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 Safety 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 Safety 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.
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.
This section discusses the relationship between safety and the transportation asset management framework and principles described above.
Transportation safety programs have traditionally encompassed the "4E's" of Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Emergency Response. While state DOT safety offices have primary responsibility for the engineering aspect of safety (geometric design, traffic control, barriers, signs, etc.), they work in coordination with a variety of other agencies - state highway safety offices, local public works departments, departments of motor vehicles, law enforcement, emergency services, hospitals - on implementation of broader safety programs.
The AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) was developed with participation from a broad set of stakeholders and represents a comprehensive approach to improving transportation safety. The Plan describes strategies in six key areas - drivers, vulnerable users, vehicles, highways, emergency medical services, and safety management. Within each of these areas, there is a mix of engineering, enforcement, education and emergency response strategies, as summarized below.
NCHRP Report 500: Guidance for Implementation of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan presents specific objectives and strategies for addressing different types of highway crashes (e.g. head-on collisions) or factors which cause crashes (aggressive driving, unlicensed drivers). NCHRP Report 501: Integrated Management Process to Reduce Highway Injuries and Fatalities Statewide provides an overall framework and management process for coordinating and integrating safety programs, independent of where they reside within a governmental organization. NCHRP Synthesis Report 322: Safety Management Systems describes current agency practices and reviews two model state SMS initiatives.
The three transportation investment areas discussed in Section 1 and presented in Figure 1 provide a framework for state DOT's to examine where their transportation resources are going and how different investment mixes affect multiple objectives, including safety, congestion relief, economic development/access to markets, environmental stewardship, and preservation of infrastructure investment. Safety is viewed as integral to all program areas; DOT's understand that all projects to be developed and delivered, whether operational, maintenance-related or capital, will be designed with safety in mind and will in fact contribute to overall system safety. Each of the three investment areas have a safety component which is considered in the identification, evaluation and selection of options:
Preservation actions keep infrastructure in safe, serviceable condition. Road surfaces with rutting, major distresses (e.g. potholes) or low skid resistance can adversely impact safety; pavement repair, resurfacing and rehabilitation activities reduce the likelihood of crashes related to road surface conditions. Bridge maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement programs keep important safety features (bridge railings) in good repair and reduce risks of structural failure.
Operations includes actions to maintain the safe and efficient flow of traffic. A wide range of operations strategies are implemented to address safety objectives. These include geometric improvements, access management, traffic control, coordination with enforcement activities for installation and monitoring of red light cameras; real-time motorist warning systems at intersections; road weather management; traveler information and roadway reports; physical safety improvements such as rumble strips; and deployment of guardrails, impact attenuators, lighting, signs, signals, and pavement markings.
Preservation and Operations investments are frequently combined - for example, many agencies implement improvements such as shoulder paving, slope flattening, installation of guardrails, etc. in conjunction with resurfacing projects in order to improve safety and operational efficiency.
Capacity Expansion investments offer state DOTs the opportunity to utilize safety best practices and examine design options with respect to potential safety benefits. Safety-related design considerations also may include provisions for emergency response and enforcement (e.g. pull-off locations for HOV lane enforcement). Alternatives for providing instrumentation to support better traffic management and operations within the project scope may also be considered.
Work zone safety is an important consideration within each of these areas.
From the perspective of improving transportation safety, there is a much broader set of investments that should be undertaken to achieve the goal of reducing crashes and associated injuries and fatalities, consistent with the AASHTO SHSP.
Figure 2 presents a view of the strategic resource allocation process within the safety area. In this figure, investment areas are defined based on the 4E's - engineering, education, enforcement and emergency response. Within and across each of these investment areas, options and tradeoffs can be considered to provide the mix of actions that achieves the greatest reduction in injuries and fatalities. Such tradeoffs can be considered for an overall safety program, or for a specific goal area. For example, the goal of improving safety for pedestrians can be addressed through engineering actions such as properly designed pedestrian crossings, highway user education to raise awareness of pedestrian safety, enforcement for both motorists and pedestrians, and improved emergency response.
Each of the four safety investment areas includes actions to reduce fatalities and injuries systemwide ("sustained safety"), and actions targeted at specific locations or corridors to lower the incidence of crashes or reduce risks. In this figure, DOTs have direct responsibility for the engineering component, which encompasses the preservation, operations and new capacity categories discussed above. They cooperate with other partners for education, enforcement, and emergency response activities.
Figure 2 Strategic Resource Allocation Process for Safety
This section describes how each of the asset management principles outlined in Section 1.2 can be applied to safety.
Transportation safety programs by definition respond to the policy objective of preventing crashes and associated injuries and fatalities. Policies can also be established for specific safety program elements or emphasis areas; for example prevention of crashes involving pedestrians or bicyclists; prevention of crashes involving trucks.
Safety objectives are easily translated into quantitative performance measures. Most commonly, numbers (or rates per vehicle mile of travel) of crashes, injuries and fatalities are tracked, along with a variety of associated data to help understand causal factors:
The condition of safety physical assets (guardrails, crash cushions, pavement markings, signals, etc.) is also tracked by many agencies to determine maintenance and rehabilitation needs.
A key principle of asset management is the analysis of options and tradeoffs. For the safety area, options and tradeoffs can be considered in two different contexts - within a statewide, regional or local safety program seeking to reduce injuries through a variety of strategies, and within a broader transportation program where safety is one of several objectives being considered.
The allocation of available safety resources for different types of safety activities should reflect an analysis of the expected payoff from each investment with respect to established performance measures. Considerable research has been done to better understand the impacts of safety features, projects and programs. Analysis methods for some types of safety investments (e.g. intersection improvements) are more tractable, and are therefore further developed than for others (e.g. public awareness campaigns). Many agencies make use of benefit-cost analysis techniques to prioritize spot safety projects.
The States are implementing the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan and many have established themselves as a Lead State to implement and evaluate safety problem countermeasures. This evaluation not only requires proper evaluation methods such as before and after studies, but needs more detailed information about the type, location and performance of the asset.
NCHRP Report 501 presents an integrated safety management process that involves consideration of options and tradeoffs for determining an effective combination of strategies to achieve safety goals. This process includes steps to identify emphasis areas and specific objectives within each emphasis area, evaluate potential strategies for achieving the objectives, and optimization of strategies given a budget constraint. The report presents supporting analytical methodologies that address the following questions:
Options and tradeoffs related to safety investments also need to be considered in the context where program resources are being allocated to achieve a broad set of transportation objectives. Ideally, safety best-practices are integral to transportation design, construction, operations and maintenance. However there are many situations in which analysis is warranted to assist with both program and project-level tradeoff questions:
The principle of using solid, credible information to make good decisions about resource allocation and strategy selection is fundamental to transportation safety. While the need to improve the collection, accuracy and integration of safety information is widely recognized, information on crashes, their characteristics and causes is routinely collected, analyzed and used to identify emphasis areas for safety programs. Research and analysis on the effectiveness of different types of safety strategies has been ongoing for decades, and this research is used to identify appropriate countermeasures and conduct benefit-cost analysis.
Key sources of national safety data include:
New technologies for state and local crash and law enforcement data collection are available to improve the accuracy and efficiency of data collection. The FHWA-sponsored Traffic and Criminal Software package (TrACS) system being distributed by Iowa DOT is an important example.
A number of tools exist for integrating safety with design and engineering, including the Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM), which helps highway planners and designers estimate the safety impacts of design decisions, and the Resurfacing Safety Resource Allocation Program (RSRAP), a software tool that optimizes system-wide safety benefits across a program of resurfacing projects within a user-specified budget constraint.
The transportation community is also recognizing the need to apply asset management principles to safety physical assets, such as signs, signals, pavement markings, detectors, impact attenuators, lighting, and guardrails. As a subset of transportation infrastructure, these physical assets should be managed to meet policy goals and objectives most cost-effectively. Research into safety management systems includes the development of inventory and analysis tools for evaluating the tradeoffs between preserving safety assets (e.g., sign repair and pavement markings), operating safety assets (e.g., real-time monitoring of impact attenuators), and expanding safety assets (e.g. provision of guardrails).
Continuous collection and analysis of crash, injury and fatality data is integral to a performance-based highway safety program. This information is used to track progress towards established targets, and to assess the overall effectiveness of safety programs. At a June 2003 AASHTO Highway Safety Leadership Summit, a new national effort was launched to lower the highway fatality rate by one-third to 1.0 per 100 million VMT by 2008. Monitoring of progress will provide essential feedback along the way.
Monitoring of safety strategy effectiveness also provides important information that can be used to make course corrections in safety programs, document lessons learned and establish best practices to guide future efforts. The Integrated Safety Management Process described in NCHRP Report 501 defines an explicit responsibility for evaluating the impacts of safety programs; Appendix D of that report provides examples of impact measures. The NCHRP Report 500 Implementation Guides include evaluation criteria for each safety strategy that can be used to design a monitoring program.
The purpose of this section is to describe the current safety activities of FHWA that are relevant to asset management, and identify potential activities for the future. Asset management is not a new or separate function, but a set of best practice business principles to be integrated into existing processes. Section 3.1 discusses FHWA Safety initiatives that reflect asset management principles. Section 3.2 describes how the Office of Safety is adopting a new resource allocation process that mirrors the core asset management principles. Finally, Section 3.3 describes potential future activities for asset management and safety.
FHWA is already conducting or planning several activities that reflect the asset management principles discussed throughout this paper. The following sections highlight the key safety-related asset management activities in the areas of policy, technical assistance, research, technology deployment, and coordination.
Safety-Conscious Planning: The 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) explicitly included safety as a planning factor to be considered in development of metropolitan and statewide transportation plans and programs. In response to this legislation, FHWA has been working with its partners to define and support a more proactive approach to safety planning and to integrate safety considerations throughout the transportation planning process.
SAFETEA: The transportation reauthorization bill calls for the establishment of a performance-based highway safety program. This program is intended to provide flexibility to apply funds to where they will be achieve the greatest payoff.
AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan: FHWA has worked in coordination with AASHTO and other partners to support the development and implementation of this comprehensive plan for improving safety.
Vital Few: Safety is one of FHWA's three "Vital Few" areas of focus (the other two are Congestion Mitigation and Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining). FHWA's stated goal is "to continually improve highway safety by reducing the number of highway fatalities and injuries including large trucks".
USDOT Target: USDOT has established the goal of reducing the national highway fatality rate to 1.0 per 100 million VMT by 2008. FHWA has identified three emphasis areas, each with a specific fatality reduction target - roadway departures, intersections, and pedestrians.
National Intersection Safety Agenda: FHWA has worked in collaboration with partner agencies to develop a national agenda for improving intersection safety.
FHWA provides technical assistance to its partners and provides information through the Internet, training, and puNCHRPtions. These activities help transportation agencies to develop strategic approaches to safety investments and provide needed information to support decision making.
Research and technology is an important part of FHWA's activities. These activities include studies of safety countermeasure effectiveness, and development of methods and tools for analysis of safety impacts, and benefit-cost analysis to improve resource allocation decisions:
The Office of Safety R&D has lead on research, development or coordination of many of the above topics.
FHWA safety activities involve joint efforts across multiple offices to ensure a consistent, coordinated approach. Examples include:
The FHWA Office of Safety has begun implementing the performance-based approach, as reflected by asset management principles, in their own internal resource allocation process. Unlike a state DOT, the primary resources to be allocated at the FHWA Office of Safety are staff and program dollars, instead of capital and maintenance expenditures. This section describes how the current activities of the Office of Safety relate to each of the core principles of asset management.
The FHWA Office of Safety is initiating strategies driven by five guiding principles for the office. They are, briefly:
The U.S. DOT's goal is to reduce fatalities to 1.0 per 100 million VMT by 2008. FHWA's goals are by 2007 to reduce fatalities by 10% for roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian crashes. The performance-based approach is shifting the Office of Safety activities from a first-come, first-served policy to concentrating resources on where the safety impacts are likely to be greatest, and then make merit-based investments in programs and projects regardless of ownership or functional classification of the facility.
The primary resources to be allocated at the Office of Safety are staff and program dollars. The purpose of analyzing options and tradeoffs is to evaluate the relative benefits and costs of investments among the different program areas. In a document titled "Linking Key Process Information to Strategic Planning," the Office of Safety has identified its key processes and subprocesses as investment categories. These are:
Besides tradeoffs among the investment categories listed above, the Office of Safety and the Office of Safety RD&T direct and analyze the investment of FHWA safety research resources. Initially, 17 research areas were identified in a plan for investment. These have been reduced to 4 high-impact areas. The goal is to invest research dollars most productively on areas with problems and gaps with the greatest payoffs.
All staff has reported expenses and time projections, mapped against each of the Office of Safety processes defined above. This data is helping the Office of Safety understand current resource allocation, in order to assess whether the FHWA safety goal can be achieved given the distribution of resources and identify changes in the resource allocation. The current resource allocation can also be compared to the guiding principles to see if resources are allocated appropriately to meet agency and office goals.
The Office of Safety works with other agencies to collect data on safety performance measures (e.g., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, state DOTs) to assess whether the U.S DOT is on track to meeting its 1.0 by 2008 safety goal, and whether FHWA is meeting its goals for the "Vital Few" safety area. In addition, the staff reporting of expenses and hours, matched against the processes outlined above, provides accountability for whether resources are actually spent as planned.
The Office of Safety recently volunteered to serve as the Headquarters pilot office for Managerial Cost Accounting. This effort is expected to allow HSA to further refine and formalize the process of tracking expenditures against achievement of safety goals and objectives.
Building on the activities that are already underway, the Office of Safety will be taking a number of actions to further strengthen safety through the application of asset management principles, including:
 Transportation AssetManagement 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 buffeter law: e.g., the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) data that are reported by state DOTs.
 AASHTO - NCHRP Project 17-18, "Lifelines", Volume 1, Number 1, March, 2004,