The Book on Better Roads Chapters 1/B and 2

In the beginning, there was a crumbling roadway system. Then folks started to read The Book on Better Roads. In fact, some angry ratepayers started mailing several hundreds, and sometimes thousands of copies of the Amazon Book on Better Roads to their Public Works Policy Makers and Elected Officials, and then 60 Minutes and 20/20, and News Makers started filming as truckloads of boxes of The Book on Better Roads were delivered daily down to their City Halls and County Commissioners Offices….. you can write your own headline here.


The best way to predict the future is to create it. We don’t have to have crumbling roads any longer. Please join our movement by registering your copy of this Book and visiting to see how you can further involved at any level. Help us change this Country for the better.


If you would like to watch a video of me doing a live presentation from Purdue Road School on The Three Legged Stool™ System of Pavement Management simply click here to register your book and get access to the free BONUS material Once you have registered your book Ben will be sure that you have a weekly supply of fresh BONUS content on all things The Three-Legged Stool™ of Pavement Management sent directly to your inbox.


That’s it for this Chapter, I will take the high road from here as I am sure you all feel my pain in writing this Book for you to enjoy!


Chapter 2 – How Bad Can This Really Be Blair?


Asphalt is the number one recycled product in America, and we recycle 100 million tons a year back at the plant but only about 3% of our roads are actually recycled in place. Our awesome asphalt producers put out about 600 million tons of hot mixed asphalt per year, and about 93% of our roads in USA are paved with hot mixed asphalt.


Unfortuneatly, even though we have been taught that asphalt paved roads have a 20 year life cycle, for whatever reason (I will let you readers figure that one out) some of the roads that I core when we do the pavement distress evaluations have upwards of 10 inches or more of asphalt on them, which is made up of 6 or 7 sequential overlays and the road is less than 25 years old based on the back calculations that we do from the date on the fire hydrants. (you can watch this little IPMA™ Tip of the Week after registering as af free BONUS after registering your book at if you are interested in learning how we do this calculation.


Blair Holds Up a 10 Inch Core of HMA at Purdue Road School

To make matters worse, only about 10% of normal folks even understand what pavement preservation is. Yet, we all know how important it is to fix our roof when it leaks, change the oil on our cars etc. But we somehow figure it is ok to let billions of dollars worth or roadways literally “die on the vine” so to speak. You see, if we would have preserved our pavements early on in their life, we wouldn’t have had to spend as much over their lives, and our Network Level Pavement Condition Indexes would be higher and the money we saved could have been spent improving our backlog deficit of bad roads that most agencies will never get to.


As you will learn as you read these chapters, in The Three Legged Stool System™ of Pavement Management, hot mixed apshalt contractors will put down 800 million tons of hot mixed asphalt a year, up from 600 million tons annually. Further it will take them the next 215 years to eliminate the backlog deficit of bad roads at 800 million tons a year. Meanwhile, the local agencies will be able to free up funds that have been typically wasted on doing sequential overlays and start to preserve their good roads so they last longer and don’t fall into the dreaded red zone of PCIs below 55.


So how bad can it really be Blair? At the rate we are headed, according to ASCE Report Card our roadways in USA are currently rated at a D + and we are headed for a three trillion dollar backlog deficit backlog of bad roads in 2040. While it imay be hard for the average citiizen to fathom the severity of this, just for a second or two imagine you not being able to drive your grand kids down to McDonalds to get a hamburg, because of the enormous debt load our Country will be carrying and all because nobody took the time to consider how easy it could be to implement The Three Legged Stool™ System of Pavement Management two or three decades ago.


Again, I want to reiterate for those of you who may be thinking how bad can things be Blair? Right now, we have local agencies pulverizing their hard top roads up and turning them back into dirt roads. As I told one local agency, if your County Commissioners insist on having you spend all of your money paving 300 miles of dirt roads, just let them know that if you do that, you may as well start planning on pulverizing up the existing 300 miles of paved roads right now, because like other local agencies that is where you are headed right around the corner!


Things are bad, this is not a book about perhaps, or maybe. I can say with specicifity based on thirty years of being in the industry, at the rate we are going and with the current Department of Justice ADA Clarifications that have just been made, your City or County, Township or State DOT is headed for a path of bankruptcy if you don’t implement a plan that ties pracitical pavement management together with eco efficient and cost saving in-place pavement recycling and pavement preservation.


While the average citizen may not be fully aware of the financial impact on the recent US Department of Justice clarifications, you as a City Manager or County Manager have to realize that all rehabilitation and preservation projects going forward as of 2014 that have curbs, sidewalks, truncated domes, wheelchair ramps, etc. will need to be upgraded in full to meet current standards based on the following graphic from a recent DOJ/FHWA Webinar Presentation:



US Department of Justice Slide on Maintenance versus Alteration


Now for clarifications sake, let me use an example of a fairly large city in the Pacific Northwest who emphatically stated during a presentation at Northwest Pavement Management Association Meeting that the cost of each and every one of his projects just doubled litlerally overnight. This may not be the case if you are a County Manager, or Elected Official with little or no sidewalk or curb and gutter in your network of roads, but if you are in a City, this is a key factor in everything you do going forward with your pavement management system.


Also, for the record I am not here to bash anyone with disabilities, I am merely the messenger. I knew that this DOJ Clarification would have significant impact on already strugling local agencies cash strapped for roadway funding.


Bottom line here is we were already faced with crumbling roads in America and the world, with little funding to spend to maintain their current condition. Now the situation, especially for Cities with curb, gutter and sidewalk just got even worse. Now more than ever, we must take heed to the warning signs and do everything we can in our power to educate our communities about the road ahead (pardon the pun).


I will lay out a simple plan for your City and County Engineers to follow in Part Two of this book. For now I want to make absolutely sure that you as Elected Officials, Media and Normal Everyday Citizens understand how severe the situation is at hand, how we got here and how the heck we are going to get ourselves out of it.


Let’s take a minute and do this simple example to find out what your budget should be for maintaining your roadway network for your local agency. Now for those of you just getting used to what I am talking about, we will use a PCI or Pavement Condition Index of 100 as a brand new or freshly rehabilitated road and a PCI of 0 for a road that has reached the end of its useful life. Typically a City or a County will strive to have their roads in decent shape, but if the pavement network was running at its best the average network level PCI would be about 85, this is about as good as it gets across the network.


So the first step here for us folks that are not City and County Pavement Managers and Engineers is to find out how many center lane miles of roadway that you have. Let us assume for this example that your City or County has 500 center lane miles of roadway.


CL Miles = 500 miles


Now we won’t bother getting into specifics like are these all 2 lane roads, are some 4 lane etc…. rather we will assume for this example that all 500 CL miles of roadway are 2 lane roads. Since a typical county road is about 22 feet wide, I usually plug in 13,000 square yards for each CL mile of road.


500 CL Miles x 13,000 SY = 6,500,000 SY Total


Now we will take the total square yards above and multiply it with a number that it would typically cost to replace the entire section of pavement along with some soft engineering costs. In some states this could be $48.00 per SY, and in other states this could be $78.00 per SY and really depends of factors such as how much aggregate is readily availible in your region, how many asphalt producers are there, readymixed concrete plants etc.


In this example, we will plug in a modest $60.00 per SY for our hypothetical local agency.


Thus we have:

6,500,000 SY x $60.00 = $390,000,000.00 worth of network replacement value

Understand that this figure could be more or less for your City or County depending on how much concrete sidewalk, curb and gutter you have, whether the roads are asphalt pavement or Portland concrete pavements, etc.


So in this example, our little City or County has a whopping $390,000,000.00 worth of replacement value and few if any of the residents even know this. In fact, most of the Elected Officials I talk to, and many of the City and County Engineers don’t even know the enormity of value in their network of pavements.


As with most assets, we can plug in a figure of 2 – 3% of the overall network level dollar amount as the figure required annually to maintain the current PCI for your City of County. Again, depending on where you start with the implementation of your pavement management program, this multiplier could vary.


For this example we will plug in 3% hence:


$390,000,000.00 x 3% = $11,700,000.00 annual amount required to maintain PCI


Two things here. First, the above example is what is required to maintain, not increase your network level PCI ratings. Therefore, if you start with a network level PCI rating of 38 or 51, it may take a multiplier of 5 – 7 % before you can see the network level PCI climb to a better range such as 70 – 75.


Second, the above exercise does NOT take into account the DOJ ADA Clarifications mentioned above. So if you are in a City with a lot of older ADA ramps, and non existant wheelchair ramps and the likes of that, you may have to run the costs on a year or two of work that you have planned and then back calculate the multiplier that you will need.


In any case, in our hypothetical City or County above, it is clear that 11.7 million dollars is needed to maintain the current PCI rating. As a general rule in my world, dealing with local agencies on a daily basis across the country, and the world, the norm is typically that the pavment manager or who ever is in charge of spending the money and fixing the roads, is getting a tenth to a third of what he or she actually needs based on the above formula.


So the trend that we see with folks that are actually managing their pavement is that their PCI is declining, their backlog deficit of bad roads is going up and the amount of money that they are spending on their roads is going down due to significant cuts in their budgets. Now to make matters even worse, the pavement engineers that have adequate funds or less than adequate are not always well versed on the most appropriate treatment at the right time on their roads.

In fact, I would urge you to consder this little phrase each and everytime. Ask yourself as you put the work out to bid:


Are we using the right treament on the right road at the right time with the right contractor and for the right reason? I mean, are you overlaying your roadways just because it is an election year? Could you be using a treatment that costs $2.00 per SY instead of $8.00 per SY?


And, on top of all this consider that even if your engineering staff is doing everything in their power to follow and implement The Three Legged Stool™ System of Pavement Management, there is always a chance that the naysayers (you know who you are) will swoop in and try to convince your Elected Officials and Ratepayers that none of these treatments that Blair talks about in his book work.


In some States, you may be surprised to find out just how adement the local contractors, State DOT, even FHWA Officials are about keeping certain treatments out of their proverbial “backyard” often trying to discredit the contractors and vendors providing these services.


Fortuneatly for all of us, the power of social media will always trump the naysayers. In fact, this book will be chucked full with case study after case study on successful programs that have gone on for decades. Again, I am taking the high road. With over 300 million new users of the internet and smart phones coming online over the next 18 months, we are living in a time where the truth cannot be suppressed and the naysayers are about to be found out.


It is not my intent to damage anyone’s reputation by the printed pages in this book, but as Tony Robbins said, words can be used as daggers, they are very powerful tools.


When you take the time to read this book, whoever you are, and you take the time to dig deeper into the BONUS material available when you register your book at and dig deeper into finding out about all of the possibilities of your new pavement management program you will find the power of your newfound education.




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