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Developing maintenance inspection standards for a city roadways department

Gaston Gourdeau, Roadways Manager, Public Works Branch, City of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Raymond J. Gerke, CEO, VEMAX Management Inc., Edmonton, Alberta

This article discusses the development and implementation of a series of standards over the past two years. The project is ongoing as of May 2006. The article focuses on the key components addressed during the development and the major initiatives within the project.

The problem
My phone rings and a citizen asks why we repaired the pothole in the pavement in front of his neighbor's house and not his ("I have called every year and nothing gets done"). As Roadways Manager, I struggle for a response because we have no standards or policy that provides the criteria as to what will be repaired.

The City of Saskatoon receives an average of 850 complaints each year from residents about different defects in the street network. Most of these complaints are valid, but until recently the City did not have a method to objectively evaluate the complaint and provide a response while managing our tight budgets. Inspectors and supervisors arbitrarily made the decision as to what would be repaired based on their years of experience.

Our solution was to develop a Maintenance Inspection Standards Manual that defined street defects and a method to measure their severity, and then categorize them into a scale from good to poor with a link to a response time.

The inspection of a local defect is meant to be conducted in the summer and fall and is not applicable in spring when the spring thaw is occurring. The manual includes the inspection and recording process, the defect rating standards, response times to the defect and a recording form. The inspection and recording process can be an ad hoc inspection, a systematic inspection of the street network, or complaint driven.

The scope of the inspection will cover the following distresses: potholes, cracking, settlements in front of driveways and intersection rutting. The inspection will be based on a single street block and recorded for each block where the defect needs a response.

The inspection does not conflict with the City's surface condition rating process. This manual assists with the management of the street network and the treatment of localized pavement defects. The primary goal is to define a reasonably uniform level of categorization of pavement defects and the appropriate response time for the maintenance required.

The following is the defect rating standard and the response times to local defects, driveway depression and intersection rutting. It is important that only trained staff in the contents of the manual should be inspecting and reporting defects.

The defect rating standard
At the back of this manual are pages that describe defect levels 1 to 5.

1 - Good: With a good rating no action is required on any class of street.

2 - Marginal: A marginal rating indicates that on major streets (arterials and expressways) some action is required to initiate repairs. Response times to complete the repair are indicated in this manual.

3 - Moderate: A moderate rating indicates that on major streets (arterials and expressways) some action is required immediately to initiate repairs. A moderate rating on a collector or local street does not require any action.

4 - Significant: A significant rating indicates that on major streets (arterials and expressways) some action is required immediately to initiate repairs. A significant rating is the first level of distress that triggers an action on a collector street.

5 - Poor: A poor rating indicates that on major streets (arterials and expressways) some action is required immediately to initiate repairs. A poor rating also triggers an action on all classes of street.

There is ongoing inspection, evaluation and discussion as to the treatment strategies that are going to be utilized in the repair of Driveway Depressions and Intersection Rutting. Once we have consensus a table similar to the above will be developed.
The Inspection Standards Manual when complete will be instrumental in the development of our Pavement Levels of Service Document.

Gaston Gourdeau can be reached at Gaston.Gourdeau@Saskatoon.ca; Raymond J. Gerke can be reached at Ray.Gerke@VEMAX.com.