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Transportation Asset Management Case Studies
The Ohio Experience

Setting the Stage

What Did Ohio Have?

By the 1970s, ODOT had developed a centralized, bureaucratic organizational structure that had begun weighing the agency down. This trend continued into the 1990s, by which time ODOT had 16 divisions, 42 bureaus, and 7,800 employees - and agency operating costs rising at an average rate of 5.7 percent. Unless the department took action, it stood to annihilate the DOT's capital budget within a few years.

And ODOT faced additional challenges. By 1996 the percentage of pavement on Ohio's multi-lane freeway system rated as needing repair had reached 25 percent, and the percentage of multi-lane pavement rated fair to poor or very poor and in need of immediate rehabilitation had risen from about 10 percent in 1986 to 24.68 percent in 1996.

ODOT's primary pavement preservation tool was a pavement condition rating (PCR) system similar to that used by the USDOT. (See table below.) While the PCR ratings were helpful to pavement engineers, the information wasn't being used as an effective planning and budgeting trigger. As pavement conditions worsened and budgets tightened, ODOT began to search for a new way of doing business.

Table 1: Pavement Condition Rating (PCR) Ranges
PCR Group PCR Range Condition Typical Description
6 90 - 100 Very Good Stable; no cracking, patching or deformation. Excellent riding qualities. No treatment would improve the roadway at this time.
5 75 - 89 Good
4 65 - 74 Fair Generally stable, though minor structural weaknesses may be present. Riding qualities are good. Distress characteristics may include deformation with rutting depths up to 3/4", noticeable thermal cracks or longitudinal cracks appearing in wheel paths.
3 56 - 64 Fair to Poor
2 40 - 55 Poor Areas of instability, with marked evidence of structural deficiency. Riding qualities can range from acceptable to poor. Distress characteristics may include rut depths greater than 3/4" or alligator cracking that requires patching. Structural requirements may range from structural overlay to replacement of entire pavement structure.
1 < 40 Very Poor

What Did Ohio Want?

ODOT knew its existing structure and processes needed a major overhaul. ODOT management wanted to 1) decentralize the department by reengineering the organization from top to bottom, and 2) develop a more accurate transportation asset management system that would prepare the department for the 21st century. To accomplish that ODOT needed to revamp its system preservation and project-delivery processes and develop an effective performance measurement tool.

How Did Ohio Get There?

ODOT made the decision to decentralize the organization in 1994 and unveiled VISION 2000 in January 1995. This groundbreaking restructuring plan was "designed to change the corporate culture of the department, improve quality, increase efficiency, and enable ODOT to meet the demands of its customers by the year 2000." (Source: "What is VISION 2000?", Ohio Department of Transportation VISION 2000, http://www.dot.state.oh.us/Vision2000/V2000.HTM.)

The plan was simple. The Central Office would no longer manage the districts' plans and projects; instead, each district would assume responsibility for its own project budget so it could better respond to local needs. The Central Office would establish policies and long-range goals; monitor performance measures; provide quality assurance; and oversee statewide multi-modal planning efforts.

ODOT viewed a streamlined organizational structure as key to this reengineering effort and consolidated the agency into three core functions (business management, transportation policy, and field operations), with an assistant director heading each area. Making this change reduced the number of divisions by 6, the number of bureaus by 15, and the number of staff reporting to the director by 8. ODOT also eliminated a layer of management between the director and the 12 district deputy directors.

ODOT FUNCTIONAL AREAS - VISION 2000

Business Management-includes fiscal management, human resources, business services, and computer operations.

Transportation Policy-encompasses engineering policy, engineering support systems, planning activities, multi-modal assistance programs, and real estate.

Field Operations-supports the 12 district offices and serves as the districts' liaison to the Central Office.

As part of its corporate restructuring, ODOT asked the Ohio General Assembly for - and received - a temporary exemption from civil service restrictions in order to move people to where they were needed. The agency created a career professional category with accountability for middle managers. This effort complemented the department's biennial business plan, as the biennial goals could be articulated in staff's annual performance plans/evaluations. As ODOT Director Jerry Wray testified before the Ohio House of Representatives' Transportation and Public Safety Committee on February 14, 1996, making these changes was essential to becoming a leaner, more efficient organization:

Our old table of organization, which dates back to the early 1970s, was highly centralized. It was created in the era of [the] interstate construction building boom, when a centralized structure made more sense. The role of ODOT has changed in the past 25 years. Almost all of the interstate system has been completed. The old structure, still in place, makes it difficult to implement the changes we need to meet the expectations of our customers today. Those expectations include quicker response time, faster plan development and review, increased maintenance of an aging infrastructure and more local participation in decision-making.

ODOT demonstrated its commitment to meeting customer expectations by redefining the agency's vision, values, and goals and then developing strategic initiatives that quantified those priorities. As a result, the county manager position was created, and all ODOT employees were trained in quality assurance.

In addition, at ODOT's request, the Ohio General Assembly established the TRAC in 1997 to provide a more objective means for selecting new capacity projects.

The TRAC consists of the ODOT director and eight appointees with experience in transportation, business, and/or economic development. Six members are selected by the governor; one by the president of the Ohio Senate; and one by the speaker of the House. When it requested that the TRAC be established, ODOT made the commitment to budget for system preservation first and consider adding capacity only after the other bills were paid.

With these changes in place, ODOT was able to focus on its next major task: developing system preservation and project-delivery processes that would become the hallmark of the department's asset management program and enable ODOT to achieve a steady state condition. The department had a number of data reference systems in place for pavements, bridges, and so forth, but the databases weren't compatible and things were slipping through the cracks. ODOT addressed this concern by developing a geographic information system (GIS)-based program, the Base Transportation Referencing System (BTRS). The BTRS provides an official log of all highway latitude and longitude locations at a hundredth of a mile and consolidates the department's various referencing systems using a 14-digit naming convention for each route in the State. The BTRS logpoints file is used to integrate various information systems for pavements, bridges, and safety as well as project development and road inventory. It allows data warehouses to combine data within and among the agency's various information systems.

Figure 1: This screen gives an overview of a project in Ellis: A project is referenced by a Project Identifier called a PID and a project name. The PID for this project is 25817.
Screenshot of a project in Ellis using the Web-based BTRS program.

The district multi-year work plan has also proven to be a vital part of ODOT's asset management process. This district-driven document uses the GIS system to show multiple years of pavement and bridge preservation efforts. Pavement histories and degradation formulas predict upcoming needs. Projects are identified up to a 10-year planning horizon with the goal of maintaining all assets at acceptable levels into perpetuity.

Another key component to developing a more efficient project-delivery system was tying engineering functions to financial management and performance, says Transportation Systems Administrator Leonard Evans. It took ODOT three years to develop its project management system, Ellis, but the results were worth it. The web-based program not only helps the districts manage their workplan project lists based on funding needs and current allocations, but it allows project managers to track the projects from the time the study area is defined to when construction is complete, benchmarking key milestones and tracking performance throughout the process. By identifying trends and revisiting project planning triggers, ODOT has been able to utilize quantifiable targets such as PCR thresholds to blend pavement management concepts into the project selection process.

Although the department had developed a fairly detailed TAM system, it had not yet achieved the steady state it was seeking. "We needed to achieve a steady state so that the preservation budget would be consistent and we could sustain that for perpetuity. Constant adjustments are needed to address outside factors, such as the recent increases in construction costs and changes in degradation due to weather and traffic." says Evans. Performance measures proved to be key to that process.

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Updated: 11/07/2012