As more and more transportation agencies implement successful Transportation Asset Management programs, the importance of data integration rises. Information systems used for TAM, including those for pavements, bridges, tunnels, hardware, and highway maintenance, commonly draw inputs from several data sources within an agency. Many transportation agencies have thus created effective databases and procedures for populating them. However, bringing the information from these disparate systems into a common decisionmaking framework exponentially increases the value of the information collected.
Transportation Asset Management relies heavily on highly organized and integrated databases to drive its many decision-support functions. With data integration, not only can individual departments within an agency access the information they need to make informed decisions about their own assets, but the impact of their decisions on other departments is clearer and the potential for synergistic decisionmaking increases.
The cost of effectively linking data agencywide can be high, but is generally far outweighed by the long-term benefits, both Transportation Asset Management specific and more broadly.
In an age of information, the basic benefits of information sharing are easy to imagine. In a transportation era marked by increased demand for both mobility and accountability, certain benefits advance to the forefront.
Pavement decisions are a core consideration that impacts a variety of skill sets within every transportation agency. Integrating a full range of data relevant to the pavement arena results in significant improvements that can enhance the return on the taxpayer's investment. In one Data Integration Workshop hosted by FHWA, a conversation between an agency's maintenance management system (MMS) manager and pavement management system (PMS) manager offered a glimpse into this dynamic. The MMS manager explained how, with proper data integration, he can better use resources to address pavement sections in need of maintenance that will not be rehabilitated or reconstructed under the agency's PMS program. Likewise, the PMS manager explained that he needs good MMS data that considers improvements from maintenance activities so that he can develop effective pavement condition forecasting models. In this case, the benefit of the agency's data integration program did not stop at basic information sharing, but extended into sophisticated adjustments in process and practice within two separate, but related, areas of the agency resulting in an overall improvement in the results of each department's work.
Data Integration, HPMS and HERS-ST The National Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) is used extensively in the analysis of highway system condition, performance, and investment needs nationwide (see http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohpi/hpms/abouthpms.cfm). HPMS data form the basis for using FHWA's Highway Economic Requirements System-State Version (HERS-ST). One agency manager responsible for submitting HPMS data noted in a recent FHWA-sponsored data integration workshop that data integration allowed him to prepare such input in weeks rather than months, summarizing location information, traffic data, pavement management data, geometrics, and other factors utilizing transformation rules and processes like dynamic segmentation.
Transportation agencies regularly sift through crash data to identify "black spots," which are areas of high risk to motorists. While important, this effort is considered reactive and many agencies now require a more proactive approach. Predicting where the next black spot might occur, and addressing its dangers before they become critical, is facilitated by the use of data integration. To accommodate proactive analysis, crash data need to be linked to various databases within a transportation agency. For instance, characteristics that contribute to risk might include the number of lanes (e.g., two versus four), vehicle speed, horizontal and vertical alignment, pavement condition, lighting, existing signs and their condition, and the presence and quality of pavement markings.
To isolate trends, an agency needs to identify contributing characteristics and develop a list of potential highway segments and locations in which multiples of those characteristics are present. At one FHWA data integration workshop, agency representatives were asked how long it would take to implement a safety analysis using such a proactive approach. One agency responded that without properly integrated data, at least six months would be required to complete the analysis of just one corridor. With sufficient data integration, the building blocks of safety analysis can be accessed within days rather than months. The benefit of data integration in a high risk area grows with each day in which multifaceted information sources can drive the delivery of life-saving ameliorations.
Additional benefits driving the adoption of data integration practices among transportation agencies are similarly compelling and numerous:
Arizona DOT recognizes that data integration will help it compensate for the loss of experienced personnel as valuable workforce leaders transition into retirement. When younger staff seek to meet the burgeoning demands of a growing population, the agency expects information and technology to offset traditional experience and precedent as the bases for important decisions.(13)
Five key components are required for any comprehensive Transportation Asset Management system:
Table 1 delineates how data integration benefits each of these processes. Each process is carried out at different levels of a transportation agency and by a broad range of staff within the agency. Data integration, thus, gives each organizational level and relevant staff member access to consistent, high-quality information, enhancing the ability of each to contribute to an effective Transportation Asset Management program.
Table 1: Data Integration Benefits to Specific TAM Requirements
|Transportation Asset Management Business Process||Potential Benefits of Data Integration|
|Assessing Current Conditions and Performance||
|Determining and Evaluating Future System Needs||
|Evaluating and Selecting Strategies for Current and Future Needs||
|Evaluating the Effectiveness of Each Strategy||