic aspects.The difficulties and problems faced during the collection of data for calculating life-cycle costs for road barriers indicated a great need for improving current data collecting and archiving procedures.The research focused on Swedish road planning and design. However, the conclusions can be applied to other Nordic countries, where weather conditions and road design practices are similar. The general methodological approaches used in this research project may be applied also to other studies.