Applicable Countermeasures

Bridge replacement offers an opportunity to add space for bikes.
(Durham County, NC)

Photo by Libby Thomas

Major Maintenance

Activities such as repaving a trail surface, replacing bridges and fixing major drainage problems that have a frequency of two or more years will fall into the category of major maintenance. While major maintenance occurs infrequently, it should be budgeted for on an annual basis to avoid large, unexpected budgetary demands.

Once major maintenance categories have been identified, set maintenance priorities by identifying which activities are critical to the safe operation of the facility and which ones are critical to other objectives such as protecting the investment in the infrastructure, protecting the environment and protecting aesthetics. While some priorities may vary to reflect local community expectations, safe operation of the facility should never be compromised. The AASHTO Maintenance Manual recommends that maintenance should seek to maintain conformance with the design guidelines used to build the facility.1 Where proper guidelines were not used, maintenance should include improvements to the facilities’ safety and operation.

The final major maintenance budget and plan should include a checklist of all maintenance items, the frequency of and cost for each activity, the annual cost of each activity and an indication of who will perform the activity. Priorities related to safe operation of the facility should be clearly identified and a tracking procedure clearly outlined.


  • Identify major maintenance activities that are critical to maintaining the safety of a facility; protect the investment in a facility; and protect the aesthetics and the environment.
  • Develop an annual budget for major maintenance to avoid the periodic need for a major infusion of cash.

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  • Securing maintenance dollars is difficult. Therefore, focus on designing and constructing facilities correctly at the outset to minimize future maintenance costs. In particular, make sure all drainage issues are fully addressed at the time of construction since water is the culprit for many major maintenance problems.
  • Make sure that major maintenance is reflected in an annual budget that can be carried over from year to year. By definition, the amount spent on major maintenance will vary from year to year (i.e. a new bridge on a trail is not going to occur every year). Avoid "emergencies" if possible.

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Estimated Cost

When developing a major maintenance plan for a new facility, the first step is to check current costs for maintaining an existing facility. The key is to obtain the costs for maintaining a facility that is most similar to the facility you plan to construct.

The next step in developing a maintenance budget and plan is to create a list of all possible maintenance activities. A good way to begin is to list major items included in the facilities' design. Most major items will have a measurable life expectancy. For example, asphalt pavement on a trail may have a 15-year life expectancy. Taking the total miles of asphalt trail and dividing it by 15 will give a good estimate of how much pavement needs to be replaced on an annual basis. Bridges are better handled on a case-by-case basis. Make a list of all bridges on trails, estimate their probable life, and then devise a multi-year plan for major maintenance or replacement. Listing all major maintenance items, while a lot of work, is a one-time activity that will allow you to develop a realistic budget.

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Case Studies

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