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Data Integration Primer

Overview

What is Transportation Asset Management?

Although considered one of the most effective innovations in the management of modern mobility, Transportation Asset Management (TAM) is not a software program, a database system, or even a specific package of professional tools. It is, in short, a decisionmaking process for allocating resources. TAM provides agencies with a strategic approach to managing transportation infrastructure and enables agency leadership to view the big picture before deciding how to deploy resources.(1)

TAM focuses on creating a strategic and systematic process for operating, maintaining, upgrading, and expanding physical assets effectively throughout their lifecycle. It relies on business and engineering practices for resource allocation and utilization. The goal is better decisionmaking based upon a high quality of information and well-defined objectives.(2)

TAM spotlights the whole transportation infrastructure, through an entire lifecycle, and makes possible decisions that produce the optimal performance of that infrastructure in relation to the resources required to operate and maintain it. Additionally, Transportation Asset Management examines investment timing, tools, and economic analyses to assure the most effective use of available funds.

Transportation Asset Management involves five core principles.(3) It is generally:

  • Policy-driven-Resource allocation decisions are based on a well-defined set of policy goals and objectives.
  • Performance-based-Policy objectives are translated into system performance measures that are used for both day-to-day and strategic management.
  • An Analysis of Options and Tradeoffs-Decisions on how to allocate funds within and across different types of investments (e.g., preventive maintenance versus rehabilitation, pavements versus bridges) are based on an analysis of how different allocations will impact achievement of relevant policy objectives.
  • Dependent upon Quality Information for Decisions-The merits of different options with respect to an agency's policy goals are evaluated using credible and current data.
  • Monitored to Provide Clear Accountability and Feedback-Performance results are monitored and reported for both impact and effectiveness.

TAM principles apply to a number of functions within State transportation agencies, including:

  • Planning
    • Initial goal setting
    • Long-range planning
    • TIP/STIP development
  • Operations
  • Preservation
  • Maintenance
  • Construction (including Quality)
  • Safety
  • Performance Measurement/Evaluation
  • Financing
Figure 1: Transportation Asset Management Framework
Transportation Asset Management Framework.

The Transportation Asset Management process is represented by the flowchart in Figure 1, Transportation Asset Management Framework. The flowchart shows, not only the individual TAM components or business practices, but also their relationships and the order in which they will likely occur. The goals and policies of the agency consist of high-level, strategic statements that reflect the desired condition and performance of the transportation system from the perspectives of both the agency and its customers. These goals and policies therefore guide how the assets are managed at all levels of the organization.

An inventory of the assets and a means to assess their condition and model their performance is the first step, enabling the agency to identify investment requirements for improvement in the short and long term.

Next, the agency identifies the options or alternatives for addressing the investment requirement. These are then analyzed and evaluated on the basis of their cost effectiveness using a host of analytical and optimization tools. Budget and resource allocation constraints are incorporated into the alternatives evaluation criteria. Selected alternatives are then included in the list of projects that will go into the agency's short- and long-range plans. The final stages in the process consist of implementing the projects and monitoring the resulting performance of the assets.

The knowledge gained from one cycle in the process is used to update and improve any or all of its components. Figure 1 depicts a generic Transportation Asset Management process in a transportation agency. However, the manner in which each component is carried out will vary from one agency to another.

2.2. Why is Transportation Asset Management important?

Since construction of the Nation's Interstate System is now functionally complete, the emphasis within the transportation community has shifted from "build it" to "improve system performance" and "preserve and maintain it." Thus, transportation agencies are under renewed pressure to demonstrate improvements in the performance of the transportation system and are being held increasingly accountable for funding decisions.

To help ease the transition from building new infrastructure to improving the performance of the existing system, many agencies are adopting TAM practices. TAM provides the tools and structure necessary to set goals, identify priorities, improve processes, and measure results that demonstrate improved performance.(4)

"Asset Management, in many ways, represents a "revenge of the nerds," . . . We are providing a rational basis for investment process that can be inherently political." -Southeast Michigan Council of Governments Official

Increased demands on the Nation's productivity and mobility present a significant challenge to many agencies. This is especially true where economic constraints necessitate more asset enhancement and preservation with fewer staff and less money. Transportation Asset Management helps agencies chart paths that leverage resources (including increasingly powerful computers, sophisticated analytical tools, and advances in information technology) to respond to rising system demands while maintaining adequate levels of service. TAM produces a "holistic" perspective that provides a means through which to prioritize requirements and allocate investment across different assets, over time, in the most cost-effective way.

Perhaps the most important argument for Transportation Asset Management, however, is that, without it, the underlying goal of any modern transportation agency, which is satisfying the customer, cannot be fully achieved. To fulfill that role, TAM must respond to the customer's fundamental values and priorities. With an ecosystem straining to support heavy demands, in a challenging economic environment, at a time of mixed performance by societal leaders, words like "sustainability," "accountability," and "stewardship" rise in conversation and in public and individual consciousness. Transportation Asset Management allows agencies to strongly reflect, not only such shared values, but the solid, beneficial practices that serve them. With TAM, return on the taxpayer's dollar increases and the dialog between customers and the stewards of their investment moves toward greater understanding and partnership. Customers and agencies also benefit from a clear justification for the systematic application of funds that flow from coffers otherwise entangled by competing interests. No matter how large or small the agency, how challenging the operating realities, or how consistent the quality of customer interaction, the time is right for Transportation Asset Management.

2.3. The Role of Data in Transportation Asset Management

Useful and reliable data are central to a fully functioning Transportation Asset Management process. TAM involves the gathering, retrieval, storage, analysis, and communication of large quantities of information. The guidance that is drawn from this data is essential to the cooperative and informed decision-making process underlying TAM.

Data inputs are required to evaluate and monitor the condition and performance of the asset inventory, develop performance objectives and measures, identify cost-effective investment strategies, and conduct asset value assessments. Information is also required to monitor the effectiveness of the Transportation Asset Management business process. Although it is not necessary to store all of the transportation system's data in a single repository, it is critical that the data be readily accessible and comparable. Data integration and data sharing, therefore, are vital components of TAM.

Peer Perspectives...
It is very easy for an agency to become "data rich and information poor." DOTs should strive to do the most rigorous analysis possible with current data resources. Early analysis, even with less sophisticated tools, may help agencies determine if they are collecting the "right" data.(5)

2.4 The Status of Transportation Asset Management Implementation

Since the publication of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Transportation Asset Management Guide in 2002, "many transportation agencies have begun, not only to understand the concepts and accept the principles of Asset Management, but also to implement its techniques and to incorporate these techniques in their day-to-day activities."(6)

FHWA's Office of Asset Management is actively engaged in helping transportation agencies successfully implement the Guide's principles, overcoming barriers to implementation as needed. This is important because 50 percent of State agency respondents in a recent National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) survey noted that due, in part, to TAM implementation, they have been able to positively shift department policy and create legislative support for increased funding.

Implementation of Transportation Asset Management within individual transportation agency focus areas currently includes programs targeting:(7)

  • Pavement Management
  • Bridge Management
  • Tunnel Management
  • Roadway Safety (Hardware Management)
  • Transportation System Quality and Performance
  • Construction and System Preservation
  • Meeting Customer Needs
  • Engineering Economic Analysis (EEA)
  • Data Integration for TAM
  • TAM Training and Support
  • TAM Outreach and Implementation

Transportation Asset Management Tools Development

An established body of tools is now in place to support the Transportation Asset Management process. Transportation agencies often deploy:

  • Management Systems (for pavement, bridges, congestion, safety, maintenance, transit and intermodal management)
  • Tools that evaluate investment levels and tradeoffs (e.g., NBIAS(8) and HERS/ST(9))
  • Tools that help stakeholders analyze needs and solutions (e.g., QuickZone, EAROMAR)
  • Tools that evaluate and compare options (e.g., MicroBENCOST, StratBENCOST, and LCCA(10))
  • Tools that monitor results (e.g., BAMS/DSS and Estimator products in the AASHTO Trns·port suite

In addition to these tools, a number of new technologies for collecting, processing, and managing safety data are entering the marketplace. The enactment of SAFETEA-LU in 2005 created a new emphasis on accountability for roadway safety. In response, FHWA undertook the development of tools to improve the quality of safety analysis and to prioritize safety problems in a more comprehensive fashion. These tools include:

  • Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM)-a recently released suite of software analysis tools for evaluating the safety and operational effects of geometric design decisions on two-lane rural highways.
  • SafetyAnalyst-a set of software tools being developed for use by State and Local highway agencies to improve their programming of site-specific highway safety improvements.
  • Highway Safety Manual (HSM)-a resource for use in quantifying and predicting the safety performance of various elements taken into account in road planning, design, maintenance, construction, and operation. (Expected release: 2010)

FHWA's Office of Asset Management (HIAM) recently added another item to the Transportation Asset Management "toolkit" now guiding transportation agencies nationwide:

  • Data Integration Workshop-a comprehensive, one-day data integration class covering the basics of Transportation Asset Management and data integration techniques that includes a workshop providing an opportunity for participants to address issues related to pavement management, safety and economic modeling, as well as to discuss data, data needs, and data integration efforts.

HIAM is engaged in a major initiative to assess the data integration needs of transportation agencies and provide technical assistance to address those needs. This FHWA initiative underscores the critical nature of effective information management in supporting decision-making processes involved in Transportation Asset Management.(12)


  1. Adapted from Priority, Market-Ready Technologies and Innovations, Asset Management Guide, FHWA Corporate Research and Technology, Updated 4/22/09, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/crt/lifecycle/asset.cfm
  2. AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways. Motion to Amend the Definition to Advocate the Principles of Transportation Asset Management. May 6, 2006, http://www.transportation.org/sites/scoh/docs/Motion_Trans_Asset_Management.doc (.doc)
  3. Adapted from NCHRP Report 551, Performance Measures and Targets for Transportation Asset Management, Vol. I, Research Report, 2006, p. ii, http://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_551.pdf (.pdf)
  4. Adapted from Priority, Market-Ready Technologies and Innovations, Asset Management Guide, FHWA Corporate Research and Technology, Updated 4/22/09, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/crt/lifecycle/asset.cfm
  5. Source: Transportation Asset Management Case Studies/Data Integration, The Pennsylvania Experience, USDOT FHWA
  6. NCHRP 08-69, Supplement to the AASHTO Transportation Asset Management Guide: Volume 2 - A Focus on Implementation. http://www.trb.org/TRBNet/ProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=2190
  7. Adapted from FY05 HIF-HIAM Strategic Program Roadmap, FHWA, Office of Asset Management, Infrastructure, November 9, 2005, Updated April 23, 2008, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/crt/roadmaps/hiamroadmap.cfm
  8. National Bridge Investment Analysis System
  9. Highway Economic Requirements System for States
  10. Life Cycle Cost Analysis
  11. NCHRP Report 545, Analytical Tools for Asset Management, http://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_545.pdf (.pdf)
  12. Adapted from "Managing Infrastructure Data, Data Integration and Data Sharing for Transportation Asset Management", FHWA Office of Asset Management, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/asstmgmt/diindex.cfm
Updated: 07/03/2014