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Publication Number: HRT-11-014
Date: June 2011
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How can data integration improve the transportation asset management (TAM) process in your agency? What important steps need to be followed? How can you overcome potential obstacles that can hinder the process? Answers to these and many other questions can be found in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) newly updated Data Integration Primer (Pub. No. FHWA-IF-10-019).
TAM provides a strategic and coordinated approach to managing infrastructure assets over the course of their entire life cycle, thus improving performance, increasing safety, and providing greater value to the community. With an asset management approach, optimal decisions on what would be the most effective mix of maintaining, repairing, renewing, or replacing infrastructure components are based on accurate data, economic analysis, and sound engineering. Decisions are also supported by performance measures and performance-based goals.
Useful and reliable data are central to the TAM process. Data inputs are required to evaluate and monitor the condition and performance of an agency’s asset inventory, develop performance objectives and measures, identify cost-effective investment strategies, and conduct asset value assessments. It is critical that the data be readily accessible and comparable, making data integration and data sharing vital components of TAM.
Data integration is the method by which multiple data sets from a variety of sources can be combined or linked to provide a more complete picture of what the data mean, and how they can be used to make informed decisions. For example, an agency’s structures team may need access to information about the performance of advanced materials in use on an aging bridge to evaluate the best design and construction method for upgrading the structure, while considering the impact of the decision on traffic and user costs. The data required to analyze the most favorable scenario may exist separately in the agency’s pavement, bridge, and traffic operations units’ databases.
“Being able to share this information is critical to the success of a transportation asset management program,” said Vicki Miller of FHWA’s Office of Asset Management. Agencies that combine or link their multiple databases can also reduce data collection and management costs and improve the accuracy and timeliness of the resulting information.
The updated Primer features an expanded section on “How to Integrate Data.” Covered in this section are such steps as conducting a requirements analysis to develop criteria for the best integration strategy and preparing a detailed implementation plan once the most effective data integration alternative has been selected. Also covered are database design and specifications and software and hardware requirements.
A newly expanded section on “Challenges to Data Integration” offers States guidance on how to overcome problems such as bad data, insufficient storage capacity, lack of data management expertise, and lack of cooperation from staff. Perspective is offered from the early data integration experiences of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), which found that to overcome challenges, “upper management had to support the business objectives of the project and the creation of a new system to meet the objectives.” A pilot data integration rollout program in three counties in Virginia (rural, urban, and mixed rural/urban) allowed VDOT to fine tune its data collection processes and technologies before expanding the program to the rest of the State. As another tool to assist transportation agencies, FHWA offers a free 1-day Data Integration Workshop. The workshop covers the basics of TAM and data integration techniques, including discussing data needs and issues related to pavement and bridge management, safety, and economic modeling.
The Primer is available to download at www.fhwa.dot.gov/asset/dataintegration/if10019/dip00.cfm. For more information on data integration or the Data Integration Workshop, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/asstmgmt/diindex.cfm or contact Vicki Miller at FHWA, 202-366-2173 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
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