During 2008, 16 of the 32 Maintenance Accountability Process (MAP) activity targets (50%) were achieved. This continues a downward trend over the past few years, as inventories and the cost of doing business increase, while funding levels remain steady.
- For many highway features or maintenance activities, deterioration from the lack of maintenance takes time to happen. Operational items, like snow removal and signal maintenance, are high priority and remain funded at the expense of other activities, such as preventive maintenance. Not performing operational activities is noticeable immediately, while not performing preventative maintenance is often not as obvious until this lack of maintenance results in deterioration and deficiencies.
Inventory Growth Increases Maintenance Needs
- Nickel and TPA packages funded 391 highway projects, increasing the infrastructure to be maintained. Two examples include:
- The number of signal systems statewide increased from 904 in 2006 to 982 in 2008.
- Intelligent Transportation System components increased from 1,565 in 2006 to 1,831 in 2008.
- Once construction is complete, the systems become the responsibility of maintenance personnel, including expenses such as the monthly electric bill.
- Funding has not been provided for system additions since the 2001-03 biennium, although additional funds have been provided to help offset some inflation costs. A 2007 analysis by the State Auditor found that “current program funding is approximately 82.6 percent of that during the 1995-1997 biennium.”
Inflation Causes Some Costs to Double
Maintenance uses many of the same materials as highway construction, and like that program, inflation continues to degrade WSDOT’s spending power: Electricity, hot mix asphalt, striping paint, and other materials costs continue to climb. For example, in 2004, the cost of white striping paint was $4.36/gallon, and had increased by 110% by 2008 to $9.17.
Backlog Grows as Lower Priority Maintenance Tasks are Deferred
Persistent lack of funding results in deferred maintenance even amongst the highest priorities of maintenance activities.
The growing inventory of electronic systems increases the number of preventive maintenance tasks required to keep systems operating reliably. For instance, one signal system requires 13 Preventive Maintenance visits per year. These tasks are often deferred because there are not enough resources to apportion between existing inventories, added inventories, and emergent needs.