Setting paving priorities starts with the 'Automatic Road Analyzer'

Saturday, October 2, 2010; 8:28 PM

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

University Boulevard in Montgomery County was repaved west of Arcola Avenue, but the greatest need always has been east of Arcola Avenue, which is marred by terrible potholes and terrible patching. I drive that road nearly every day, and my commute is jarring.

Please tell me why funding was not allocated to the greatest need and when the other stretch of University Boulevard will be repaved.

- Louise Erlick,

Silver Spring

The Maryland State Highway Administration's repaving along the western part of University Boulevard was a major improvement for this heavily used commuter route. The work has advanced in sections. In September, paving and striping finished up between Veirs Mill Road and Arcola Avenue, though some work on signals and sidewalks remained, said David Buck, MSHA spokesman.

Resurfacing work on the next section east, between Arcola Avenue and Colesville Road, should begin next spring, when the weather warms up again. Buck said the state knows some sections of the roadway there are in bad shape, so highway officials are hoping they can do some concrete patching before winter.

The next section to the east, between Colesville Road and the Capital Beltway, is a candidate for resurfacing under the capital budget starting in mid-2011.

How does the state figure out its paving priorities? One tool it uses is a specialized vehicle called an Automatic Road Analyzer. It's not fancy-looking on the outside, but the equipment aboard this van can detect cracks, ruts and potholes. When it's out on patrol each year along state roads, it sends a computerized analysis of conditions to state engineers, who also take their own road tours twice a year.

This helps create a list of likely candidates for resurfacing, Buck said. But the list must be matched against the money available in the budget.

The financial considerations include the type of road and the type of pavement that is best suited to its condition, Buck said. Depending on the roadway, the state might choose a pavement that is less costly and could last eight years. Or it might pick a more costly surfacing that could last 12 years.

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