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FHWA Asset Management Position Paper

Planning and Asset Management

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 Office of Planning 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 planning and asset management. Section 3.0 describes current, and potential future, activities of the Office of Planning that support asset management.

1.0 Overview of Transportation Asset Management

1.1 Definition of 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,[1] 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.

1.2 Asset Management Principles

  • Policy-Driven - Resource allocation decisions are based on a well-defined and explicitly stated set of policy goals and objectives. These objectives reflect desired system condition, level of service, and safety provided to customers, and typically are tied to economic, community and environmental goals as well;
  • Performance-Based - Policy objectives are translated into system performance measures that are used for both day-to-day and strategic management;
  • Analysis of Options and Tradeoffs - Decisions on how to allocate resources within and across different types of investments (e.g., preventive maintenance, rehabilitation, pavements, bridges, capacity expansion, operations, different modal mixes, safety, etc.) are based on an analysis of how different allocations will impact achievement of relevant policy objectives. Alternative methods for achieving a desired set of objectives are examined and evaluated. These options are not constrained by established organizational unit boundaries - for example solving a congestion problem could involve a capacity expansion or an operational improvement (e.g., signal coordination). The best method is selected considering the cost (both initial and long-term) and likely impacts on established performance measures. The limitations posed by realistic funding constraints must be reflected in the range of options and tradeoffs considered;
  • Decisions Based on Quality Information - The merits of different options with respect to an agency's policy goals are evaluated using credible and current data. These data may apply to specific functions (e.g., pavement and bridge management, traffic monitoring) or reflect a more integrated, corporate view.[2] Where appropriate, decision support tools are used to provide easy access to needed information, to assist with performance tracking and predictions, and to perform specialized analysis (e.g., optimization, real-time simulation, scenario analysis, life-cycle cost analysis, benefit/cost analysis); and
  • Monitoring to Provide Clear Accountability and Feedback - Performance results are monitored and reported for both impacts and effectiveness. Feedback on actual performance may influence agency goals and objectives, as well as resource allocation and utilization decisions.

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.

1.3 Asset Management Practice

Figure 1 illustrates the strategic resource allocation process that embodies the asset management principles presented above.

The Strategic Resource Allocation Process as discussed below

  • Policy Goals and Objectives, supported by performance measures are established through the policy and system planning process and used to guide the overall resource allocation process.
  • Analysis of Options and Tradeoffs includes examination of options within each investment area, as well as tradeoffs across different investment areas. The definition of investment areas is flexible and can be tailored to how an individual agency does business. For example, an agency may have a separate safety investment area and also incorporate consideration of safety within system preservation, operations, and capacity expansion expenditures. Each option and tradeoff is evaluated with respect to established agency goals and performance objectives.
  • Resource Allocation Decisions are based on the results of tradeoff analyses These decisions involve allocations of financial, staff, equipment, and other resources to the different investment areas and/or to different strategies, programs, projects, or asset classes within an individual investment area.
  • Program and Service Delivery is accomplished in the most cost-effective manner which again involves consideration of different delivery options (e.g., use of contractors, interagency agreements), as well as a delivery tracking process involving recording of actions taken, costs, effectiveness, and lessons learned to guide future activity.
  • System Conditions and Service Levels are tracked to see the extent to which established performance objectives are being addressed. This information is used to refine policy goals and priorities (e.g., put more emphasis on safety in response to an increase in crash rates).
  • System Conditions and Service Levels are tracked to see the extent to which established performance objectives are being addressed. This information is used to refine policy goals and priorities (e.g., put more emphasis on safety in response to an increase in crash rates).

1.4 Transportation Investment Categories

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:

  1. Preservation encompasses work to extend the life of existing facilities (and associated hardware and equipment), or to repair damage that impedes mobility or safety. The purpose of system preservation is to retain the existing value of an asset and its ability to perform as designed. System preservation counters the wear and tear of physical infrastructure that occurs over time due to traffic loading, climate, crashes, and aging. It is accomplished through both capital projects and maintenance actions.
  2. Operations focuses on the real-time service and operational efficiency provided by the transportation system for both people and freight movement on a day-to-day basis. Examples of operations actions include real-time traffic surveillance, monitoring, control, and response; intelligent transportation systems (ITS); signal phasing and real-time signal controllers at intersections; HOV lane monitoring and control; ramp metering; weigh-in-motion; road weather management; and traveler information systems. Although operations focuses on system management, the infrastructure needed to provide this capability may be substantial (e.g., traffic control centers; ITS hardware; environmental sensors and fire control systems in tunnels). Thus, an operations strategy requires capital and operating budget as well as substantial staff resources.
  3. Capacity expansion focuses on the actions needed to expand the service provided by the existing system for both people and freight. Capacity expansion can be achieved either by adding physical capacity to an existing asset, or acquiring/constructing a new facility.

These three categories are defined in order to show that:

  • Asset management is not just about preservation of highway network assets; it is about making investment decisions that address a wide range of policy goals.
  • The three categories provide a simple, useful way for decision-makers to align program investment categories and priorities with key policy objectives. For example, many agencies establish a "preservation first" policy or favor maximizing efficiency of operations prior to investing in new capacity.
  • The categories may present alternative ways of meeting a policy goal. For example, it may be appropriate to consider operational improvements to address a congestion problem as an alternative to adding a new lane.
  • Decisions about the resources allocated to each category cannot be made independently. Meeting many policy goals (e.g., safety) may require a mix of investments across these categories. Similarly, an increase in capacity expansion investments may require increased operations and preservation expenditures at some point in time.

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.

1.5 Asset Management and the Transportation Planning Process

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:

  • How to improve connections between long-range planning and resource allocation;
  • How to strengthen agency and public consideration of preservation and operations investments within the long-range planning process;
  • How to better integrate environmental considerations throughout the transportation planning and decision-making process - across capacity, operational and preservation investments; and
  • How to provide a common information resource base to serve multiple activities across the transportation asset life cycle - long-range planning, corridor studies, safety studies, environmental assessments, multi-year capital programming, project development, preventive maintenance and system operations.

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:

  • Application of life-cycle cost analysis in the facility design process;
  • Analysis of alternative construction materials and methods;
  • Tradeoffs across different maintenance activities based on level of service and extended facility life provided to customers;
  • Developing an appropriate mix of operations expenditures on technology upgrades, hardware/infrastructure maintenance and replacement, and skilled personnel;
  • Evaluation of delivery options (e.g., design-build, use of private contractors for maintenance and operations, inter-agency agreements, etc.).

1.6 Key Opportunities

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:

  • Top management needs to set an organization-wide direction and framework for decision-making and to ensure that all parts of the organization are working together in a coordinated fashion. Maintaining continuity in leadership direction and understanding of key asset management principles can be particularly challenging with frequent turnover in agency executives;
  • Clear roles for each organizational unit must be established to solve common problems or meet common objectives. Differences in perspectives and approaches, lack of established procedures, or turf battles must be reconciled;
  • Established resource allocation methods, often constrained by externally imposed restrictions, historical allocations or formulas, or delicate and difficult political negotiations may restrict the range of options and tradeoffs that can be considered;
  • Staff resource constraints together with a constant "fire-fighting" mode of operation also may restrict the amount of time and effort that can be spent on analyzing options;
  • Developing a comprehensive set of reliable methods, data and tools to evaluate performance tradeoffs among the full set of investment options will take a sustained, multi-year effort;
  • Establishing a causal link between an investment or action and a performance indicator of interest, due to the presence of external factors influencing performance (e.g., gas prices, vehicle fleet changes, growth patterns, etc.) may require additional research in some cases;
  • Coordination among multiple agencies to achieve established objectives in areas such as operations and safety adds complexity to the decision-making process and program implementation efforts; and
  • External and internal agency culture based on "bottom-up" decision-making, with a focus on specific projects rather than on broader system performance and outcomes.

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.

2.0 Planning and Transportation Asset Management

As Section 1.5 described, asset management principles and how they should be applied in the strategic resource allocation process sounds remarkably similar to good transportation system planning and particularly performance-based planning and programming. Therefore it is worth repeating that asset management is not a new or separate function but a set of best practice principles to be integrated into existing planning and programming processes. Figure 2 taken from the National Highway Institute/National Transit Institute (NHI/NTI) training course on statewide transportation planning is clearly very consistent with Figure 1 defining a broad strategic resource allocation process. However, as noted earlier, asset management principles also can be integrated into other functions beyond planning including operations, maintenance, design, construction and right-of-way.

Overview of Statewide Transportation Planning.  The process includes goal setting (sets overall direction, establishes vision, specifies goals, objectives, and measures), condition analysis (identifies current and forecasts futures), needs analysis, financial analysis, plan development state long-range plan (specifies long-range implementation plans, states priorities, flexibility on scope (policy, corridor, project level)), programming state transportation plan (categories of work, project lists, and financially constrained), and implementation/budgeting (project development and capital/operating budgets).

The purpose of this section is to define the relationship between planning and asset management. It is written from the perspective of an operating agency (e.g., state DOT). Because many of the principles of asset management also could describe good planning practice, and in fact are reflected in both statute and regulation to a degree, the focus will be on how these principles can be further strengthened within the planning process. However, reflecting asset management principles in planning, if planning in turn does not directly impact resource allocation and other programmatic and project decisions, will have limited value. Thus the need to have planning closely integrated with programming and budgeting processes will also be explored.

2.1 Overview of Planning Activities

The planning function covers a diverse set of activities that focus on different transportation modes and systems, timeframes, geographic scales, policy issues and stakeholder groups. Many planning requirements, including some that support good asset management, are defined in Federal statute and regulation, and are consistent, at least as requirements, across all states. However, there are many other aspects of a particular state's planning process that reflect state and local requirements and tradition, and actual planning practice varies widely. Typical activities performed by the planning function in many states include:

  • Long-range transportation planning;
  • Policy planning and analysis;
  • Establishing system performance measures (e.g., infrastructure condition, service levels and reliability, safety, etc.);
  • Regional and corridor planning;
  • Project priority setting, programming and development of STIP/TIP;
  • Project planning and development;
  • Coordination with MPOs and other planning partners;
  • Public participation, outreach, and communication;
  • Coordination and integration with land use planning and economic development strategies;
  • Community, economic, and environmental impact assessment, mitigation, and air quality conformity analysis;
  • Management systems development and use (varies widely); and
  • Data collection, management, analysis, and reporting.

While asset management principles can be integrated into most of these activities to some extent, there are several key planning functions and activities where asset management principles are likely to have the most impact and where the current state of practice could be strengthened significantly. These activities include:

  • Long-Range Plan Development and Updates- The development and update of long-range plans offer a great opportunity to develop clear policy goals embraced by executive management and key stakeholders, establish system performance measures, broaden the range of investments and actions included in the planning effort including freight, safety, preventive maintenance, operations, intermodal and multimodal options as appropriate, and broaden the range and level of integration of the data and analysis tools used to support the planning and programming process. All of these areas would support key asset management principles and develop a more comprehensive planning process.
  • Performance Measurement- Whether established as part of a long-range plan update or as a stand alone initiative, defining a set of system performance measures is a prerequisite to good asset management. By focusing on system performance these measures can help encourage the culture change required for asset management which is a "systems view" not a project view. To be successful, measures need to be tied to policy goals and objectives that have emerged from the planning process.
  • Strategic Resource Allocation and Tradeoffs- The planning function is the most logical place to examine strategic resource allocation issues and tradeoffs. While in some agencies finance, budget, or policy offices might have this responsibility, it is unlikely that such groups could examine these issues without significant support from the skills, tools and data typically found in the planning function. Most agencies do not have the full set of tools, data or organizational structure and roles to really examine expenditures in all key areas in a consistent manner and consider options and tradeoffs. Different investment areas are treated independently to some degree. Broadening the role and focus of planning can incrementally broaden the type of tradeoffs that are considered and move an agency toward a more integrated decision-making model consistent with good asset management.
  • Linkage to Programming and Budgeting- The extent to which plans and planning activities influence program and budget decisions varies widely. Unless this linkage is clear and strong the value of planning can be questioned. In a white paper produced for the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning, the ability to directly impact programming and budgeting decisions was viewed as the single most important criterion for judging the effectiveness of statewide planning. Unless planning is able to influence decision-making its impact on promoting asset management is limited.
  • Data and Analytic Tool Development and Support- The planning function is a key customer of a wide range of data and analytic tools that support forecasting demand and system performance, evaluating plans, programs, and projects across a wide range of performance measures and impacts and analyzing tradeoffs. In many agencies, the planning function is the "owner" of some of the data and tools required to support a variety of planning activities. However, as the range of issues and investment tradeoffs considered in planning increases, many key databases and tools will be maintained by other functional units (e.g., system physical conditions, real-time operations data, crash statistics, pavement and bridge management systems). Ownership and maintenance of specific databases and tools is not the issue, but shared access to, and common definition of, data and joint use and understanding of analysis tools is important. The planning function provides a platform for a more integrated agencywide data collection and management strategy and the development of new, or enhanced, analytic tools to support a broader and more integrated set of tradeoff analyses.

2.2 Relationship to Transportation Investment Areas

In terms of the strategic resource allocation process described earlier, planning is the logical function to define and analyze key system- and program-level tradeoffs as part of long-range planning, programming and budgeting. While historically long-range planning has focused on capacity expansion and capital projects, the planning process must focus on the full set of investment choices in order for asset management principles to be reflected in the highest-level program tradeoffs. Ongoing initiatives related to operations planning, freight planning and safety conscious planning reflect a broadening of planning activities occurring at the Federal, state and regional levels. As discussed earlier, decisions about the appropriate investment levels in each program area are not independent and always made in the face of budget constraints.

Preservation

The implications of various funding levels for the preservation of major infrastructure including pavements and bridges on the highway side and other state-owned facilities for other modes are routinely a component of long-range transportation plans and needs analyses. While historically, management systems have not always been used to drive these analyses, increasingly these tools are being used to evaluate budget/condition tradeoffs. In addition to heavy infrastructure, the facilities and equipment needed to monitor and operate the system must also be considered.

Operations

Initiatives related to operations planning, freight planning, and safety conscious planning are increasing the consideration of operations programs and operations expenditures in the planning process. For long-range planning there is a need to examine operations strategies as potential substitutes for, or complements to, capacity expansion actions. Similarly, the need for an increase in operations program expenditures as system expansion occurs over the long term also must be addressed. Operations planning activities that focus on the near-term, real-time operation of the system are typically separated from the broader long-term system planning function.

Capacity Expansion

Capacity expansion and capital project programming and development have been the key focus of planning activities historically and will continue to be a key element of effective long-range planning. Initiatives related to environmental streamlining, environmental stewardship and context sensitive design all impact the cost and time associated with developing and implementing capacity expansion projects.

2.3 Application of Asset Management Principles to Planning

The overlap between asset management principles and good planning practice has already been acknowledged. This section simply summarizes the connection between these principles and planning practice.

Policy-Driven

Goals and objectives are typically established as part of the long-range planning process including extensive stakeholder and partner involvement and coordination. Asset management principles suggest that these goals and objectives cover the full set of transportation policies of concern and guide the development and implementation of plans and programs, provide a framework for establishing performance measures and directly influence budget decisions. The range of goals and objectives that might be included in a typical state DOT long-range plan include:

  • Preserve the existing system in a state of "good repair";
  • Increase mobility and accessibility;
  • Improve system reliability via better management of non-recurring congestion;
  • Improve the safety and security;
  • Support economic development and competitiveness;
  • Protect and enhance the natural and built environment; and
  • Reflect fiscal constraints and cost-effectiveness.

The number and focus of the goals and objectives adopted in any state or region will vary, but they need to emerge from a long-range planning process that includes significant public participation. Typically gaining acceptance of a broad set of transportation goals is not difficult, however gaining consensus on the appropriate balance among inherently conflicting goals and objectives is the key challenge and focus of the planning and strategic resource allocation processes.

Performance-Based

Specific performance measures need to be identified for each policy goal and objective in order to define how goal achievement is going to be determined and monitored over time. Just as goals and objectives must be developed as part of an ongoing transportation planning process, performance measures related to those goals help evaluate and communicate the impacts and implications of different plan alternatives. Similarly in the strategic resource allocation and budgeting process, performance measures provide the criteria for analyzing and evaluating tradeoffs. Determining the appropriate number and type of performance measures at different levels of decision-making is a key challenge to operationalize this principle of good asset management. 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 performance-based programming are essential components of asset management and all rely on specification of performance measures that reflect key policy goals. A wide range of performance measures have been adopted by transportation agencies and the list of candidate measures below is just illustrative:

  • Level of service;
  • User costs;
  • Travel time reliability;
  • Crash rate, fatality rate, injury rate;
  • Incident response time;
  • Condition of key physical assets.
  • Mobil source emissions;
  • Wetland acreage;
  • Community cohesion;
  • Economic development; and
  • Life-cycle cost.
Analysis of Options and Tradeoffs

The essence of good planning is the analysis of options and tradeoffs. However, at the strategic resource allocation level this analysis needs to consider tradeoffs across all major investment categories including preservation, operations and capacity expansion. The system planning process is the most appropriate place for this comprehensive analysis to occur. Typical tradeoffs might include:

  • Tradeoffs among preservation, operations and capacity expansion expenditures and programs for achieving appropriate balance among all objectives;
  • Tradeoffs between passenger and freight mobility;
  • Tradeoffs among modal and intermodal options;
  • Tradeoffs among different geographic areas or functional systems;
  • Balancing safety, mobility, environmental and equity objectives.
Decisions Based on Merit and Quality Information

A key element of planning is the collection, management and analysis of a broad range of different data sets. While the planning function is often not the "owner" of some important data sets (e.g., facility condition and performance, safety, maintenance, financial, etc.), planning is often the function that integrates data from a wide range of sources and is a key customer for data from a wide variety of sources both within and outside an agency. Similarly, a wide variety of models and analysis tools are needed to do good planning and to establish a link to programming and ownership and maintenance of some of these tools also may be the responsibility of other units. Effective display and communication of data and technical analyses increasingly is viewed as critical as the analysis itself in supporting decision-making.

Monitoring and Feedback

Monitoring and reporting on system performance and conditions over time is often the responsibility of different organizational units within an operating agency. For real-time system conditions, an operations unit or traffic management center is typically responsible. Similarly, infrastructure condition is generally tracked by engineering, maintenance and district/regional offices. Nonetheless, the planning function is often involved in, if not leading, efforts to periodically report on system conditions and performance via annual performance reports or more frequent reporting via web sites, etc. In addition, in plan update cycles, programming and the budgeting process it is often the planning function that provides the feedback necessary to make adjustments based on actual versus predicted results and targets.

3.0 FHWA Office of Planning - Current and Future Activities in Support of Asset Management

The section describes current activities of the FHWA Office of Planning that are supportive of asset management, and identify potential additional opportunities for the future.

3.1 Current and Planned Activities

The Office of Planning is organized into two teams. The Planning Oversight and Stewardship Team provides transportation planning program assistance and guidance to the Division Offices in the administration of the various transportation planning and programming elements of the Federal-aid Highway Program. In addition, the team closely collaborates with FTA's Office of Systems Planning in developing and disseminating mechanisms and tools to increase the efficiency, timeliness, and consistency of Federal oversight and stewardship of statewide and metropolitan transportation planning processes. The Planning Capacity Building Team is focused on improving the state of the practice through the development and dissemination of best practice information, peer reviews and conferences and by supporting the development of improved planning methods and tools. Staff from both teams are involved in a number of initiatives that directly support incorporating asset management principles in the planning process. Again, it should be stressed that since there is a strong overlap between asset management principles and good planning practice, the issue is how the planning process can be strengthened to encourage both good planning and good asset management. A number of the key activities in the Office of Planning that support asset management are listed below.

Policy and Regulatory

Guidelines for state and metropolitan planning reflect a number of the principles of asset management including defining policy directions as a part of the long-range planning process based on extensive stakeholder involvement, use of performance measures, examination of the full range of alternatives including multimodal and intermodal solutions, and recognition of realistic funding constraints. Periodic planning reviews at both the state and metropolitan levels offer opportunities to assess an agency's current efforts in following guidelines and regulations and offer suggestions for further strengthening these efforts.

Technical Assistance and Information Dissemination

A wide range of efforts are being undertaken in the Office of Planning to provide technical assistance and information directly related to asset management including:

  • The Transportation Planning Capacity Building program focuses on a broad range of planning-related topics some of which are directly relevant to asset management. The program includes dissemination of best practices, development of case studies, peer reviews and exchanges, development of research and development priorities, training, etc. Among the topics covered that relate to asset management are:
    • Asset management;
    • Financial planning;
    • Freight planning;
    • Multimodal tradeoffs;
    • Performance measures;
    • Safety;
    • Data analysis and tools;
    • Management and operations;
    • Transportation and land use;
    • Cost estimation;
    • Programming process;
    • Environment; and
    • Public involvement.
  • Encouraging the broader use of data, modeling and the use of analytic tools including congestion management systems, pavement management systems, bridge management systems and other planning analysis packages and capabilities.
  • Providing support for various planning tools, GIS, and travel demand modeling.
  • Exploring the use of scenario analysis techniques and visualization tools as methods to support the definition and evaluation of system alternatives at the planning stage.
  • Public involvement including training and guidelines on the appropriate techniques to use in different situations.
Research and Technology

A number of areas of research and development undertaken by the Office of Planning support improved asset management including:

  • Fiscal constraint/financial planning;
  • GIS and remote sensing;
  • Land use and transportation/sustainability;
  • Linking planning and environment;
  • Multimodal/intermodal planning;
  • Operations and freight planning;
  • Performance-based planning/performance measures;
  • Planning oversight and stewardship;
  • Public involvement;
  • Safety and transportation planning;
  • Scenario planning;
  • Statewide and metropolitan planning;
  • Transportation planning capacity building program; and
  • Travel modeling.
Coordination

The Office of Planning is working with a number of other offices and program areas to develop coordinated strategies and joint efforts. A number of these initiatives can support better asset management and reflect the fact that a truly comprehensive planning process is the logical place to integrate issues and address tradeoffs that have often been addressed somewhat independently in separate functional areas.

  • Working with the Office of Travel Management to identify areas where closer coordination and joint efforts would be useful. For example, assessing the existing planning tools that evaluate ITS and operations-oriented strategies, identifying gaps in the current stable of associated planning-level analytical methods and tools, and defining a research program to address these gaps will promote a "more level playing field" in the consideration and prioritization of transportation capital and operations/management solutions.
  • Working with the Office of Safety, an initiative on safety conscious planning is focused on helping to integrate safety considerations more effectively into the planning process.
  • Working with the Office of Freight Management and Operations to better integrate freight planning in the transportation planning process. By better integrating freight into the transportation planning process, there will be an improvement in the public sector's ability to examine tradeoffs between multimodal freight capacity and operations improvements versus automobile-oriented capacity and operations improvements and to identify capacity expansion, operations, and preservations programs that can benefit both freight and passenger movement.
  • Working with the Office of Asset Management to begin to define the strong linkages between performance-based planning and asset management and identify opportunities to integrate these efforts.
  • Working with the Office of Federal Lands and Tribal Government transportation planning may also create opportunities to support improved asset management.
  • FHWA Office of Planning jointly develops regulations, guidance, and outreach with the FTA Office of Systems Planning to ensure effective, accountable administration of cooperative, continuing, and comprehensive statewide and metropolitan planning programs.

3.2 Potential Future Activities

Building on many activities that already are underway, including joint efforts with the Offices of Operations, Safety and Asset Management, the Office of Planning can take a number of steps to further strengthen the relationship between planning and asset management. Some of these activities include:

  • Working with the Office of Asset Management to develop a more consistent message that performance-based planning that examines key investment choices across all functional areas is a key building block of good asset management. Reducing the confusion that these similar sounding concepts are different will allow a more productive focus on the data, tool and institutional/decision-making gaps that need to be addressed to improve the state of the practice.
  • Including a focus on asset management in the Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program could provide a significant opportunity to both further define the relationship of asset management and planning and provide support to agencies involved in asset management initiatives. Similarly, a focus on performance measurement also will create an opportunity to make the connection between performance-based planning and asset management.
  • Identifying data and analysis tool gaps in any areas required to create more integrated planning including operations, safety, and freight and defining research programs to develop these gaps with other Offices as appropriate.
  • Through capacity building and other efforts, identify and promote the use of tools such as management systems as part of long-range planning, programming and budgeting efforts. Develop case studies of the use of tools such as HERS-ST where they have been used to support long-range plan updates, program-level economic impact assessments and other applications.
  • Document case studies at the state and MPO levels illustrating best practice with respect to asset management and planning. Identify lead states in reflecting asset management principles in long-range plan development efforts.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

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Updated: 11/08/2012