CDOT Pavement Management Audit Follow-Up

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a follow-up to its December 2015 audit of the City’s pavement management process. Based on the responses provided by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), we conclude that the Department is in the process of implementing three corrective actions related to the audit finding, but does not intend to pursue any corrective action addressing pavement management issues related to the Aldermanic Menu Program (Menu).

The purpose of the 2015 audit was 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. OIG found that CDOT’s pavement management program did not comport with those guidelines. Specifically, we found that the Department’s pavement management program, which manages arterial and residential streets separately, was deficient in the areas of street condition data collection, performance measurement, and preventive maintenance.

Based on the results of the audit, OIG recommended 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 included specific action items, including developing in-house expertise about pavement preservation techniques, collecting reliable pavement-condition data on a routine basis, developing a proactive preventive maintenance strategy, and separating residential street resurfacing from the Menu. In its response to the audit, CDOT described a number of corrective actions it planned to take, but declined our recommendation to separate residential street resurfacing from the Menu.

In September 2017, OIG inquired about the status of the corrective actions CDOT had committed to and any additional actions it may have taken. Based on the Department’s follow-up response, we conclude that CDOT has begun to implement three corrective actions related to conducting a residential and arterial pavement condition survey, including the implementation of an FHWA-approved Pavement Preservation Plan (PPP). Once fully implemented, OIG believes that these three corrective actions may reasonably be expected to resolve, in part, the core finding noted in the audit (i.e., that CDOT’s pavement management program did not comport with federal guidelines).

However, CDOT still declines to take any corrective action to remove residential street resurfacing from the Menu. OIG found that, contrary to FHWA guidelines for an empirically-based, network-level, long-term pavement management strategy, Menu is a decentralized approach, directed by insufficient data and aldermanic discretion. Given recent advancements in how CDOT can track and monitor street conditions, OIG found that the City’s decision to defer CDOT’s subject matter expertise, and knowledge of objective maintenance needs, to aldermen did not align with FHWA guidelines. We urge the Department to reconsider OIG’s remaining recommendation and identify corrective actions to address this aspect of the audit finding.