Improved road design for future maintenance : analysis of road barrier repair costs

Abstract: The cost of a road construction over its service life is a function of the design, quality of construction, maintenance strategies and maintenance operations. Unfortunately, designers often neglect a very important aspect which is the possibility to perform future maintenance activities. The focus is mainly on other aspects such as investment costs, traffic safety, aesthetic appearance, regional development and environmental effects. This licentiate thesis is a part of a Ph.D. project entitled “Road Design for lower maintenance costs” that aims to examine how the life-cycle costs can be optimized by selection of appropriate geometrical designs for the roads and their components. The result is expected to give a basis for a new method used in the road planning and design process using life-cycle cost analysis with particular emphasis on road maintenance. The project started with a review of literature with the intention to study conditions causing increased needs for road maintenance, the efforts made by the road authorities to satisfy those needs and the improvement potential by consideration of maintenance aspects during planning and design. An investigation was carried out to identify the problems which obstruct due consideration of maintenance aspects during the road planning and design process. This investigation focused mainly on the road planning and design process at the Swedish Road Administration. However, the road planning and design process in Denmark, Finland and Norway were also roughly evaluated to gain a broader knowledge about the research subject. The investigation was carried out in two phases: data collection and data analysis. Data was collected by semi-structured interviews with expert actors involved in planning, design and maintenance and by a review of design-related documents. Data analyses were carried out using a method called “Change Analysis”. This investigation revealed a complex combination of problems which result in inadequate consideration of maintenance aspects. Several urgent needs for changes to eliminate these problems were identified. Another study was carried out to develop a model for calculation of the repair costs for damages of different road barrier types and to analyse how factors such as road type, speed limits, barrier types, barrier placement, type of road section, alignment and seasonal effects affect the barrier damages and the associated repair costs. This study was carried out using a method called the “Case Study Research Method”. Data was collected from 1087 barrier repairs in two regional offices of the Swedish Road Administration, the Central Region and the Western Region. A table was established for both regions containing the repair cost per vehicle kilometre for different combinations of barrier types, road types and speed limits. This table can be used by the designers in the calculation of the life-cycle costs for different road barrier types.