Pulaski County earns high road rating due to $16 million project

PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. (August 15, 2023) – Pulaski County has a Pavement Condition Index rating of 83.7, one of the highest county ratings in the state. This rating is due to the continued improvements and preventive maintenance to Pulaski County roads made possible through a $16 million road improvement project. 

Since the County implemented the project in 2022, the county roads’ Pavement Condition Index Rating (PCI) has increased 10 points, from 75.3 to 83.7. In 2022, almost 50% of Pulaski County roads were in “fair” condition, and as of May 2023, over 50% are in good condition. In 2022, only 1% of county roads were rated “excellent,” and now 15% are rated “excellent.”

A Pavement Condition Index (PCI) rating is determined by data collection for all the roads under the County’s jurisdiction and seeing how much damage, cracks and structural problems the roads have. Darryl Gardner, from the manufacturing and infrastructure company Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions Inc., explained the rating is like missing points on a test. Points are taken away as pavement ages and distresses. 

This means that out of all of Pulaski County’s roads, there are minimal distresses, cracks or structural problems, which is why the PCI rating is so high. It’s thanks to a $16 million dollar project the County implemented in 2022 to bring the County’s network of roads to an even higher standard and to further prolong the life of existing roads through preventative maintenance. The $16 million came from the County’s Road and Bridge fund by saving unused road and bridge funds over a number of years.

Because of that project, Pulaski County treated an extra 121 miles of county roads last year. 

“Investing in our roads and making data-driven decisions has been a main focus, and it’s paying off,” said Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde. “Infrastructure is a top priority in the County.”

Gardner said, “People don’t call because the road’s cracked, they call because it doesn’t drive well. Judge Hyde and [Director of the Pulaski County Road and Bridge Shane Ramsey] have done an outstanding job of not letting pavements get there, and that’s what they continue to do.”

Ergon has been working with the County for several years by providing resources and tools for road maintenance. In 2015, Gardner introduced Pulaski County to First Step Pavement Management Systems, who then conducted a data-driven assessment of every county road to give each one a condition rating.

With these ratings, Pulaski County determined which roads needed to be maintained first by adding in data like traffic load and type of traffic to determine which roads are most in need of repairs.

The County then began to repair every road that was in critical condition until all road condition ratings were raised. Once the roads had been brought up to standard, the Road and Bridge Department began a complete canvassing and improving of the entire road infrastructure of the County. 

The County has continued this mission every year since 2015 to keep improving the roads, and it shows through the County’s increasing PCI rating.

“We’re striving to have the best roads in the state of Arkansas,” said Road and Bridge Department Director Shane Ramsey.

“We work with a lot of counties. If there is a county that is better, we haven’t seen it,” Gardner said. 

One of the main reasons the County was able to resurface 121 miles of roads in just a year was because of the implementation of cape seal. Instead of tearing up an asphalt road and overlaying it, the County used the latest technology in road repairs by adding a cape seal on top to fix cracks and surface damage.  

Cape seal fills roadway cracks, increases friction and protects the road from moisture and further cracking. It adds 8 to 10 years to a road’s lifespan and can reduce maintenance costs by 25% compared to asphalt concrete hot mix, according to the Pavement Preservation & Recycling Alliance.

The County has also used chip seal techniques for years to help maintain the roads structurally. Each time a road is chip sealed, the chip seal adds another layer to the road, making it stronger. 

The chip sealed roads have to be maintained every few years. Thanks to the new data-driven system from First Step, the Road and Bridge department can determine a schedule of maintenance for the roads that ensures each road is taken care of before major repairs are required.  

“[Pulaski County has] always taken care of the chip seal roads, there’s about 400 miles of those roads in the County, and [they] do a really good job of doing those on a cycle. You don’t wait for something bad to happen,” Gardner said. 


“A lot of times people will say ‘Why are you doing that road? There’s nothing wrong with it.’ Well, that’s why there’s nothing wrong with it, because we’re being proactive with our repairs.”

Both chip seal and cape seal processes are done as existing pavement preservation. These methods have a finer aggregate, which make a smoother and quieter ride while also increasing traction. This is the latest technology being used to stretch our maintenance dollars.

Ergon said, “Pulaski County is to be held as an example for imitation of what can be achieved in the near term and into the future through appropriate and timely pavement treatment applications, for maintaining a standard of pavement management excellence and for furthering preservation principles throughout the state. The County’s long-term demonstration of pavement preservation principles and utilization of innovative technology has led to a safer and healthier road network and taxpayer savings.”