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As City Engineer of Middletown, Ohio, a municipality of approximately 55,000 residents in southwest Ohio, I spent 12 years developing and refining capital improvement planning to include many aspects of infrastructure renewal to minimize overall cost. One productive strategy involved coordinating the capital improvement plans of utility engineers and transportation engineers. Such advance planning resulted in lower costs to the utilities participating, lower construction costs, and ultimately less inconvenience to the citizens. Ultimately, integration of the knowledge management systems among governments, public utilities, and even private businesses will lead to smarter asset management decisions.

How can one predict where the next sewer lateral collapse or water main break will occur? Look toward the most recently repaved or reconstructed street. As with many other cities, this became Murphy's Law of the land. The City of Middletown addressed this all-too-frequent occurrence by assessing the condition of the water mains and sewer mains and laterals during pre-planning for street paving jobs. If accounted for early, with respect to both financial considerations and schedules, planning strategies can be coordinated to eliminate the frustration and cost associated with the subsequent demolition of new construction.

A significant cost of a water main or sewer main replacement is the associated street repair cost. This is especially true in sewer replacements where deep excavations often result in extensive pavement repair. By coordinating these projects, the cost of the street repair to the utility can be minimized. Additionally, the City of Middletown imposed an “accelerated street depreciation charge” to a utility cutting a pavement that was less than five years old. By addressing poor utility conditions prior to final street paving, the need to cut pavements within the five year time frame was drastically reduced.

In some cases, the magnitude of the project beyond merely a paving project or a utility replacement project became incentive enough for more contractors to take interest in bidding the project resulting in more competition and lower costs. Construction costs were reduced by avoiding redundant mobilization, maintenance of traffic, and repaving a second time. project. It is far better to inconvenience the neighbors once than to inconvenience them a second time and leave them with a “damaged” new roadway.

What does the future hold for the geographical integration of capital improvement projects between utilities and transportation engineers? Imagine using your sewer condition assessment ratings, water line condition assessment ratings, and pavement condition assessment ratings, combined into one GIS asset management system to optimize the scheduling of replacement programs. Why stop at public utilities? Most private businesses with assets in the right of way have their own facility mapping to identify the locations of gas lines, fiber optic, and buried underground electric. Perhaps the disputes and lawsuits that arose out of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 can be overshadowed by a cooperative, shared cost approach to rehabilitation where all the utilities achieve financial benefit.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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