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Utah Department of Transportation

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has developed a robust GIS-based analytic database to support performance-based investment decisions by modeling scenarios for the Utah Statewide Transportation Plan. Over the course of the past three years, UDOT has developed a repository for GIS data with various query and analytic tools that contains thousands layers of GIS data. This database allows UDOT planners, and other stakeholders, model the impacts of planned roads on the environment, travel demand, safety and other factors. To assess various investment scenarios, UDOT developed five categories of performance measures:

Currently under development are measures for investments in various modes (e.g., transit, non-motorized transportation, freight), as well as non-traditional measures of performance outcomes (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, land use, or access to transit).

With these capabilities in place the Statewide Long Range Plan is now being updated using a statewide planning model for the first time. The robust data sharing and modeling tools of this newly developed analytic database is enabling better coordination and collaboration of planned transportation investments with MPOs and other stakeholders. The goal is to support a decision-making process that is based on agreed-upon theories and supported by evidence.

Utah's current core planning documents and performance reports include:

Visioning

UDOT uses a visioning process to ensure that the transportation planning process looks beyond simply addressing highway capacity and design standards to consider community issues and values. As part of the visioning process, UDOT consults with the public to describe a long-term vision for the state highway system. The vision is based less on data analysis and more on community values. To develop a vision, UDOT worked with rural communities to develop community transportation plans that prioritized transportation needs and categorized those needs into short-term needs and long-term desires. These community plans then inform corridor studies that are used to define projects for the long-range transportation plan and to refine planning-level cost estimates.

Long Range Planning

UDOT's Department of Systems Planning and Programming relies on performance data to inform and assess computer models of various transportation investment scenarios. To prioritize future system needs UDOT models various funding alternatives. Based on those results, UDOT develops an optimal allocation of available funds into two main categories of preservation and safety and mobility. Funding for preservation and safety expenses are then further categorized into spending across six sub-categories over three phases. Performance measures for preservation as well as specific system preservation projects for the next ten years are listed in UDOT's System Preservation Plan.

UDOT's System Preservation Plan uses computerized inventory preservation databases to monitor assets and predict their degradation. The asset management process conducts a cross-asset analysis to set asset budgets, a statewide analysis to set regional budgets, and a regional analysis to set recommended projects that have the highest benefit/cost ratios. The process then harmonizes projects to take advantage of scheduling and location synergies. Quantitative goals are set for pavement preservation, bridge preservation, and maintenance levels and inspections are conducted regularly. The result is a ten-year list of preservation projects intended to maintain the system at targeted performance levels.

UDOT's Long Range Transportation Plan 2007-2030 addresses only rural mobility projects. To identify specific projects, UDOT engineers assess the feasibility of potential "widening" projects and then develop composite scores based on established needs-based criteria to determine investment priorities. The criteria used for this prioritization analysis included daily traffic, truck percentage, safety data, traffic volume to capacity index, highway functional class, and historic growth. Funding for rural interchanges and passing/climbing lanes are funded as a percentage of capacity funds and are not compared to corridor widening projects.

Once the transportation projects to be completed in rural Utah are defined, UDOT then models the impact of those investments on mobility and system preservation.

Programming

To update the STIP, the Utah Transportation Commission determines priorities and funding levels of projects in the state transportation system annually based on prioritization of needs provided by the Department. To determine priorities they use a Decision Support System (DSS), a data-driven analysis of the relative strengths of the capacity projects proposed in the first phase of the Unified Plan. Each project receives a score based on functional classification of the facility, current and projected future traffic volumes, truck traffic, and safety benefits. The system then ranks the list of projects using these objective criteria to assist the UTC in deciding which projects to fund and add from the long-range plan into the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

Implementation

UDOT monitors its ability to let and construct projects on schedule.

Reporting

UDOT produces an annual performance report that is submitted to the UTC for approval. The report summarizes transportation challenges, explains progress towards UDOT's strategic goals, identifies specific performance targets for the year, and recognizes accomplishments of the previous year. Specific goals and measures identifies in the report are described in the Table 17.
Table 17. UDOT Annual Performance Report Goals and Targets

Strategic Goal Goal Area Target
Take Care of What We Have Bridge Maintenance Have no more than ten percent of the bridge system rated in "poor" condition and have action plans in place to repair or replace each bridge when needed.
Snow and Ice Control UDOT's target grade for state maintained roads is an A-.
Make the System Work Better Traveler Information Increase the use of information provided from CommuterLink and 511.
Incident Management Clear incidents in the following time frames:
  • Non-injury and minor injury crashes - 30 minutes or less
  • Crashes involving serious injury - 60 minutes or less
  • Incidents involving fatalities - 2 hours or less
Demand Management
  • Promote cost-effective, reliable transportation choices to help reduce traffic congestion.
  • Support Gov. Huntsman's goal to improve energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020.
  • Provide transportation resources to promote positive travel habits that help improve air quality.
Improve Safety Safety Reduce fatalities by 2% each year.
Increase Capacity Mobility Provide a level of service of at least "C" on rural highways (mostly stable flow) and of "D" on urban streets (high density but stable flow).

Conclusion

Utah planners are excited about advances in their modeling tools and analytic capabilities. They see potential to use those tools to do programmatic environmental mitigation and improve the coordination of planning with MPO, non-profit, and Federal partners. UDOT is still early in the process of adopting performance-based planning processes. They still struggle to apply the performance measures and planning tools that have been so successful at the planning level to the programming of specific projects. This is due in part to the limitations on the level of detail of UDOT's modeling tools, but also to the presence of existing decision-making tools that have not been displaced. Another area where UDOT has yet to fully apply performance measures is in public outreach. Over the long term, UDOT would like to see groups that specialize in public outreach, such as Vision Utah, use UDOT's analytic database to merge modeling and visioning and combine land use planning with transportation planning.

Finally, UDOT's planners do not welcome the prospect of Federally established performance measures. They would, however, value national-level impetus to push planning towards performance-based decision-making processes. They believe that the Federal government should endorse the use of performance measures and support data collection and management efforts.

Observations and Insights

Updated: 09/15/2011
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