Road Resurfacing Program

Harford County maintains 1,075 miles of roadway - 685 asphalt miles, 348 tar and chip miles and 42 earth (dirt and gravel) miles.

Asphalt roads are visually inspected annually. The Harford County Highway Maintenance Division performs inspections on the county's tar and chip and earth roads on a regular or as-needed basis.
cedar day drive extension

Asphalt road assessments

The county performs annual inspections to assess road conditions and determine the types of improvement required. These annual inspections look for a number of specific road distresses, including road settlement, the amount (and type) of road cracking, the amount of patching/potholes, and ride quality. Engineering staff then uses a nationally recognized formula to evaluate specific stresses on a roadway, called the Pavement Condition Index or PCI, to quantify road inspections - with a score ranging from 0 to 100.

Pavement Classification Index (PCI) categories

  1. Routine maintenance (90 – 100 PCI): Roads with condition ratings above 90 require only routine maintenance such as sweeping, crack sealing, and minor pothole repairs. Highways maintenance staff handles these operations.
  2. Preventive maintenance (75 - 90 PCI):  These road surfaces are in good condition, showing only the early stages of fatigue and requiring some patching and crack sealing. These roads receive a thin lift overlay or micro-surface treatment (see below for a more detailed description of the county's Preventive Maintenance Program).
  3. Resurfaced roads (65 - 75 PCI):  These roads have some stone or subgrade soil base failure (less than 10% of the surface area), surface no longer having proper pavement cross slope or roadway slope grade and a significant amount of roadway surface cracking evident. For repair, areas of these roads are cut and patched, wedged and leveled, the cracks are sealed and then the entire road is resurfaced with 1½ - 2 inches of hot mix asphalt.
  4. Rehabilitated roads (55 - 65 PCI):  These roads have significant surface deterioration, alligator cracking (a cluster of small cracks that look like the back of an alligator and caused by water eroding away the road's base course), missing sections, and some base failures, but otherwise reasonably acceptable subgrades. Rehabilitation of these roads involves cutting and patching the deteriorated areas and then removing and replacing the surface.
  5. Reconstructed roads (0 - 55 PCI):  Roads with condition ratings less than 55 have significant amounts of stone or subgrade soil base failures, the roadway no longer has proper pavement cross slope or road slope grade, and large areas of the roadway surface are missing. Roads falling within this category are completely reconstructed. 

Road maintenance

A brief review of the Road Maintenance Program shows that as a road ages, it gradually deteriorates on a parabolic curve, dramatically decreasing in quality once the deterioration reaches a certain point (see below).

PavementClassificationIndex1

Once that deterioration starts, the cost to repair the road dramatically increases (the chart shows comparative figures for various road repair options). It is the goal of the county’s road resurfacing program to ensure the highest quality roads possible based upon the annual budget allowance received to maintain those roads. In the mid-1990s, the Federal Highway Administration began backing a road maintenance schedule that focused more on extending the pavement life than in fixing severely damaged roads. In particular, they stressed that it is far less expensive to maintain a good road, than to reconstruct a bad road. Therefore, the Division of Engineering strives to keep the good roads in good condition by performing a preventive maintenance effort on them approximately every five to seven years. The chart below shows the preferred pavement life cycle based upon this approach.

PavementClassificationIndex2

Despite our best efforts, it simply isn’t possible to keep all roads in this “good to excellent” condition. Many roads are already beyond the “preservation” area and others will fall into the more significant repair categories based upon their age, traffic volumes and condition. The Department of Public Works will continue to review the annual resurfacing allotment of funds and, based upon the aforementioned Pavement Condition Index, direct pavement repairs, preservation, resurfacing and reconstruction at the locations to best maintain the county’s road infrastructure.

Road resurfacing list

Harford County uses the aforementioned Pavement Condition Index (PCI) values in conjunction with the allocated budget to create a resurfacing list and map every year. When creating the annual resurfacing list and map, roads in neighborhoods are typically grouped together to ensure minimal disturbance to communities.

Harford County does not maintain a long-term resurfacing plan since budget and road conditions change from year to year.

For additional information, please contact the county's resurfacing project manager, Tim Dorbit, at tgdorbit@harfordcountymd.gov or the project engineer, Glen Hebel, at gchebel@harfordcountymd.gov.