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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / March 2003

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-RD-03-015
Date: March 2003

Asset Management Leads the Way to Customer Satisfaction

by David Geiger

In 1999, with the establishment of its Office of Asset Management, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) made a strong commitment to bring Transportation Asset Management (TAM) to the Nation's transportation agencies. This remains a top priority for FHWA. As we have seen, TAM leads to reductions in the total life-cycle costs of providing transportation services, and improvements in safety, system reliability and condition, and financial performance.

TAM is a strategic approach to allocating resources-dollars, people, and data-for the preservation, operation, and management of our Nation's transportation infrastructure. What exactly does this mean? It's common sense. It's a way of thinking that enables agency leadership to comprehensively view the big picture before making decisions as to where specific resources should be deployed. With TAM, agency leaders will better know the landscape of their business and will be prepared to distribute resources so that the agency can maximize customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction may be measured via a number of different metrics to include value in dollars (i.e., return on investment), or other measures of performance.

The transportation community has made great strides in developing and utilizing management systems to make better decisions. However, in the past, when one investment option was compared to another, it was generally within the confines of a particular asset class. Comparisons across asset classes-for example, pavements versus structures-were rarely, if ever, made. TAM provides the approach and tools to make decisions that are the best from the total transportation system perspective.

FHWA's strategy for advancing TAM focuses on people, information, tools, and deployment. On the people front, we have paid particular attention to providing information and training on both Asset Management tools and comprehensive Asset Management. In terms of information, our office assists agencies in obtaining the data they need to make TAM-based decisions. Tools that support the comparison of investment options are critical to making TAM possible. Accordingly, we have developed and/or refined many of the technical and analytical components of TAM. For example, we developed a new management system for tunnels, and economics-based software packages to support program- and project-level decisions (see article, page 2). Finally, we serve as consultants to transportation agencies as they work to deploy TAM. We're committed to deployment because that's the only way to realize real-world benefits.

Although TAM takes place at the highest level of a transportation agency, the individual concepts and principles underlying this decision-making framework may be usefully applied at any level and to any decision affecting the transportation system. For example, FHWA has placed a major emphasis on applying TAM concepts and principles to system preservation (see article, page 5). When identifying and evaluating resource allocation options, preservation is among an agency's most important considerations. Pursuing a preventative maintenance strategy rather than waiting for roads to deteriorate before fixing them can extend the useful life of a pavement by many years at a considerably lower life-cycle cost than that of conventional pavement rehabilitation or reconstruction.

This is an exciting, yet challenging time for the transportation community. We have worked hard with our partners-particularly the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Transportation Research Board-to build the conceptual foundation for TAM. Working together we can make Asset Management a reality.

Dave Geiger is the Director of FHWA's Office of Asset Management.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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