When municipalities are tasked with determining which road and bridge improvement projects should take precedence, it can be a challenge to prioritize. That was the case in Peoria County, where officials looked at 12 projects to consider repair or replacement.

Of the 12, almost an even split existed between rural and urban projects. At first glance, urban projects appeared higher priority because of the larger amount of traffic traveling the roads. However, after a more in-depth evaluation using the Travel Demand Model by engineering firm Hanson Professional Services, officials moved the Trivoli Road Bridge located in rural, southwest Peoria County to the top of the project list.

When bridges are in disrepair, like this one in Peoria County, farmers must often take alternate routes to deliver soybeans to market, costing them time and money.

With the model, officials were able to evaluate the Average Daily Traffic (ADT) and safety with fact-based data. The methodology is designed to allow rural and urban projects to be compared on a level playing field. Officials can consider the project’s overall importance to roadway users, rather than prioritizing projects on the traffic volume count alone.

The model showed that if the bridge was closed because of disrepair, the alternate route would result in a long and inefficient detour because there were no nearby parallel roads. This was especially critical because the Trivoli Road Bridge was part of a key emergency route.

The model analysis also found completion of the Trivoli Road Bridge would result in a benefit cost (BC) ratio of 21.56, the highest of all 12 projects. That means for every dollar spent over the 50- to 60-year lifetime of the bridge, constituent communities would benefit $21.56.

“Being able to objectively prioritize rural and urban projects with fact-based data is imperative,” says Peoria County Highway Department Engineer Amy McLaren, P.E. “This is instrumental in evaluating future investments, to see where constituents will get the most benefit.”

The ISA checkoff program recognized the need for municipalities to have the technology to objectively evaluate projects. “ISA is committed to investing funds in rural infrastructure evaluation models such as this to ultimately enable improved transportation safety and efficiency for soybean farmers,” says Paul Rasmussen, ISA director and soybean farmer from Genoa, Ill.

Through the experience in Peoria County, ISA worked with Hanson Professional Services to develop a Bridge & Road Improvement Calculator (BRIC), which uses information from travel demand models in a more efficient and cost-effective way to automatically calculate factors, including life-cycle costs, travel efficiency, safety and benefit-cost ratio. The BRIC lets county and city engineers, town officials and others quickly assess calculations, such as the cost of reconstructing versus resurfacing a road or analyzing safety benefits. For more information, contact bric@hanson-inc.com or visit http://www.ilsoy.org/ImprovementCalc/.

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