Audit of CDOT Pavement Management Program

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) pavement management program to determine if CDOT managed street maintenance in a cost-effective way that extended pavement life in accordance with the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) pavement preservation program guidelines.[1] As part of this objective, OIG sought to determine if CDOT tracked street conditions and programmed preventive maintenance according to federal guidelines.

OIG found that CDOT’s pavement management program did not comport with FHWA’s pavement preservation program guidelines. Specifically, OIG found that CDOT’s pavement management program, which manages arterial and residential streets separately,[2] had deficits in the areas of street condition data, performance measurement, and preventive maintenance.

OIG found that CDOT lacked sufficient street condition data. CDOT completed a manual pavement condition index (PCI) survey of arterial streets in 2007 and an automated PCI survey in 2014.[3] However, CDOT lacked sufficient iterations of PCI data needed to determine pavement lifecycle trends, such as street deterioration rates, and to program maintenance activities accordingly. CDOT had no PCI data for residential streets. Instead, the Department shared less reliable constituent complaint and visual inspection data with City aldermen to inform their residential street resurfacing requests via the Aldermanic Menu Program (AMP).[4]

OIG also found that, between 2000 and 2014, CDOT performed no preventive maintenance, such as crack sealing and micro-surfacing, on arterial streets[5] and a negligible amount on residential streets. Instead, CDOT invested almost all of its resources in corrective maintenance and repair, such as pothole filling, resurfacing, and reconstruction, which CDOT management characterized as a “worst-first” approach. While some corrective maintenance and repair will always be required, the prevailing view among industry experts is that the “worst-first” approach is costly and ineffective and that regular and comprehensive preventive maintenance should be included as part of an agency’s pavement management program. OIG estimates that, by reallocating $2.9 million per year from resurfacing to preventive maintenance, the City could save $69.5 million over the 15-year lifecycle of a street, for an average annual savings of $4.6 million.

In light of this finding, OIG recommends that CDOT design and implement a pavement preservation program to achieve the most cost-effective means of extending the life of City streets. This recommendation includes specific action items, including developing in-house expertise about pavement preservation techniques, collecting reliable condition data on a routine basis, developing a proactive preventive maintenance strategy, and separating residential street resurfacing from AMP.

CDOT agreed with the majority of OIG’s recommendations. In response to our audit findings and recommendations, CDOT stated that, going forward, the Department will conduct street condition surveys every three years, including an automated PCI survey of arterial streets in 2017. CDOT stated that it will use the data to determine pavement lifecycle trends, to establish pavement performance goals, and to schedule reconstruction, resurfacing, and corrective and preventive maintenance activities accordingly. CDOT also agreed with the value of timely, preventive maintenance and described its plans to integrate such activities in its pavement management program. The Department did not agree with OIG’s recommendation that it holistically manage street maintenance by assigning both arterial and residential planning and decision-making to CDOT subject matter experts. The Department stated that it will not separate residential street resurfacing from AMP, thereby continuing to rely on aldermen to individually plan resurfacing in their wards along with the other needs and priorities addressed through AMP.

[1] FHWA formalizes and disseminates best practices for local and state transportation agencies (TAs) regarding the effective and efficient stewardship of roadways (see Although federal and state transportation grants do not currently require CDOT to utilize a pavement preservation program, CDOT agreed with OIG that FHWA pavement preservation guidelines are appropriate best practice guidance.

[2] CDOT stated that it uses the Illinois Department of Transportation’s functional classifications of roadways to delineate arterial from residential streets in its network (see and CDOT stated that generally arterial streets have centerline striped markings, exist at every half mile interval of road network, and have significantly higher traffic relative to residential streets.

[3] PCI is a measurement tool developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that assigns a numerical rating of pavement condition on a scale of 0 to 100, 0 being the worst possible condition and 100 being the best possible condition. ASTM International, “Standard Practice for Roads and Parking Lots Pavement Condition Index Surveys,” accessed October 8, 2015, A manual PCI survey is conducted by experienced engineers or maintenance supervisors who inspect roadways and assign a numerical value to various categories of pavement defect, taking into account the extent and severity of surface distress. An automated PCI survey utilizes technology, such as laser-equipped vehicles, to measure the roadway condition. U.S. DOT, FHWA, “Practical Guide for Quality Management of Pavement Condition Data Collection,” February 2013, 14-15, 18, accessed October 8, 2015,

[4] Through AMP, each alderman receives $1.32 million per year to address residential street resurfacing among other ward-specific infrastructure needs. City of Chicago, Office of Budget and Management, “2014-2018 Capital Improvement Program,” 4, accessed October 8, 2015,

[5] At the conclusion of the audit, CDOT shared with OIG that it piloted a one-time crack seal program on 6.5 miles of arterial streets between October 2013 and April 2014. CDOT noted this pilot program in its management response (see Appendix E, page 3). Given the small scale of the program (i.e., one iteration of crack seal on about 1% of the City’s 577 arterial miles during the 15-year period reviewed), OIG determined that the new information did not change the spirit of the audit finding.