In this segment of The Transportation Facts, we examine asset management.  That term gets used a lot when discussing increasing investments into our transportation network, but many people do not understand what it means.  Asset management is a systematic process of developing, operating, maintaining, upgrading, and disposing of assets in the most cost-effective manner.  And when applied to our transportation system, it can yield great results.

In the 1990s, Michigan established the Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) to review and analyze the condition of our roads and bridges throughout Michigan.  At the time, there was little known about the overall conditions of our network and what it would take to maintain and improve that system.  Since then, Michigan has become a leader throughout the country with their asset management program.  We are one of the best at rating our roads and bridges, yet we are one of the worst in terms of the condition of those infrastructure assets.

Asset management gives local, state and federal road agencies the ability to analyze their system and use what resources they have to prolong the lifespan of the assets they oversee.  Some believe that its obvious that planners would use a “worst first” approach when maintaining and rebuilding our roads and bridges but, in fact, with the resources that we have in our state, this application would cause us to run out of resources rather quickly, allowing good and fair conditioned roads to move to poor condition.  As you’ve probably heard before, a “mix of fixes” is the best approach to maintaining and preserving our transportation network.

The TAMC annual reports regarding the conditions of our roads and bridges have shown future conditions in regards to various funding levels.  Various reports that have shown the amount of investment that is needed for our transportation network are based on the TAMC condition reports from year to year, as well as the average cost of construction.  Those future predictions on the conditions of our roads have been spot on for decades and have given us an accurate reflection of the amount of resources necessary to get our system up to various percentages of good, fair and poor conditioned roads and bridges.

Asset management can and is being applied to other infrastructure assets, like underground water and sewers, dams, ports, etc.  Last year, the Michigan Water Asset Management Council (WAMC) and the Michigan Infrastructure Council (MIC) were established to integrate all of our asset management policies across the state.  One of the most frustrating construction projects for the general public to deal with is when a road that was fixed one summer gets torn up to replace the utilities underneath it in the next year or two.  With proper coordination between various entities, the construction can occur simultaneously, creating cost-saving measures, as well as creating less burden on the Michigan residents.