Skip to contentU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Asset Management | Bridge Technology | Operations | Pavement
FHWA > Asset Management > Asset Management Overview > Note From the Director

Asset Management Overview

Note From the Director

The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) Office of Asset Management is pleased to present this Asset Management Overview. When the Office was created during the 1999 FHWA reorganization effort, one of the most frequently asked questions from individuals within FHWA and outside the agency was "What is asset management?" Consequently, the Office published the Asset Management Primer to advance the understanding of this important concept within the transportation community. Since the Primer was published, a significant amount of activity has taken place as organizations have begun implementing the concepts of asset management. This Overview identifies next steps, challenges, and strategies in implementing a Transportation Asset Management program.

Asset management, as described later in this document, is a business process and a decisionmaking framework that covers an extended time horizon, draws from economics and engineering theory and practice, and considers a broad range of assets. The approach incorporates the economic assessment of tradeoffs between alternative investment options at both the project level and the network or system level, and uses this information to help agencies make cost-effective investment decisions.

Transportation Asset Management has come of age because of (1) changes in the transportation environment, (2) changes in public expectations, and (3) the demonstrated success of asset management principles in enhancing the effectiveness of decisionmaking. Increasing congestion, limited resources, and an aging infrastructure impact today's transportation environment. The focus has shifted from capital construction to one of optimizing the balance of preserving, upgrading, and replacing our highway assets through cost-effective management, programming, and informed decisionmaking.

Over the past decades, the public has invested $1.75 trillion through the Federal, State, and local governments in the construction, maintenance, and operation of the Nation's transportation system. The public's expectation is that governments at all levels will be responsible stewards of this investment. Federal, State, and local transportation agency officials wholeheartedly concur with this expectation and are committed to continue making wise investment decisions that the public can understand and support. The agencies recognize that the public holds them accountable.

Clearly, the combination of changes in the transportation environment and heightened public expectations has created a strong motivation for aligning transportation agency business practices with asset management principles. A key feature of asset management is that it requires a statement of explicit, clearly defined goals. In transportation, these goals reflect customer expectations, as well as considerations unique to each State or local department of transportation, and the goals are used to guide, monitor, and evaluate the entire planning and implementation process.

The asset management approach allows transportation agency officials to communicate with decisionmakers through "what if" analyses. For example, the impact of higher or lower budget levels on a system's future condition and performance-and the resulting impact on the system's users-may be demonstrated readily, and the resources needed to provide the specified level of system performance at the defined future period can be ascertained.

To assist State and local transportation agencies as they work to implement Transportation Asset Management programs, FHWA is working closely with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Transportation Research Board to identify research that is needed and to provide technical assistance, education, and training programs to these agencies. We believe that these essential efforts will pay tremendous dividends to the public by ensuring high-quality, cost-effective investments in our Nation's infrastructure.

Francine Shaw-Whitson
Acting Director, Office of Asset Management

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®
Updated: 11/14/2012