The Polk County, Fla., Board of County Commissioners, Roads and Drainage Division, has been honored with the 2022 James B. Sorenson Award for Excellence in Pavement Preservation, presented by FP2 Inc.
Polk County is the fourth largest county by land area in the state of Florida. The county’s roadway network, which includes 2,535 centerline miles of paved roads, is managed by the Roads and Drainage Division (RDD), under the direction of Austin W. Potts, P.E., pavement manager. Approximately 50 percent of the county’s roads are local residential segments and 50 percent are collector segments.
Prior to becoming champions of pavement preservation, Polk County took the “worst first” approach to pavement maintenance. Even the method of determining which roads were worst was not sustainable, as the roads which generated the most complaints were placed next in the queue.
“We didn’t have a formal system at the time for selecting roads for treatment, and we were basically following a worst-first plan and defaulting to mill and inlay projects,” said Katia M. Delgado, P.E., asset manager for Polk County.
Following research efforts by the RDD team, Polk County awarded contracts for various preservation treatments as early as 2015, with the first pilot project taking place in 2016. The goal was to determine the best treatments to include as part of an ongoing pavement management program. In addition to preservation treatments, Polk County awarded separate contracts for pavement maintenance and rehabilitation applications in 2016 for roadways in need of more extensive treatment.
Since implementing new treatments and calculated pavement management planning, the county has gone from treating 72 centerline miles annually in 2015 to treating 120 to 150 miles every year. It has increased the number of miles in fair and good condition for their local segments, and decreased the number of miles in poor condition for those segments.
By proving the long-term benefits of applying treatments over time — as opposed to the traditional fix the worst-first approach — Polk County has seen an increase in its resurfacing budget from $10 million in 2010 to $18 million currently. It’s also reduced the number of citizen complaints regarding bad roadways.
“We’re able to show that through preservation and an increased budget, we can really start to target a minimum threshold for the average pavement condition index for the network,” Potts said. “We’ve been able to take the tools we were granted approval to use, and justify a budget increase based on the visual aids we were able to produce.”
The Sorenson award is presented annually to a city, township, county or state agency that demonstrates a high-level understanding and strategic execution of best pavement preservation practices throughout its roadway network. It’s named after Jim Sorenson (1949-2009) , who was senior construction and system preservation engineer, FHWA Office of Asset Management, and a great champion of pavement preservation at the national level. The pavement preservation industry had no greater friend, and FP2 honors Jim’s memory with the Sorenson Award. The deadline for entries for the current year is August 1, 2023.