Prioritizing highway maintenance functions using the analytical hierarchy process
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The Texas Department of Transportation has been experiencing budget fluctuations in the recent past. These budget fluctuations can have a pronounced effect in the agency’s highway maintenance operations if key maintenance activities must be delayed due to budget constraints. The methodology proposed in this research project aims at reducing the impact of budget fluctuations on highway maintenance by identifying and ranking maintenance activities based on a set of identified maintenance objectives. With the help of maintenance experts from the highway agency, four maintenance objectives were identified and considered for this research project: include Aesthetics, Safety, System Operations and System Preservation. A similar process was conducted to identify the most relevant maintenance activities from a list of over 120 different maintenance functions used by the Texas Department of Transportation. The original list of maintenance functions was reduced by combining similar sub-categories. Ultimately, 16 maintenance functions were identified and included in this research project, representing an average of over 75 percent of the agencies maintenance expenditures between fiscal years 2008 – 2010. These four maintenance objectives and sixteen maintenance functions were then evaluated by maintenance experts from different geographic locations of the state using the Analytical Hierarchy Process to produce an Overall Relative Weight for each maintenance function. This process allowed each evaluator’s judgments and preferences to influence the final weight values and rankings of the maintenance functions. The Overall Relative Weight corresponds to each maintenance sub-category’s component from each maintenance objective and can be defined as the performance risk of not carrying out the maintenance activity. This information can be used by maintenance engineers and administrators, when faced with budget shortfalls, to suspend or reduce maintenance activities that have a lower performance risk in favor of performing activities that have a higher one. This will dampen the impact of budget fluctuations on highway maintenance operations by performing critical maintenance treatments at the expense of less critical.