When the City of Selkirk began down the road of improved asset management practices five years ago the goals were many – better data, more informed decisions and an extended lifespan for the city’s capital assets, including roads, among them.
The city has adopted the same road construction standards as the City of Winnipeg and both based that decision on extensive research done by the University of Manitoba Municipal Infrastructure Chair and Chairholder Dr. Ahmed Shalaby, who has extensive research expertise in pavement and infrastructure engineering and management. He began teaching at the Department of Civil Engineering in 1998 and is presently professor and Head of the Department.
“The core part of asset management is not just collecting data but actually being able to use that data to make better decisions and to improve the life of our infrastructure as well as reduce the cost overall across all infrastructure. Our goal obviously is to have better roads that last longer and cost us less in the long run,” said Duane Nicol, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer.
“What we’re doing with our roads construction standards is really kicking asset management into high gear. We are actually using it to make better decisions. Our investments into data collection, life-cycle analysis, policy and procedure development is returning value.”
CAMPing at the U of M
Members of the city’s Capital Asset Management Program team – CAMPers as they’re known – toured the U of M’s pavement research labs and met with Shalaby to learn more about the program’s work.
The Municipal Infrastructure Chair is a five-year research program, initiated in 2016, and supported by the City of Winnipeg, the Province of Manitoba and 12 construction industry contractors, suppliers and associations.
The Chair partners work together to develop and test innovative solutions that will extend the life and durability of infrastructure, improve and harmonize design and construction practices, and reduce the risk of implementing new innovations to infrastructure owners and contractors.
To be the best, you have to learn from the best
Nicol said the tour, and subsequent data that was sent back to the city, was invaluable and will impact decisions the city makes in regards to roads.
“After the meeting Dr. Shalaby sent us copious amounts of the research that they’ve done and the papers that they’ve written on how to manage your roads better and how to construct better roads for extending the life cycle and the cost effectiveness of the roads,” Nicol said.
“The City of Winnipeg has also been working with them and they developed, based on that research, new road construction standards for base and sub-base material, asphalt material and the like and so we adopted those new standards as well.”
Using data to make better decisions
Shalaby said he applauds the city for taking a proactive approach to protect the public’s investment in municipal infrastructure assets.
“Their approach produced valuable data to ensure that decisions are informed by the needs of the city’s own infrastructure,” Shalaby said.
“Through laboratory tests and field trials, the University of Manitoba research has demonstrated that material specifications and construction practices need to be revised and that by adopting the updated construction standards better roads and lower overall costs can be both achieved. Selkirk’s decision to adopt the updated standards will result in better and longer lasting roads, and will assist in bridging the massive gap in infrastructure funding by reducing road maintenance and renewal needs.”
Nicol says the city’s asset management program is allowing the city to adopt industry leading practices that will provide better municipal services and save citizens money in the long run.
“The replacement value of our asphalt road surfaces alone is over $20.2 million. Our road bases $33.4 million and our curbs $8.3 million. Even if we can get five per cent of extra good quality life out of our roads, we’re saving millions of dollars,” he said.
One big Asset Management family
Megan Jakilazek, Asset Management/GIS Technician for the city, said adopting the same standards as the City of Winnipeg will benefit Selkirk.
“Each construction season, the city does not do enough in road reconstruction projects to be able to influence the activities and practices of major construction companies, so it is strategic to adopt the same standards as Winnipeg,” Jakilazek said.
“As more and more Manitoba municipalities do the same, we become closer to having one provincial standard that is understood by all contractors; eliminating the variation in road construction quality and ensuring both municipal and provincial infrastructure funds are spent responsibly.”
Stronger as a team
Nicol said the united front needs to extend further to include the province to be even more beneficial.
“We’d certainly love to see the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg come together so we’d have a single standard and then everyone in Manitoba can work from that standard and all benefit from improved roads,” Nicol said.
“As the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association has pointed out, having one standard informed by both research and on-the-ground-know-how, will allow industry to be more cost-effective for everyone.”