Software takes on the hard job of planning road work

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By AJ Vicens

To maintain county roads each year, the Jeffco Road and Bridge Department burns through 114,000 tons of asphalt and 650,000 gallons of diesel fuel — on a network of roads that adds up to 2,860 lane-miles.

Add to that the soaring costs of fuel and asphalt and the tight times faced by the county budget, and the human mind boggles at finding the most cost-efficient ways to plug the potholes.

Enter CarteGraph's Pavementview software, a program that lets the county manage its entire road network with a high-tech approach that could save hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Larry Benshoof, director of Jeffco Road and Bridge.

"Our fuel and materials prices are going up like crazy," Benshoof said. "We wanted a tool to give us an accurate look at the road network instead of using the old seat-of-the-pants approach."

Launching the computer program cost the county about $200,000 — the price of the software itself and the cost to collect the data needed. Two workers in a van drove every road in unincorporated Jeffco over two months, taking photos and evaluating road conditions. Data on segments of road were then loaded into the software along with information on the last time maintenance was performed.

The software lets managers enter factors like priorities, budget and type of repair work to build models that project the condition of roads and the future need for repairs.

The goal is to save as much taxpayer money as possible and to deploy resources as efficiently as possible.

Once the data were all collected, the program revealed that 76 percent of county roads were either in good or fair condition. Twenty-one percent of county roads were in poor condition, and 3 percent were listed as “failed.” Most of the poor and failed roads were in residential neighborhoods, Benshoof said.

The average condition of all the road segments in Jefferson County, on a scale of 1 to 100, was 70.87.

"We're not the highest, and we're not the lowest," Benshoof said.

He added that the software allows him to paint an accurate picture for the county commissioners about the state of the roads and what it will take not only to maintain them but to improve roads into the future.

"As prices for materials and fuel increase, we're going to have to radically change the amount of asphalt we put on the road," Benshoof said. "That's what we're concerned about."

He said an additional $8 million would be needed in the budget every year to keep the roads in their current shape. Benshoof realizes that probably won't happen, given the current budget situation in Jeffco — flat to shrinking revenues and increasing needs in most county departments.

"But it's our job to give the facts to the commissioners," he said.

And even though the road network is deteriorating faster than current maintenance and capital improvement funding can address, Benshoof hopes the new software proves to be a valuable piece of the road-maintenance puzzle.

"I think this is a good investment," he said.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.