Economically and environmentally informed policy for road resurfacing: Tradeoffs between costs and greenhouse gas emissions

Darren Reger, Samer Madanat, Arpad Horvath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As road conditions worsen, users experience an increase in fuel consumption and vehicle wear and tear. This increases the costs incurred by the drivers, and also increases the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that vehicles emit. Pavement condition can be improved through rehabilitation activities (resurfacing) to reduce the effects on users, but these activities also have significant cost and GHG emission impacts. The objective of pavement management is to minimize total societal (user and agency) costs. However, the environmental impacts associated with the cost-minimizing policy are not currently accounted for. We show that there exists a range of potentially optimal decisions, known as the Pareto frontier, in which it is not possible to decrease total emissions without increasing total costs and vice versa. This research explores these tradeoffs for a system of pavement segments. For a case study, a network was created from a subset of California's highways using available traffic data. It was shown that the current resurfacing strategy used by the state's transportation agency, Caltrans, does not fall on the Pareto frontier, meaning that significant savings in both total costs and total emissions can be achieved by switching to one of the optimal policies. The methods presented in this paper also allow the decision maker to evaluate the impact of other policies, such as reduced vehicle kilometers traveled or better construction standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104020
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • GHG emissions
  • LCCA
  • Pareto
  • asphalt
  • optimization
  • pavement
  • transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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