The purpose of this paper is to define the relationship between transportation asset management and transportation system planning and to describe the current, and potential future, activities of the FHWA Federal Lands Highway office that support the implementation of asset management. The paper is one of a set of seven papers exploring the relationship of asset management to each of FHWA's major program areas including planning, right-of-way, environment, infrastructure, safety, operations, and Federal lands.
Section 1.0 provides a general overview of asset management relevant to all program areas. Section 2.0 defines the relationship between Federal lands and asset management. Section 3.0 describes current, and potential future, activities of the Federal Lands Highway office that support asset management.
Transportation asset management is a set of guiding principles and best practice methods for making informed transportation resource allocation decisions, and improving accountability for these decisions. The term "resource allocation" covers not only allocation of money to program areas, projects, and activities but also covers deployment of other resources that add value (staff, equipment, materials, information, real estate, etc.). While several of these principles and practices were initially developed and applied within the domain of infrastructure preservation, most established definitions of asset management are considerably broader. The Asset Management Guide, recently adopted by AASHTO defines asset management as:"... a strategic approach to managing transportation infrastructure. It focuses on...business processes for resource allocation and utilization with the objective of better decision-making based upon quality information and well-defined objectives."
As Mary Peters, FHWA Administrator has frequently put it:"If I have one additional dollar to spend on the transportation system, what is the most effective way to spend it?"
The essence of asset management is answering that question.
Asset management is concerned with the entire life cycle of transportation decisions, including planning, programming, construction, maintenance, and operations. It emphasizes integration across these functions, reinforcing the fact that actions taken across this life cycle are interrelated. It also recognizes that investments in transportation assets must be made considering a broad set of objectives, including physical preservation, congestion relief, safety, security, economic productivity, and environmental stewardship.
The core principles of asset management are:
These principles are not unfamiliar, nor are they radical. Most transportation practitioners would agree that investment decisions should be based on weighing costs against likely outcomes, that a variety of options should be considered and evaluated, and that quality information is needed for decision-making. Many agencies are now pursuing performance-based approaches to planning and programming, monitoring system performance, and developing more integrated data and analysis tools to evaluate tradeoffs among capital expansion, operations, and preservation activities. Most agencies recognize that application of asset management principles is critical in times of constrained resources, when all investment and budget decisions are subject to increased public scrutiny.
Figure 1 illustrates the strategic resource allocation process that embodies the asset management principles presented above.
The diagram includes the following elements:
In Figure 1, the box labeled "Analysis of Options and Tradeoffs" shows three types of investment categories - preservation, operations, and capacity expansion. These are defined as follows:
These three categories are defined in order to show that:
As noted above, tradeoff analysis may be done across investment categories as well as within them. An agency might wish to define investment areas coincident with the three categories discussed above (preservation, operations, capacity), or they may define a different set of categories. For example, a safety program could be defined as an investment category, with subareas for operational activities (e.g., signs, markings, signalization, channelization, etc.), preservation (replacement of guardrails), and capacity (project design features supporting safety, e.g., wide shoulders). This would provide the framework for understanding the best mix of complementary actions within the safety area as well as tradeoffs between safety and other objectives.
A common reaction to the broad description of asset management is "how is this different from the overall planning and programming process in an agency?" The response is that asset management is not a new kind of business process that replaces planning and programming. Rather, it should be viewed as a set of best practices to be employed within the established planning and programming framework. Existing regulations pertaining to the planning process, together with statutes related to specific funding programs and their allocation criteria, and the body of environmental regulations affecting transportation planning - provide the context within which asset management practice occurs. In terms of Figure 1, transportation regulations and statutes impact establishment of policy objectives, the manner in which options are generated and evaluated, and they also provide certain constraints on resource allocation (based on Federal and state funding eligibility restrictions). Many of the core principles of asset management are embodied in the existing planning regulations (e.g., consideration of alternatives). Examining the planning process using the lens of asset management provides an opportunity to explore ways to continue to strengthen the mission of transportation planning - for example:
While asset management is closely associated with planning and programming activities, asset management best practices are also integral to design, construction, routine and preventive maintenance and operations activities. For example:
Despite the support for taking an asset management approach, many agencies face very real organizational, institutional, and technical challenges to making further progress in asset management. Each one of these challenges represents a potential opportunity for FHWA to work with its partners to encourage broader implementation of asset management principles. For example:
While it is relatively straightforward to implement asset management within a well-defined area of the agency (a pavement management unit, for example), the issues identified above illustrate why it is much more challenging to implement it more fully within an agency, or across multiple agencies.
However, the need to allocate scarce resources as effectively as possible and demonstrate results and performance to the customers of the transportation system provides strong motivation and support for overcoming these challenges. A comprehensive, performance-based approach to transportation investment decisions will be essential to meeting the increasingly complex set of transportation needs of the 21st century.
The Federal Lands Highway Program (FLHP) was created by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 to provide a coordinated program of public roads and intermodal facilities serving Federal and tribal lands. This program services recreational travel and tourism, protects and enhances natural resources, provides sustained economic development in rural areas, and provides needed transportation for Native Americans. The Federal Lands Highway office at FHWA works with numerous Federal partners including: the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Defense, and Bureau of Land Management. In 1999, a Refuge Roads program serving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was initiated.
Federal Lands Highway serves over 384 park units, 175 national forests and grasslands, some 564 Federally recognized Native American tribes, close to 10,000 bridges, and nearly 98,000 road miles. Additionally, FLH co-manages the Defense Access Road Program with the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and coordinates the design, construction and maintenance of access roads to military reservations and sites.
Federal Lands Highway is actively involved in planning activities with all its Federal partners including current and long range strategic planning, project planning, and technical assistance. Additionally, FLH acts as a liaison between its land management agency partners and state departments of transportation (DOTs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), rural planning organizations, and local gateway communities. As a result, there are significant organizational complexities to consider for transportation planning and program development within Federal Lands.
Section 2.1 describes the types of activities conducted by Federal Lands Highway, emphasizing the areas where asset management principles are likely to have the most impact. Section 2.2 relates Federal Lands Highway's mission and activities to the three major transportation investment categories previously defined. Finally, Section 2.3 will describe how each of the key asset management principles can be applied to FLH.
Over thirty percent of the United States consists of Federally or tribally owned land, including the National Parks, National Forests and Grasslands, National Wildlife Refuges, and Indian reservations. More than 900 million people visit these areas each year. To fulfill the Federal Government's responsibility to provide transportation within and serving these Federally owned lands, Federal Lands Highway is charged with administering the funding to maintain and improve access to and within these areas.
In addition to administering funding for the Federal Lands Highway Program, FLH also provides comprehensive transportation planning and highway engineering services for its partners, including plan preparation, contracts, and project supervision. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Federal Lands Highway (FLH) has three divisions in Vancouver, Washington (Western FLH Division), Lakewood, Colorado (Central FLH Division), and Sterling, Virginia (Eastern FLH Division). The FLH divisions provide program planning, design, and construction project and program services to its partners, similar to the functions performed by the FHWA Division Offices for the Federal-aid program. Specific activities carried out by FLH include:
While asset management principles potentially could be integrated into all of the above FLH activities, they are likely to have the most impact when implemented at the partner Federal land management agencies in program development and project prioritization. The land management agencies and Federal Lands Highway work together in transportation planning, programming, and project selection, the results of which are approved and funded by FLH.
In terms of the strategic resource allocation process described in Section 1.3, the Federal Lands Highway offices, as administrators of a Federal-aid program, focus on resource allocation decisions, program and service delivery, and system conditions for its partners. FLH's partners share responsibility for long-range transportation planning and the analysis of options and tradeoffs in developing programs and generating a prioritized project list submitted to FLH for approval. FLH is involved to varying degrees with each of the partners, depending on the specific inter-agency agreements. Recognizing that FLH generally provides stewardship and oversight for transportation on Federal lands, but share responsibility for program development, FLH is already encouraging its partners to implement asset management principles in their planning and programming processes.
For preservation projects, the eligibility for each FLH funding area differs slightly, but in general FLH administers funds for the maintenance and repair of roads, bridges, transit, pedestrian, and bicycle facilities serving Federal and tribal lands, including preservation actions to improve safety. For Refuge Roads, funds can also be used for the maintenance of vehicular parking areas and roadside rest areas. Project candidates are developed and submitted to FLH by the partner Federal land management agencies.
Quality information on the importance of life-cycle costs in preserving facility investments is crucial to adopting a programmatic approach to maintenance and preservation actions. Adopting an asset management approach that balances preservation with operations and capacity expansion would enable partners to recognize how regular and scheduled maintenance actions can extend the service life of a facility and save resources in the long term. Implementation of management systems and analysis tools through existing regulations will also allow partners to understand the tradeoffs and allow them to meet commonly agreed-upon facility and service targets though a programmatically balanced approach.
Compared to preservation and capacity expansion, FLH conducts relatively fewer activities in the area of operations, though FLH funds can generally be used for planning studies on operational issues (for example, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service studies on alternative transportation systems and transit). There are traffic management measures in place at spot locations. In addition, the Western FLH Division is working with the National Park Service to develop a congestion level of service measure for use in implementation of a congestion management system.
As increasing pressures are placed on the nation's public places, especially the national parks, and resources continue to be focused on maximizing the use of existing infrastructure, the area of operations will be an increasingly important future area of coordination and funding need.
FLH's mission is to provide access to and within Federal and tribal lands. Key components in achieving this is to expand capacity by constructing new roadways, bridges and transit services, widening existing roadways and bridges, and expanding transit service to areas that are not adequately served by transportation facilities. FLH funds can also generally be used to expand the capacity of pedestrian and bicycle facilities. An asset management approach allows the partners to evaluate the relative long-term facility and service impacts of investing in capacity expansion and to develop programs that balance those system expansion investments against activities that preserve infrastructure, make better use of the existing transportation assets, or provide intermodal transportation options.
This section describes how each of the asset management principles outlined in Section 1.2 can be applied to setting transportation priorities for Federal and tribal lands. The relationship with FLH's partner land management agencies will also be discussed, since the partners share responsibility for program development and project selection. This sharing of responsibilities creates challenges for FLH in encouraging a consistent asset management approach among its partners, but also allows FLH to revisit the current program development process and determine opportunities for a more focused investment approach.
In its strategic planning process, FLH has adopted the FHWA Vital Few goals of safety, environmental stewardship and streamlining, and congestion mitigation. To support the achievement of these goals, the FLH 2003-2007 Business Plan identifies four business improvement initiatives to:
To implement these initiatives, the specific performance goals are to:
Consistent with asset management principles, FLH has identified specific performance measures for each policy objective in order to monitor goal achievement over time and to communicate the impacts and implications of different plan alternatives. Performance measures also provide a mechanism during resource allocation for setting system condition and service targets and for balancing tradeoffs between program categories. The notion that at its essence asset management is really "total performance management" derives from the critical role that performance measurement plays in implementing the concepts of asset management. Performance-based planning and programming are essential components of asset management and rely on specification of performance measures that reflect key policy goals.
FLH has specified six key performance measures, along with baselines and targets, that are directly tied to its goals in its FY 2003-2007 business plan. These performance measures are:
Federal Lands Highway also monitors the condition of roads and bridges for the Park Roads and Parkways, Forest Highways, Refuge Roads, and Indian Reservation Roads. These condition assessments are used for program decision-making and for reports to Congress.
The essence of good resource allocation is the analysis of options and tradeoffs. At the strategic resource allocation level, this analysis needs to consider prioritizing and balancing tradeoffs across all major investment categories including preservation, operations, and capacity expansion, while balancing transportation needs with the natural and cultural resource values of the agencies. Under the current processes, this analysis is conducted in partnership with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs on behalf of Indian tribal governments.
FLH has encouraged these agencies to think more broadly and long-term about transportation issues. Efforts in recent years have focused on improving partner transportation planning capacity to include thinking about long-term needs, recognizing relationships with host or gateway communities, looking at alternative modes for transportation solutions, and using asset management systems for transportation assets as well as other facilities and equipment.
Typical transportation tradeoffs considered by partner land management agencies might include:
The National Park Service has made significant progress in understanding the tradeoffs between preservation, operations, and capacity expansion expenditures, as well as considering modal and intermodal tradeoffs. Because transportation needs must be balanced with natural resource conservation, in many cases it is highly undesirable to widen roads or build additional parking lots in the national parks. As a result, the NPS routinely considers Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) solutions and transit options during program development and project prioritization, using the Choosing by Advantages process.
In 1998, the NPS developed the Alternative Transportation Program (ATP) to coordinate policy guidance and planning activities regarding intermodal transportation solutions for the national parks. The ATP enables the NPS to balance intermodal options with traditional road improvements. These intermodal options include bicycle, bus, boat, ferry, train, and trolley service. Since its inception, nearly $40 million has been allocated to develop and implement alternative transportation systems at national parks, thereby improving the visitor experience while protecting natural and cultural resources. There are currently around one hundred national parks in the United States providing some form of alternative transportation system.
Building on the example of the NPS, the other land management agency partners are making significant progress in considering multimodal solutions in their transportation planning. Over the past three years, Federal Lands Highway and the Federal Transit Administration have jointly evaluated alternative transportation needs on Federal lands. In 2001, the agencies submitted a report to Congress, as required by TEA-21, identifying significant transit needs at sites managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Of the 207 sites evaluated, total 20-year needs of $1.7 billion were identified at 118 of 169 NPS sites, 6 of 15 BLM sites, and 13 of 23 FWS sites. In 2004, the agencies completed a supplement to the previous study that identified $698 million in alternative transportation needs at 30 U.S. Forest Service sites. As the planning, programming, and implementation of alternative transportation projects continues, the analysis of intermodal options and tradeoffs central to good asset management practice will become increasingly important to meet transportation needs on Federal lands.
A key element in supporting the analysis of options and tradeoffs described above is the collection, management, and integration of quality information and data into the long term asset management process. The types of transportation data relevant to FLH activities include:
For the National Park Service, FLH collects inventory and condition data through the NPS Road Inventory Program (RIP) and Bridge Inspection Program (BIP). FLH also recently completed the first condition assessment of roads and bridges on the Refuge Road system for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For most of the Forest Highways, the Eastern FLH and Central FLH divisions conduct the inventory and condition assessments for pavement and bridges. The Western FLH division relies largely on data collection by the States, supplemented when necessary by manual data collection. Because Forest Highways are mostly State highways, there may be opportunities for Federal Lands Highway to coordinate data sharing with the States and to improve the data collection process.
Inventory and condition data for Indian Reservation Roads is collected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and FLH and the BIA are working together to improve data collection in support of asset management systems. A joint Steering Committee has been established to determine the process for developing implementation plans for nationwide pavement, bridge, and safety management systems. In addition, the BIA is undertaking an effort to augment and improve the data collected under the Bureau's Road and Bridge Inventories, since the data is critical in determining the funding allocation to the tribes.
The Central FLH division is working to develop pavement and bridge management systems for the Refuge Road system. The Eastern FLH division is working with the National Park Service to develop a pavement management system integrated with the existing NPS facility management system. The Eastern FLH division also maintains the bridge inventory database, using the Pontis bridge management system, on behalf of over a dozen Federal agencies including the National Park Service.
Safety and traffic data are both limited and may not be consistently collected and reported from partner to partner. The present FHWA initiative with all states to develop focused safety plans to reduce fatal accidents nationwide, and which emphasizes better and consistent data collection processes, presents an opportunity to improve this area. The Central FLH division has also been working with the partner agencies to develop safety management systems.
Monitoring and reporting on system performance and conditions over time is essential for implementing transportation asset management. For basic preservation, operations, and capacity expansion decisions, condition data can be used to assess facility condition, predict long-term preservation needs, and estimate maintenance and repair schedules. Safety data can be used to identify and correct high accident locations, and traffic data can be used to predict long-term capacity needs. System performance data for transit services will become increasingly important as the partner land management agencies invest resources in alternative transportation systems. For Federal Lands Highway, as administrators of a Federal-aid program, performance monitoring also provides verification that allocated funds are being spent appropriately.
Federal Lands Highway also tracks comprehensive performance measures that are tied to its business plan goals and objectives. These yearly reports provide decision-makers with an understanding of whether current investment strategies are achieving the long-term goals and performance targets identified in the business plan.
In addition to objective "operational" data on system condition and performance, Federal Lands Highway has also conducted surveys to assess public "customer" perception of transportation serving Federal and tribal lands. In 2001, FLH published results from the "Federal Lands Highway Public Survey" that assessed customer satisfaction with:
Results from this survey were crucial in providing public feedback on FLH and partner investment strategies and in guiding future goal-setting and program development activities.
The purpose of this section is to describe current activities of Federal Lands Highway that are supportive of asset management, and identify potential additional opportunities for the future.
Federal Lands Highway is already conducting or planning several activities that reflect the asset management principles discussed throughout this paper. The following sections highlight the key asset management activities in the areas of policy, technical assistance, research and technology, and coordination.
A range of efforts are being undertaken by FLH to provide policy and regulatory guidance for asset management and general transportation planning, including:
A number of activities are conducted by FLH to provide technical assistance and information directly related to asset management, including:
In the area of research and technology, FLH is conducting research and working with its partners to develop the technology necessary to support a more integrated transportation planning process. FLH is helping its partners develop processes that better reflect the asset management approach to transportation planning. The recently issued management system rules will likely require research into data integration and systems development.
Asset management-related research conducted by the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center could potentially be applied to Federal lands transportation in addition to the traditional Federal-aid highway program.
Coordination with the Federal land management agencies is critical to the success of the Federal Lands Highway program. FLH has a unique partnership arrangement with each of the agencies and fulfills multiple roles that involve program planning, administration, and project delivery. These multiple roles require a high degree of coordination that involve almost constant communication to deliver a high quality program. For example, FLH has tri-party partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service and State DOTs in 41 states to program and implement projects. Other land management agencies develop programs in coordination with FLH. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FLH have jointly developed a comprehensive multi-year construction plan to address road, parking lot, and bridge deficiencies.
Transportation planning for the Indian Reservation Roads presents an opportunity and a challenge for FLH to coordinate with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, local tribal governments, State DOTs, the Federal Transit Administration, and numerous other partners. These coordination activities are critical in developing transportation plans and programs that address tribal transportation needs. While the Bureau of Indian Affairs has primary responsibility for program development and project selection, FLH plays a key role in reviewing plans, approving programs, and providing technical assistance and training.
FLH participates regularly in nationwide and regional program coordination meetings of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. At a minimum, these meetings are held twice a year, and most often occur more frequently. From time to time, FLH participates in more specialized meetings with the partners focused on enhancing a particular area of program delivery such as transportation planning, contract management, management systems, or alternative modes of transportation.
In recent years, FLH has participated in transportation planning conferences sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. For the Bureau of Indian Affairs, FLH provides financial, technical, and program support for seven Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) centers throughout the country that provide education and training to tribal communities regarding transportation.
FLH also coordinates internally within the U.S. DOT as needed. There has been interaction with the Federal Transit Administration on alternative transportation systems, and also with FHWA's Office of Planning and Office of Safety.
Building on the activities that are already underway, FLH can take a number of steps to further promote asset management. In the short-term, some of these activities include:
In the longer-term, some potential activities include:
 Transportation Asset Management Guide, prepared for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 20-24(11) by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. with Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., Roy Jorgensen Associates, Inc. and Paul D. Thompson, November 2002, AASHTO Publication RP-TAMG-1.
 The FHWA plays a key role in standardizing the content and format of data that are mandated by federal law: e.g., the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) data that are reported by state DOTs.
 Additional detail on the National Park Service transportation planning process is available at: http://www.nps.gov/transportation/alt/guidebook/transplan.pdf (.pdf, 3.5 mb)
 This document is accessible at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/flh/reports/indian/intro.htm