Using a Customer Service Level Approach to Asset Management


In 2008, the Maine government enacted legislation specifying goals MaineDOT needed to achieve to maintain and rebuild the state's highway network by 2022 and 2027. This network includes approximately 8,887 miles of highways and 2,919 bridges. Besides the typical highway assets that most agencies look after, MaineDOT also maintains a number of non-traditional assets such as ferries, rail lines and buses which are leased to local agencies.

In order to meet the long term objectives of the legislation, MaineDOT would have needed to spend approximately $972 million during the current planning cycle. However, the available funding was only $402 million, leaving a shortfall of $570 million. Overall MaineDOT was faced with a $3.3 billion funding gap if the agency was to meet the standards outlined in the legislation by the deadlines of 2022 and 2027.

CHALLENGE: Rethink the agency's asset management approach

In addition to the $3.3 billion funding gap, the state's vast road network added to the challenge of meeting the legislated standards. According to MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce A. Van Note, “Compared to other states, Maine simply has a lot of miles of road and relatively few people spread out over a large area!” For MaineDOT, finding a new approach to managing the network had become a necessity.

The new asset management approach had to allow the agency to achieve both the new legislated standards and their ongoing goal of providing customers with the safest and most reliable transportation system possible, given the available resources.

SOLUTION: Prioritize the network and assign Customer Service Levels

MaineDOT decided to create a fair, structured framework to prioritize programs and projects. The agency's solution included three key steps:

1. Use Highway Corridor Priorities to prioritize the network.

2. Use Customer Service Levels to determine the desired and acceptable levels of service for each priority.

3. Use an Asset Management System to examine alternative funding scenarios for multiple assets.

Highway Corridor Priorities

When setting the Highway Corridor Priorities, MaineDOT looked at many different factors but focused on the function of the facility and its contribution to the overall economic health and welfare of the state. The agency assigned priorities to the state roadways using six categories: Priority 1 and Priority 2 roads carry the bulk of the traffic through the state highway network; Priority 3 roads are the remaining arterial and collector highways; Priority 4 roads are often shared with municipalities; Priority 5 roads are minor collector highways, and Priority 6 roads are local roads and streets which are the responsibility of municipalities.

Customer Service Levels

The next step was to establish Customer Service Levels (CSLs), using a scale of A through F, that could be used to set performance targets and to report current and future levels of service. For each asset, CSLs were developed for three factors: Condition, Safety, and Service.

• Condition CSL was based on highways (ride quality, pavement condition and roadway strength), bridges (NBI ratings) and other assets (percent useful life or remaining service life).

• Safety CSL was based on such factors as crash history, pavement rutting, paved roadway width and bridge reliability.

 • Service CSL was based on spring road postings, bridge postings and congestion.

Asset Management System

MaineDOT now needed to implement this new information in their asset management system, dTIMS. The dTIMS software allowed MaineDOT to perform their highway management analysis using the new Highway Corridor Priorities and Customer Service Levels. The analysis included typical pavement performance measures for triggering treatments and developing a program, and also tracked all the performance measures necessary to report the Condition, Safety and Service CSLs for alternative strategies.

PCR, IRI, Rutting and Remaining Service Life were used to trigger treatments and develop the highway program. Then alternative budget scenarios were created to view the impact on each Customer Service Level. MaineDOT was also able to see how each treatment impacted the Customer Service Levels. For example, Service and Safety levels were not significantly impacted by preservation and minor rehabilitation treatments and were only affected by heavier rehabilitation and reconstruction treatments.

The following example shows a typical strategy with two interventions during the analysis period and the impact on the Condition Customer Service Level: MaineDOT also performed a bridge management analysis, similar to the highway analysis, that included measures for developing the bridge program and for measuring the impacts of the program on the customer service levels.

OUTCOME: Funding decisions can be made based on Customer Service Levels

 Using the flexible budgeting available in dTIMS, MaineDOT was able to specify budgets in dollar amounts for maintenance, preservation and rehabilitation type treatments as well as acceptable levels for each Customer Service Level. The agency was also able to view the expenditures and impacts to the Customer Service Levels. To make this information more accessible throughout the agency, a management dashboard was implemented to allow MaineDOT staff to review the results online through their web browser.

Future plans include defining Highway Corridor Priorities and Customer Service Levels for other assets and adding them to system. Some assets do not have any formalized inventory system in place so dTIMS will be used to house those assets and to develop the asset management plans. MaineDOT also plans to take advantage of dTIMS' cross asset analysis and optimization features, allowing individual projects to compete for funding based on benefits, costs and impacts to the Customer Service Levels.