- IIllllllllllilIlIllllllllllllllllll LMl01770 The backbone of the Nat-ion’s highway trans- portation network--the Federal-aid nighway systems, representing an investment of about $76 billion--is deteriorating. The States should be encouraged to use Feaera! highway funds on improverncnt projec;s to protect these systems. Although responsible fo; making sure States . properly maintain Federal highways, the Fed- eral Highway Administration does not pro- mote uniform proceciures for field engineers to use when appraising State maintenance. Two things are needed: --Federally prescribed highway main- a- tenance standards and guides for the Stxes. --Criteria for Highway Administration engineers to use i;hert inspec:ing the adequacy of that maintenance. CEL77-31 ,- . . zi 3 .- ‘, ----II -4 WMMUWTY AND DECBNDMIC DEVELOIMENT DlVfBlCm B-164497(3) , The Honorable The Secretary of Transportation Dear Mr. Secretary: We have surveyed the Federal Highway Administration’s process for assuring that the Federal-aid hiqhways ate being properly maintained. Our observations and recom- mendations, iF implemented, should help to insure that States properly maintain highway projects constructed under Federal highway legislation. Our work was conducted at the Niqhway Administration’s headquarters, Washington, D.C*, its regional and divisional offices responsiole for assuring proper maintenance of completed Federal-aid highway progests in Georgia and South Carolina, and the highway departments in these statec. We reviewed (1) applicable Federal highway laws and regula- tions, (2) Highway kdministration policies and procedures for inspecting and reporting on maintensnce of Federal-aid highways, and (3) highway Administration guidance to its field offices for resurfacing, rea:oration, and rchobilftstbon [RRR) hiqhway projects. ‘tie also, interviewed Hiqhwsy .%x:inis- tration and State highway officis.Ys and reviewed their records and reports. We observed a need to: --Encourage States to qive high priority to RRR projects in their Federal hl??luay construction prOCJKa~S. --Prescrioe maintenance stan3ards and guides for highways and br idqes. --Ptcscr bbe csiterra for appraising State highway maintenance activltiesc --issue guidance Zor deternininq overall quality 1evcLs of State minteix3nce efforts. l 1-. --- - The Unite? States highway transportetion network fa comprbsad of 3.8 million miles of highways, of which about 929pOO0 miles are on Federal-aid systems. Highway Administration statistics show that 1.29 trillion vehicle miles were traveled in 1974 on these highways, with three-fourths in the Federal.-aid highways. Federal, State, and Pocal Governments spent $7.07 billion in 2975 to maintain the network, a $500 million, 8 percent, fnsleeaae over 1974. Maintenance and traffic services rs~re~ent about one-fourth of all highMay expenditures. The Highway Act of 1976 clarified State use of Federal construction funds for betterment-type work on already ,zonatructed Federal-aid roads and highways other thar. Xnterstate. This action, confirming Eighway Rdministgatim policy, broadened the definition of conBtroction in Title 23, ‘J.S*C.# to inciude RRR-type WOL k. The act also authorized $175 million for each of fiscal years 1978 and 1979 for RRR projects on Inter- state highways which have oeen in use for more than 5 years and are not toll roads. This action represents a major philosophical change in Federal responsibility for the Intevstete highways. Respon5foilitfes and defitiitions -- Res$?on%ibility under 23 U.S,C. 116 for maintaining the kderal-aid highways belongs to State highway dCptB?tXFRtS. The Paw requires the Secretary of Trans- pcrtntion to notify a State highway department of any fiighway project, constructed under Federal highway legialatron, which has not been properly maintained. Xf within 90 days after receipt of such a notice, the project has not Seen repaired, the Secretary is tequdrod tc withhold aporoval of all projects in the state. TRe responsibility to nake sure that the States are pcovrding proper maintenance has been delegated to the Federal iiighxay Administrator. Eis representative tn tldcz-3 State --the division administrator--annually certifies to headquarters that the State is adequately aaintaininq the highways. 2 i. II i I -- .. ..- I -- B-164497(3) The building, improving, and maintaining of highways is classified into two general categories of work--- construction and maintenance. Construction is sub- divided into (1) construction and reconstruction and (2) betterments. Betterments include such RRR work as resurfacing--placing additional pavement layers over existing road or bridge deck surfaces to provide additional strength or to improve serviceability, and restoration and rehabilitation includes war'- that is required to return the road or bridge deck to a condition suitable foi placement of an additional pavement layer. Maintenance is usually defined as the preservation of the entire highway, including surface, shoulders, roadsides, structures, and any traffic control devices that are necessary for its safe and efficient utilization. While these terms generally are in use among States, there is consider- able variation in meaning. RECENTPROBLEMSIhTBIBITING STATES FROMCARRYINGOUT i”VIINTEN~NCE RESPONSIBILITIES State maintenance and RRR work will play a more important role in the future highway transportation picture for several reasons* These include (1) a decline in new highway construction programs due to the anticipated completion of the Interstate System and the need for upgrading Federal-aid highways not on the Interstate System, (2) rising traffic volumes and more extensive traffic services that will increase demands on maintenance operations, and (3) Federal-aid highway surfaces, including bridge surfacesp are deteriorating faster tnan anticioated. While the States are faced with greater maintenance and RRR efforts, they are having financial problems and are cutting back highway maintenaxe budgets and staffs. Deteriorating highways - Federal-aid highway surfaces, including bridge surfaces, are deteriorating faster than the Highway Administration had anticipated. Recently, it reported that highways are wearing out !5p percent faster than they are being replaced. 3 I -. I/ B-164497(3) The Department of Transportation’s Office of Audits reported in July 1976 that, although the highways were generally well maintained, it found a number of highway segments on the Interstate System which appeared to be inadequately maintained. These included: --Interstate 80 in Iowa (between State Route 25 and . Stuart interchange) had shoulder dropoffs as much as 8 inches in certain areas. --Interstate 35 in Iowa (1 mile sou*h of New Virginia) had transverse cracking from the shoulder edge to the driving surface. --Interstate 90 in Washington (Spokane to the Idaho State line) had continued longitudinal and trans- verse cracking for the entire 17-mile length. The Highway Administration, recognizing the deterioration problem, intensified its research efforts to determine why highways have been deteriorating so fast. (See p* 10.) Statec.' deteriorating financial condition Along with the deteriorating condition of the high- waysI we found the States' highway financial picture is also deteriorating because recent highway revenues arc lower than had been projected. As a result of energy conservation efforts, States are generating fewer fuel tax dollars than expected. P&ile highway tax revenues have increased, they have not kept pace with inflation. The following table compares the rate of highway revenue increases to the national inflation rate for the two States we visited. 4 -- innual percent Inflation Year increase in percent rate State (nclte a) highway revenues (note b) South Carolina 1976 1975 E ik3 1974 5.7 10.0 Georgia 1976 3.4 4.5 1975 6.4 1974 7.5 10’:; g/ Revenue data for fiscal years, inflation rate for calendar years. h\ Figures based on data from ASurvey of Current i3usinessr” U.S. DerDartment of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, September 1976. To compensate for this reduction in rate of revenue growth an3 loss of purchasing powerp many States are cutting back on highway budgets and staffing, For example, Georgia reduced its highway staff 20 percent, from 9.000 to 7,200 personnel; Utah reduced its mainter.ante budget by 20 percent; Washington cut $7.8 million from its budget for routine maintenance; and New York has only 5,200 maintenance employees doing a job that officials claim requires 7,730. Further, while Nation-wide maintenance expenditures have risen from $3.06 billion in 1964 to $6.36 billion in 1974, the value of the dollar over that decade has decreased 50 percent. In terms of comparative purchasing power * only $3.18 billion was scent for maintenance activities in 1974. Thus c only about 4 percent more maintenance work was purchased in 1974 than in 1964, even though the number of registered vehicles increased 52 percent” vehicle miles traveled increased 52 percent, and the number of miles of highway increased by about - 172,000. In addition, although our highways are getting oider, recent Federal legislation increased the maximum allowable weight for trucks on Interztate highways. 5 I - . ~ . _ _ . . ” - - - - - _ _--- .-- _-0. - - _-- ._ . . -. B-164497(3) The Highway Administration has estimated an annual maintenance expenditure increase of about $100 million for the maintenance of all streets and highways due to the heavier allowable truck weights. HAINT3MANCESTANDARDS AND INSPECTICE CRITERIA NEEDED Although Highway Administration officials acknowledge the deteriorating condition of the Nation's highways, Federal funds have never been withheld from a State for inadequate or improper maintenance. The Highway Adinin- istration has responsibility for insuring proper main- tenance of Federal-aid highway projects: however, it has not prescribed standards or guides for the States' use in maintaining those highways, nor has it provided criteria for field engineers to use in determining the adequacy of State maintenance. Thus, there is little uniformity among field engineers when appraisinq the adequacy of States' maintenance efforts, and the division adm'nistrator mbst base his annual certification that the highways are properly maintained on the subjective judg- ments of many engineers who inspect in a variety of ways. Field inspection criteria The Highway Administration's Federal-Aid Highway Program Manual (vol. 6, ch. 4, sec. 3, subset. 1) contains the policy and procedures for appraising the adequacy of maintenance and taking the necessary action to effect compliance with provisions of 23 U.S.C. 116. The manual instructs the engineers to make sufficient maintenance inspections of completed highway projects constructed with Federal funds to assure that the States are fulfilling the law's maintenance requirements. The how, when, and where of inspection is left to the dis- cretion of the regional and divisional offices. Each division performs an annual maintenance inspection program to determine whether or not the States are meeting maintenance requiremeats of Federal highway legislation. Neither headquarters nor the field offices 6 . B-16449?(3) have prescribed any criteria for these engineers to apply in making the determination that highways are properly maintained. As a result, each engineer must rely on his subjective judgment when evaluating the adequacy of that maintenance, Further comglicating the engineers’ job is the fact that the Highway administration has not prescribed any standards or guides to the States for required maintenance work. But, they have preacritxd standards, specifications, and guides to the States for the design of Federal-aid highways. In lieu of Federal maintenance standards, the Eighway Administration has encouraged States to use the DAASHTO1/ Maintenance Manualw in addition to any State-established standards. There is little uniformity in the procedures field engineers use to appraise State maintenance efforts. For example, in South Carolina, highway design features and construction practices were insoected to identify items for improvements, thereby !xDing to reduce future maintenance costs; in Ohio, an engineer conducted a maintenance inspection of selected high-accident locations and road segments; and in South Dakota, an engineer con- ducted a maintenance review by merely driving over various highways. The Highway Administration is planning to prepare a field 2ngineets’ inspection manual to use in conjunction with the “AMHTO Maintenance Wanual. u Highway Administra- tion officials anticipate the inspection guidelines will defir:e various conditions that occur in highway mainte- nanzc work# show prooasle cause of deficiencies and recomn- mend necessary corrective actions. Division 3dministrstsr’s annual maintenance certificatron After the division completes its annual mafntenanco inspection program, the division administrator submits to headquarters an annual maintenance report certifying that all Federal-aid highway sections inseacted in the State were found to be in proper zorldition of maintenance. &/ American !lssociation of State Highway and Transportation Officials. B-164497(3) Highway Administration’s guidance to the diu’i;ion administrator o concerning improper or unsatisfactory maintenance (1) cautions about the serious consequences of failing to certify that all Federal-aid highways are properly maintained, (2) suggests assurance that the unsatisfactory maintenencs is not due to factors or conditions “beyond maintenance,” and (3) suggests every reasonable effort be made to secure corrective action before submitting a recommendation for official notification of unsatisfactory aaintenance. The manual further states: =lGhen the Division Engineer (administrator ) has determined that a completed Federal-aid project is not being properly maintained, and the deficiency is of sufficient magnitude to warrant the withholding of approval of further Federal- aid projects, he shall submit to the Office of Highway OperatirJns, through the regional office, his recommendations for issuing an official notification to the State.*** Further aclion will be taken, or directed by the Federal Eighway Administrator.’ In the past, divisions have issued oral and written warnings to some State hiqhwa;* deoartnents to obtain corrective action. The Highway Akninistration, however, has never seen the need to issue an official notification. Since the Highway Administration has not established any criteria for inspecting engineers, the division admin- istrator must base the annual certification on the combined subjective judgments of many engineers who inspect in a variety of ways, Althouqh the overall quality of satis- factory maintenance could vary from adequate to excellent, the division administrators do not determine the overall quality level of States’ highway maintenance efforts. According to highway Administration official=, determining specific overall State maintenance levels would be difficult - B-154497(3) and could result in problems because of a tendency to make comparisons among States and this would create more administrative work and tedeape. RRR WORK Before the 1976 Highway Act, the Highway Administra- tion had a policy that included betterment-type work (RRR) in the definition of construction or reconstruction for federally aided highway projects other than the Pnter- state System. The States make the decision as to how zfzuch of their Federal funds will be allocated for RRR-type work and how much will be used for new construction. In addition, the States make the surveys and plans, award the contracts, and supervise the construction after approval from and in consultation with the Highway Administration. In recent years, the States have allocated about 10 percent of their Federal funds to RRR-tfle projects. Xn 1974 the states spent about $90 million of $1.1 billion of Federal money for these types of projects. The re- surfacing expenditures increased in 1975 to about $222 million out of a total construction expenditure of about $1.7 billion. Despite this increasing ltvel of expenditures for highway resurfacing and substantial maintenance ex- penditures as discussed earlier, the highways are deteriora- ting faster than expected. Responding to the Righway Act of 1976 concerning the use of Federal highway funds for RRR projects, Highway Administra- tion headquarters provided interim guidance to its field offices on June 28, 1976, to be used until development and issuance of formal instructions. The notice states that RRR projects "apply to improvements on main roads, shoulders, ramps, frontage roads 2nd oridge decks and incidental work connected therewith." Referring to State maintenance responsibility, it states: "RRR projects are not intended to include maintenance ty?e work such as work primarily for rejuvenation or protection of existing surfaces; resurfacing of less than 3/d inch minimum thickness or of short length; Fatching and repair of minor failures; and underseal- ing of concrete slabs other than essential as a part of restoration for resurfacing.= 9 _-_ -- ..- ---- B-164497(3) The guidelines, despite the need as evidenced by the rapid deterio:ation of the highways, do not instruct field person- nel to encourage States to include RRR projects when States are formulating their annual Federal-aid highway construction progtams. Because the highways, representing a total Federal investment of about $76 billion since 1956, are deteriorating faster than they are being replaced, we asked Highway Admin- istration officials why the guidelines did not contain some instructions for encouraging States to give RRR projects a high priority. We were told that this would place another administrative burden on field offices, we were also told that States have the right to decide on specific highway projects and, Lince the RRR needs are great, special encouragement c, State RRR projects is not necessary. Faced with problems of highways deteriorating faster than they can be reglaced and lower than anticipated State highway revenue growth rates, the Highway Adminlstration has taken some actions to intensify research efforts into the highway deterioration problem. In July 1976 the High- way Administration initiated a national survey to determine the principal causes of the construction quality problem that has developed regarding the deteriorating highway pavements and bridge decks. The survey covers (1) recently completed projects, (2) ongoing construction projects, and (3) current construction project staffing practices for inspection and testing activities. When completed, the survey should provide data to allow an assessment of the contributing factors to the pavement deterioration problem and identify areas of need. The Highway Administration's research activities in maintenance-related areas have beerr generally fragmented and unorganized and are considered to have a relatively low research priority. However, one area, maintenance management, was researched in depth. The result, according to the Highway Administration, has been cost reductions in the millions of dollars and increased quantity and quality of maintenance activities. 10 -. B-164497(3) . The=Highway Administration, recognizing the increased importance of maintenance in future highway transportation, established an organized research attack on maintenance problems affecting the State highway departments with the objectives of improving management, augmenting the use of resources, and increasing efficiency and safety in maintain- ing the highways. In addition to the maintenance areas, the Highway Administration is conducting research projects to improve highway pavements, and thereby, reduce overall maintenance and RRR costs. Current projects include: --Developing a system to evaluate pavement structure and methods of predicting remaining service life and rehabilitation needs. --Establishing new methods for the design and construction of overlays. --Determining the effects of weight and axle configuration on pavement performance. --Upgrading conventional pavement designs to approach "zero maintenance'$ conditions. CONCLUSIOAS The highway transportation network is a key element in the transportation of the Nation's goods and services and, therefore, is essential to a sound and healthy national economy. The backbone of this network is the Federal-aid highway system which represents an investment of about $76 billion since 1956. Responsibility for the maintenance of the system has been left with the individual States while much of the construction capital has been furnished by the Federal Government. Recently, mainly due to a reduction In the rate of - highway revenue growth and loss of purchasing power, many States are faced with a deteriorating financial picture. As a result, they have reduced both their budgets and staffing in the highway maintenance area. 11 ..-- --. -- B-164497(3) The highways are now deteriorating 50 percent faster than they are being replaced. Segments of the Interstate highway system appear to have been inadequately maintained. We believe the deterioration of the highway system will continue unless the revenue situation improves or the . States increase the past percentage of highway construction i funds used to improve the highways. The Federal-aid highway system is essential to the I- Nation and should be fully protected through maintenance and improvements. Although the States have been spending abod 10 percent of their Federal funds for resurfacing improvement-type projects in recent yearsl the highways are continuing to deteriorate faster than they can be replaced. The Highway Administration should rake a substantial effort to halt the deterioration of the high- ways. We also recognize that the States are in the best position to set priorities for their highway expenditures. Therefore# we believe the States should be encouraged to give a high priority to RRR projects in their Federal high- way construction programs. The States are required by law to provide adequate maintenance to the Federal-aid highways. However, the Highway Administration has not prescribed any maintenance standards or guides for the States to use. Without High- way Administration prescribed standards and guides, the States do nr,s know what is required to comply with Federal highway maintenance legislation. In addition, the Admin- istration’s field engineers must rely on subjective judg- ment when appraising the States' maintenance activities, Standards and guides for attaining good highway and bridge maintenance would assist the States in determining what maintenance is required. Nhile the adoption of maintenance guidelines will go a long way towards insuring adequate and uniform mainten- ! * ance on the Federal-aid highways, it will not bring more ! uniformity to the Highway Administration's inssection procedures. The field engineers' maintenance inspection manual which the Highway administration is planning to issue in the future will be a positive step forward. The manual should include criteria for field engineers to use in evaluating the adequacy of the States' maintenance 12 . . . ~ -.. f - _ __ B-164497(3) efforts. Without such criteria the inspectors will still have to rely on their individual subjective judgments. Furthermore, since the Big!lway Administration has not established any criteria for the inspecting engineer, the division administrator, when annually certifying that all Federal-aid highway sections inspected in the State were properly maintained, must base his certification on the combined subjective judgments of many engineers who inspect in a variety of ways. Thus, the division administrator cannot determine, in the annual certificationr an overall quality level of the State's maintenance effort. Since the overall quality of satisfactory maintenance could vary from barely adequate to excellent, and in view of the deteriorating highways, we believe it would be beneficial to know the trend of each State's maintenance efforts. Although not required by Federal highway legislation, we believe this information would allow the Bighway Administration to compare the maintenance effort of an individual State on a year-to-year basis" and ;.ssist the Highway Administration in its endeavors to make sure that each State maintains its Federal-aid highway projects. RECOMMSMDATIOMS We recommend that you: --Encourage States to give a high priority to RRR projects in their Federal highway construction progams. We recommend that you require the Federal Highway Administrator to: --?rescribe standards and guides for attaining good highway and bridge maintenance from the States. --Include in the planned engineers' maintenance inspection manual criteria for appraising the adequacy of individual State maintenance activities. --Provide guidance to division administrators which would allow a year-to-year comparison of the quality of a State's maintenance efforts during the annual certification process. 13 _ -- . B-164497(3) -w-w We discussed the report contents with Highway Admin- istration officials and considered their views in preparing this report. The officials agreed that maintenance guide- lines and inspection criteria would be beneficial. How- ever, they disagreed with the need to encourage States to give a high priority to RRR projects in their Federal high- way construction programs. The officials were concerned about infringing on the States' right to select specific hi._rhway projects and thought that encouraging States to give "appropriate" priority to RRR projects in their high- way programs would be sufficient. However, the guidance to the Federal highway field offices has not instructed them to provide any kind of encouragement to the States in establishing the priority of RRR work. We agree the States have a right to select individual highway projects. However, in view of the deteriorating condition of the Nation's highways and the reduced State ilighway staffs and budgets, we believe that the States should be cxouraged to give a high Driority to RRR type projects i,T *- ,ir Federal highway construction programs. The officials also disagreed with the need for determining overall quality levels of State maintenance efforts. They were concerned that such determination would be used to compare maintenance efforts among the states. Our intent, however, is to enable the Highway Adminiskration to compare an individual State's mainte- nance effort on a year-to-year basis. Such comDarisona would show the quality trend of that State's maintenance efforts. As you know, section 236 of the Legislative i?eorgani- zation Act of 1970 requires the head of a Federal agency to submit a written statement on actions taken on our recommendations to the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations no later than 60 days after the date of the report and to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations with the agencyfs first request for 14 B-164497(3) appropriaSions made more than 60 days after the date of the report. he appreciate the cooperation received during our survey and woul.d like to be informed of any actions taken on our recommendations. Sincerely yours t Henry Eschwege Director - 15 , I-
Improving and Maintaining Federal-Aid Roads: Department of Transportation Action Needed
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-02-02.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)