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Conditions and Performance Report
Chapter 11—Afterword - A View to the Future

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Since the earliest editions of this report were prepared, the original engineering standards perspective on transportation needs have evolved and matured along with the industries and institutions which attempt to address them. With those increasing capabilities come even greater expectations on the part of the traveling public, whether they be users of highways and transit for shopping, commuting, touring, or commercial purposes. The purpose of this chapter, in what might be considered as almost an appendage to the Conditions and Performance Report, is to raise those issues which the authors feel give an indication of the shortcomings and future advances in this endeavor to articulate for the American people the state of the Nation's highways, bridges, and transit systems.

Over time, we have continued to look at whether a more reliable, comprehensive, and useful assessment of these systems is a function of the tools that are available to assess them or the data that is collected for analysis or both. The resulting critiques have led us to new tools, refinement of tools and techniques, new questions, and new data needs. This chapter continues in that tradition to ask whether there are issues that this report should address more specifically, whether better tools should be developed to address these issues and whether additional data needs to collected.

Some of these aspects can also be considered limitations of the current report and therefore readers are well served to understand them so that the findings can be properly applied to answer questions of concern. We understand these limitations in the context of a "work in progress" and therefore encourage constructive dialogue as to how to address the limitations of the analyses presented in the future.

The issues are presented under the strategic planning framework adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, with implementation responsibility related to the highway and transit networks primarily facing the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The analyses results presented in this report are based on the data available to FHWA and FTA and on the analytical tools that have been developed to analyze these data. Analyses beyond the limits of the data and the capabilities of the analytical tools cannot be performed without further data collection and/or the development of more sophisticated analytical tools. This chapter addresses several issues that relate to the limitations imposed on this report by the current state of the practice in data collection and in the development of suitable tools for analysis of the data.