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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 75 · No. 4 > Guest Editorial

January/February 2012
Vol. 75 · No. 4

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-002

Guest Editorial

Focusing on Performance Management

Photo. Headshot of Peter J. Stephanos. The highway system in the United States is critical to the Nation's vitality, economic growth, and overall well-being. This system, which serves billions of trips by highway users annually, is recognized as one of the preeminent roadway networks in the world. The National Highway System, a critical component of that network, stretches more than 160,000 route miles (256,000 kilometers) around the country. It includes the interstate system as well as other routes essential to national defense, mobility, and commerce. Although the system represents only 4 percent of the Nation's highway mileage, it supports nearly 45 percent of travel on U.S. roadways.

For this system to continue to serve the Nation and the global economy, it must provide for safe, efficient, and effective travel. Achieving this outcome has become a greater challenge today as the system ages and highway agencies with dwindling financial resources are stretched to maintain and upgrade it. Recognizing this challenge, many States, local agencies, and planning organizations have embraced the concepts of performance management. They have established clear performance goals for the system and are using sound performance metrics to drive their investment and strategic decisionmaking.

State department of transportation publications, such as Washington State's Measures, Markers and Mileposts (The Gray Notebook) report; Missouri's Tracker report and tool; and San Francisco, CA's long-range plan, Transportation 2035 Plan for the San Francisco Bay Area: Change in Motion, are all examples of deliberate efforts to plan, program, and track highway investments and strategies to achieve desired performance outcomes.

This same commitment to performance management is also critical today at the national level to ensure that performance outcomes are achieved for the National Highway System and other significant roadway systems. Applying performance management concepts at the national level will challenge Federal, State, and local agencies to work together to invest in the highway system to achieve national performance expectations. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, formed under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act -- A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), recognized this need and challenge by stating, "Developing performance standards and integrating them into a performance-driven regimen that would be applicable to all States and metropolitan areas will be a challenge since local conditions are so different, but the rewards will be worth the effort."

To overcome these challenges, the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration are partnering with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, American Public Transportation Association, and other organizations to take the necessary steps today to bridge gaps that are preventing transportation agencies from managing performance effectively at a national level. These steps include the development of consistent performance metrics, new performance modeling tools, improved information and management systems, new benefit/cost methodologies and tools, more cost-effective and reliable equipment for monitoring performance, and improved analytical and reporting tools.

Together, the completion of these efforts will enable Federal, State, and local agencies and planning organizations to work collaboratively to optimize available resources in a manner that maximizes performance outcomes for the highway system. These initiatives will enable the agencies to speak collectively, as a Nation, on how the transportation community can improve and sustain the performance of the U.S. highway system.

Peter J. Stephanos, P.E.
Director, Office of Pavement Technology
Federal Highway Administration

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