Sustainable Infrastructure Management System - Transport infrastructure systems play an important role in the economic growth and development of society. Thus, road networks involve a set of vital assets for the community, enabling the movement of people, goods, and services (OECD, 2001). In this context, road agencies are responsible for ensuring adequate levels of service and serviceability throughout their physical infrastructures’ lifetime. However, deterioration processes combined with increasing public demands and expectations challenge these entities to manage efficiently their limited resources.
To tackle this, the concept of asset management applied to the road sector arose in the last decade, representing a systematic process of maintaining, upgrading and operating assets, which combines business and engineering practices for resource allocation and utilization. In fact, this idea encourages a business-like approach to manage the whole set of assets, e.g. infrastructures, human resources, equipment, etc., based on well-defined goals .
From this, a comprehensive and rational management system which inherits some principles and techniques from traditional management systems (Pavement Management Systems and Bridge Management Systems) and combines analysis of trade-offs under defined policy goals can be accomplished. Although the development of integrated asset management systems has been studied in recent years, few countries have already implemented this tool in their road networks.
As a consequence of a huge investment in the development of a highway network, during the last two decades, Portugal authorities and highway managers face the need to improve the quality of decisions on interventions. For this purpose, under the R&D SustIMS project, a new platform for asset management was developed .
The main objective was to develop a sustainable roadway management system to be integrated on a geographic information system (GIS). This framework encompasses the development of a management system for all highway elements, i.e. bridges, pavements, slopes, retaining walls and telematics equipment, a monitoring system to collect relevant data on real time, aiming to implement it on an experimental road subsection for validation.
The project Sustainable Infrastructure Management System (SustIMS) aimed to develop a computational tool to support highway operators’ decisions, improving not only their competitiveness but also users’ satisfaction. This instrument is an integrated infrastructure asset management system, which implements the core principles of asset management combined with sustainability considerations 4.
The interaction among stakeholders, namely, University Nova of Lisbon, University of Minho and the Portuguese highway concessionaire ASCENDI, allowed to combine scientific research with practical expertise, improving the development of new knowledge and, consequently, a novel management tool.
The project’s structure embraced three main tasks: (a) development of a management system, which includes prediction models and performance optimization algorithms, to be integrated on a GIS (see Figure 1); (b) development of a monitoring system, which allowed to gather relevant information to ensure users safety and a more efficient infrastructure management (see Figure 2); and (c) implementation on a case study – road subsection for validation.
The road infrastructure is conceptually characterized by its major components, namely, bridges, pavements, slopes, retaining walls and telematics equipment, so the overall system performance depends on the individual performance of each component. With this, as result of improvements in the quality of available data, as well as in future performance forecasts, a better decision support mechanism can be achieved. Thus, aiming to define optimal preservation and rehabilitation strategies several outcomes can be achieved, such as (Denysiuk et al., 2016): (a) reduction of economic and environmental impact on the infrastructure during the whole life-cycle; (b) mitigation of risk incidents and their impact on users; (c) financial risk reduction, which results from a more accurate prediction of future investments needs.
SustIMS started in the last trimester of 2012 and concluded at the second semester of 2015, with the following milestones:
Currently, the developed framework is now being used by ASCENDI in their own concessions, as well as commercialized to other international clients. SustIMS received the GRAA (Global Roads Achievements Awards) 2017, on the “Asset Preservation & Maintenance Management” category , being considered as the first real highway asset management platform, addressing different assets such as pavements, bridges, slopes, and telematics. Currently, the Infraestruturas de Portugal (IP) has an Asset Management Department (DAM) in their organization, which shows the relevance of the topic. Additionally, the European COST Action TU1406 (tu1406.eu), now EuroStruct (eurostruct.org), led by University of Minho, was launched, covering all these topics of quality control and asset management. In line with this, the topic of transportation infrastructure management is being discussed by different standardization bodies. Additionally, the Civil Protection Authority (ANPC) started a technical group on infrastructure resilience, within the Platform for Reduction of Hazard Risks, addressing all these topics of asset management.