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Management Systems: Driving Performance A Glance at Data-Driven Decisionmaking Practices

Examples of Management Systems for Various Assets in Transportation Planning

Photo. An empty rural highway stretches off into the distance.

Montana Department of Transportation (MDT): Performance Planning Process

Montana is a large, rural, and sparsely populated State. Its extensive highway system plays a central role in connecting its residents and communities to each other and the world. The transportation system is the largest single capital investment in Montana. The challenge for the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is to identify the most effective strategies for preserving and maintaining the system.

TranPlan 21, MDT's long-range transportation policy plan, commits to establish a process for setting overall priorities for resource allocation. This process is called the Performance Programming Process (P3), which is an iterative trade-off analysis that uses management systems to generate a funding level that best meets performance goals. The P3 process emphasizes equity of conditions per functional class road among each of their five districts. The analysis relies on the best available conditions data and trade-off scenarios to ensure that dollars are allocated based on the general public's travel priorities. P3 enables MDT to select those projects that will yield the biggest benefits to the users of the highway system. Montana refines this process by continually modifying P3's predictive analysis tool to more closely reflect actual results and trends in the field.

P3 uses the outputs from MDT's pavement-, bridge-, and congestion-management systems to assess alternative investments and strategies that contribute to system-performance goals. P³ allocates resources to systems, districts, and the different categories of projects to meet or exceed performance goals. Project selection is usually made among projects that belong in the same asset class. Many States are looking to integrate the individual management systems into a statewide management process, but currently most States analyze the management systems separately. In the overall process that transportation agencies go through for setting priorities- funding, performance measures, budgets, and planning-many identify information from their management systems as key inputs to statewide planning and operation.

Many States are looking to integrate the individual management systems into a statewide management process, but currently most States analyze the management systems separately.

When TranPlan 21 was completed in 1995, it set a direction for the agency to use output from the management systems in the P3. It linked project selection with policy and planning goals, with an emphasis on improving pavement conditions on the State's arterial highways. A dedicated funding source for pavement preservation since 1997, along with guidelines for project selection that emphasize a balanced program, it has provided for a broader array of projects. This includes preservation, minor and major rehabilitation, and reconstruction projects that are implemented in a timely and effective manner. The result is a trend for all State roadway systems to sustain a gradual improvement in their conditions. In 2000, 64 percent of Interstates were classified in good condition; by 2007, 91 percent were classified in good condition. This trend continues across all State roadway systems. MDT's success in meeting its performance goals serves as a model for others. Its pavement-preservation program is a team effort that crosses many departments, including engineering, planning, operations, and maintenance within MDT.

Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans): Planning Initiative

Vermont is a small State with an aging infrastructure that must be preserved. The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is one of the few State agencies that have asset management and performance measures written into statute.

In 2005, VTrans developed a quantifiable project prioritization method that assigns a numeric score to projects listed in the annual budget. These scores help explain why one project is chosen over another. Per statute, the scoring system must include "asset-management-based factors, which are objective and quantifiable" including:

  • Safety.
  • Traffic volume.
  • Availability of alternate routes.
  • Future maintenance and reconstruction costs.
  • Priorities assigned by the regional planning commission or the Chittenden County MPO.

VTrans incorporates local project priorities from their MPO and regional planning commissions into the overall priority for projects listed in the capital program. These quantitative scores drive the transportation-project choices within asset classes. The entire process is transparent, with local and VTrans project scores available for anyone to see.

In addition, VTrans developed strategic performance measures that focus on programs and asset classes. These measures track and analyze investments with a single type of asset, such as pavement, bridges, safety, and maintenance.

Photo. A nighttime city scene shows the motion blur of vehicle lights passing through a green stop light.

Decisions on where to budget money for assets depend on the priority scores and associated performance measures, as well as on the current asset condition and institutional knowledge. This same information assists decisionmakers as they evaluate among different asset classes to determine the relative program size. VTrans continues to enhance the process as they advance its statewide TAM effort.

There are many factors used by VTrans to prioritize projects. In the paving section, information is collected about pavement surface conditions with a specially equipped van, which measures rutting, cracking, pavement roughness, and more. Historical data is factored into the analysis to calculate estimated future pavement conditions at different funding levels. This data is analyzed for the entire State highway network to determine the optimum treatment to maximize the pavement's life expectancy. These factors are combined with regional priorities to develop the VTrans annual paving program. The factors for paving include the pavement condition index (based on 20 points), benefit-cost (60 points), and regional priority (20 points). The results from these analyses are summarized for the three program funding categories: Interstate, State highways, and town highways.

For comparison purposes, VTrans also ran a worst-first scenario to measure the benefit of using an asset-management approach that applies the right treatment at the right time. Figure 1 shows two $55-million scenarios: One scenario uses asset management and the other uses a worst-first scenario.

Figure 1. Graph. Future travel weighted pavement conditions at different funding levels.
Graph. Future travel weighted pavement conditions at different funding levels. Pavement conditions are represented on the Y-axis in increments of ten, from zero to one hundred, while the X-axis shows the years from 2006-2019. The graph shows two $55-million scenarios: One scenario uses asset management and the other uses a worst-first scenario. The $55m level is represented by an orange line that moves from left to right at a fairly constant level. The graph also shows funding levels at $77.5m and $100m and the corresponding pavement condition as time passes. By 2019, $55m 'worst first' is rated poor, $55m is rated poor to fair, $77.5m is rated fair, and $100m is rated fair to good.

Asset-management analysis is also used as part of the VTrans preservation-first program, which began in 2006 and is called "The Road to Affordability." This program postpones a number of highway-capacity projects in order to shift the focus to preserving pavements, bridges, and culverts. To help support this effort, VTrans formed an asset-management unit in the roadway section. At present, their focus is on culverts, signs, and substandard sections of roadway.

VTrans has started a long-term effort to integrate data from the independent asset-management systems into an improved data warehouse. The objective is to improve decisionmaking for transportation-program managers and to help evaluate among asset classes.

State of New Jersey: Statewide Capital Investment Strategy (SCIS)

New Jersey's Statewide Capital Investment Strategy (SCIS) is a decisionmaking tool used to develop investment options for transportation categories based on goals, objectives, and performance measures. Of note, it includes transportation investments in common categories across agencies rather than in separate strategies for each agency. This integrated approach allows the public to better understand the total State investment needed for roads, bridges, and public transportation. This overview permits and fosters a collaborative approach to make the best use of available transportation funding in order to provide the most efficient and effective use of resources.

In New Jersey, the significant funding increased enough to set in motion a comprehensive pavement program that consisted of various treatments for highway problems.

The SCIS is an asset-management approach for maintaining, upgrading, and operating physical-asset costs effectively. This effort involved the New Jersey Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, and the South Jersey Transportation Authority, as well as the State's three MPOs. The SCIS links broad goals and policies to the specific investment choice by allocating resources into major transportation-asset categories, which are based on various investment options guided by investment targets and clear policy goals.

The SCIS shows the total infrastructure and other investment needs associated with each category and establishes 10-year-target annual investment levels for each category based on predicted revenue levels. It is important to understand that each agency's revenues are independent. Capital work done by each transportation agency is classified into program categories along with associated goals, objectives, and performance measures for each. These categories include bridges, road, mass transit, airports, safety, congestion, multimodal, transportation-support facilities, and local support. Various alternative investment scenarios are evaluated to select investment targets within the constrained budget. The outcome is the desired investment target amount that is connected to a level predetermined to achieve performance objectives. SCIS improves the State's ability to prioritize transportation programs and projects related to system objectives and performance measures. This process is a collaborative approach to making the best use of available transportation funding in an efficient and effective manner.

Photo. An in-car view of a two-lane tunnel with traffic passing freely.

SCIS has the ability to link the selection of projects for capital funding with broad program objectives. On the basis of pavement-preservation goals, a performance analysis is conducted to determine how well various alternative investment scenarios perform over time. This identifies the trade-offs and outcomes that are to be expected from the resulting project mix. In New Jersey, the goal was to eliminate one half of the backlog of deficient pavements over the next 10 years. On the basis of the State's findings, recommendations were made to increase the funding level for highway resurfacing, highway capital maintenance, and highway rehabilitation and reconstruction programs to achieve these objectives. The significant funding increased enough to set in motion a comprehensive pavement program that consisted of various treatments for highway problems in order to prevent the constant downward trend. These treatments include both (a) expensive rehabilitation and reconstruction projects and (b) less-expensive resurfacing projects that extend service life and improve smoothness, with a wide range of lower cost and often innovative, preventative maintenance-repair techniques. With competing transportation needs and limited funding, the SCIS focuses on producing better system-wide pavement quality, as opposed to focusing only on worst-first recommendation projects.

Tucson, AZ: Pima Association of Governments (PAG)

Pima Association of Governments (PAG) is the MPO for the Eastern Pima County and the Tucson, AZ, urbanized area. Planning for PAG's Regional Transportation Plan and TIP includes a focus on cross-jurisdictional planning issues, such as air quality, water quality, transportation, and population growth. Candidate projects are evaluated by using established criteria set by the TIP. The principle criteria consist of the following eight items:

  • Safety benefits.
  • Congestion benefits.
  • Accessibility improvements.
  • Volume of use.
  • Environmental benefits.
  • System preservation.
  • Regional significance.
  • Improved system continuity.

The goal of the process is to develop a TIP that makes optimum use of available Federal, State, and local funds and resources to serve the region's multimodal transportation needs. Each member agency or jurisdiction can use its own capital improvement projects' process to determine which projects to propose; however, to preserve and enhance the existing transportation system, priority projects also are identified through regional management systems, including pavement-, safety-, congestion-, and bridge-management systems. Although decisions at this level are usually more project-oriented than program-oriented, the actions conducted at the project level do allow for easy feedback into the decisionmaking process, specifically on how performance measures are being met. Strong emphasis is placed on gathering data for these project-level decisions; thus, with a continuous increased knowledge base and asset-management data inventories, PAG continues to enhance its regional transportation-planning process.

A prime example of enhancing the regional transportation-planning process is PAG's Regional Pavement Management Program, which has allowed the region to quickly identify ready-to-go pavement-preservation projects for the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Pavement-preservation projects represented 9 out of the top 10 transportation priorities for the region's ARRA list. Although PAG owns no roadway infrastructure of its own, the agency coordinates the program to ensure that all PAG-member agencies have the capability to understand pavement conditions and rehabilitation needs for their pavement assets.

PAG coordinates regional pavement data collection among its member agencies through the use of a shared-resource, pavement-management van. The van collects consistent and accurate data about particular roadways, such as pavement condition, the ride quality of the roadway, and the precise location information of specific features on or near the roadway. PAG has taken this program one step further by providing its jurisdictions with the capability to prioritize and forecast their pavement needs; thus, funding can be sought through local agency sources as well as through the TIP. Accurate management of the multibillion-dollar roadway infrastructure is essential for allocating and optimizing the impact of available transportation funding.

Seattle, WA: Puget Sound Regional Council

To help quantify the need for additional funding, a number of MPOs are looking at data-driven approaches for documenting the condition and investment needs of routes that serve as major corridors for commerce and traffic. The Puget Sound Regional Council, the MPO for the Seattle, WA, urbanized area, is creating a database that includes pavement conditions for local major and minor arterials throughout the four-county region.

Photo. A view of stationary traffic waiting in a left-turn lane.

This database (a) is designed to help decisionmakers understand the magnitude of investment needed to maintain the region's local arterial network, (b) incorporates pavement data collected by Washington State Department of Transportation, and (c) is linked to a geographic information system. The geographic information system includes information on responsible jurisdiction, number of lanes, segment lengths, functional classification, and pavement type. This database will provide the Puget Sound Regional Council a means to characterize local arterial needs and expenditures over the life of its metropolitan transportation plan (MTP) for all municipalities and jurisdictions therein, while providing the State legislature with an accurate and meaningful data set that illustrates future funding needs dedicated to system preservation.

Albany, NY: Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC)

The Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC), the MPO for the Albany, NY, urbanized area, places a strong emphasis on maintaining the region's transportation infrastructure. CDTC's MTP for the region, the New Visions Plan, uses a performance-based management strategy that instructs to paint bridges before they corrode, build long-lasting pavements, and match treatment to road function. Projects selected to be on the TIP are screened to ensure the greatest life-cycle benefit. Public transit, sidewalks, and bicycle facilities are included in the consideration.

Both MTP and TIP rely on extensive pavement- and bridge-condition data, and since 1983, CDTC has conducted regular surveys of the condition of the region's non-State, Federal-aid roads and portions of the local non-Federal aid system. The condition survey information collected is used to determine system-level condition, estimate overall deterioration rates, calculate costs to rehabilitate the system, and determine the effects of various repair strategies on pavement serviceability. Together with similar surveys conducted by local municipalities and by the New York State Department of Transportation, these surveys help form a complete picture of the condition of all roads in the region.

CDTC also maintains a congestion-management system plan that insists on demand management and local land-use management agreements as a prerequisite to capacity work. The development of a regional safety-management system, now underway, not only supports the continued use of traditional countermeasures, but also encourages the use of innovative design treatments that reduce the risk for the region's most vulnerable users, namely cyclists, walkers, children, and the elderly.

Photo. A view from a bridge of a modern city scene with traffic passing freely beneath an overhead bridge.

Conclusion

A TAM approach can provide valuable information for the planning, programming, and overall management of the transportation network. Information from management systems is essential in transportation decisionmaking to establish realistic agency goals, thus setting investment levels across assets, which include transportation system safety, operations, preservation, and maintenance, and selecting priorities for State TIP preparation. To successfully manage transportation assets, transportation organizations that include planning organizations should have a clear role in understanding and utilizing the information provided by management systems to make informed decisions.

This document was prepared by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) with expert guidance provided by Patricia A. Cazenas, P.E., L.S., and Nastaran Saadatmand, P.E.

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Updated: 06/18/2012