Examination of Potential Cost Benefits for Converting Surfaced Roads to Unsurfaced Roads in Texas
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Conversion of roadways from a surfaced type to an un-surfaced type in order to achieve agency cost savings is currently being studied and practiced in selected regions in other states. Conversion from surfaced to un-surfaced may be a more economical option for low-volume roads. In Texas, TxDOT manages tens of thousands of miles of low-volume roads, and wishes to know if conversion of those roadways could save significant money in maintenance over time. This paper describes the practice of conversion as it has been utilized in other states. It then develops hypothetical conversion and maintenance plans for a given situation and applies real costs to estimate base-line costs. Road deterioration modeling program HDM-III is used to evaluate the maintenance costs over a 25-year analysis period and generate yearly maintenance costs based on real data. Average daily traffic (ADT) was identified as the most important factor. Conversion was found to be a viable option in some places, but due to high reconversion costs, presents risks that must be examined thoroughly before action is taken.