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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / September 2006

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-029
Date: September 2006

Highway Investment Software Showcased at National Conference

The goal of getting the most out of their highway investment brought State transportation department representatives and others from across the country together at the National Highway Economic Requirements System-State Version (HERS-ST) Technical Conference. Held May 23-25, 2006, in San Antonio, Texas, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) conference featured a hands-on workshop on using the HERS-ST software, showcased case studies from State users, and introduced the new 4.0 version of the software. "Looking at the future, we'd like every State to consider asset management when making decisions about highway planning. HERS-ST is one asset management tool to help achieve that goal," says HERS-ST Program Manager Robert Mooney of FHWA.

HERS-ST 4.0 gives users expanded capabilities for evaluating the relationship between highway investment and system condition, performance, and user cost levels. The software simulates future highway condition and performance levels and identifies deficiencies using engineering principles. HERS-ST then simulates the selection of improvements for implementation, incorporating economic criteria and benefit-cost analysis. The program's analysis considers travel time, safety, vehicle operating costs, emissions, and highway agency costs, among other factors.

New features in HERS-ST 4.0 include the ability to consider local cost factors. Users can now input cost factors on a section by section basis, taking into account that the cost of construction might be higher in one city of the State than in another, for example. The 4.0 version also has an Intermediate Year feature, which allows a user to plan for the construction of a new highway facility midway through the State's defined planning cycle. Another new feature is an updated graphical user interface. The more flexible interface allows users to choose exactly what data output they want to see, as well as to turn off output that is not needed.

The workshop provided States an opportunity to share their experiences in using HERS-ST as a decision tool for analyzing highway needs. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), for example, has been using its own modified version of HERS-ST, known as HERS-IN, for 7 years. "We use it to analyze long range improvements over a 30-year period, as well as to evaluate projects in our long range plan and to obtain benefit-cost information," says Roy Nunnally of INDOT. "It's a very good tool that we rely on to perform systems analysis Statewide." Some of the features Indiana had added to its modified version, such as the Intermediate Year feature, were incorporated into the HERS-ST 4.0 version. "With the new features, we are planning on switching to HERS-ST 4.0 in the near future," says Nunnally.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), meanwhile, started using its own customized version of the HERS-ST prototype in 1998, later upgrading to the newer versions of the software. "Currently our primary focus is on using HERS-ST for congestion management, including updating performance measures for managing congestion," says Rich Arnold of ODOT.

FHWA's HERS-ST technical conference introduced the new 4.0 version of the software.
FHWA's HERS-ST technical conference introduced the new 4.0 version of the software.

States that have started using the software since the conference include Idaho, bringing the total number of State users up to 20. Ten additional States are investigating the possibility of incorporating HERS-ST into their decisionmaking process. Several conference attendees came to learn more about HERS-ST, as their States look at using the program in the future. "We expect to start using the software by next spring for asset management and corridor planning," says Scott Rogers of the Vermont Agency of Transportation. "It will help us in looking at funding allocations for programs and in considering user costs when making planning decisions. The conference was a fantastic opportunity to learn more and to talk to other States about what they are doing."

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) is also considering using HERS-ST. "It was helpful to attend the conference and especially to hear from other States that are using it," says Cynthia Drake of Hawaii DOT.

HERS-ST Version 4.0 can be downloaded from the HERS-ST Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/asstmgmt/hersindex.cfm. The site includes an overview of the software and a user's guide. Site visitors also have the opportunity to join the HERS-ST User's Group, which offers information and support. For more information about HERS-ST, contact Robert Mooney at FHWA, 202-366-4657 (fax: 202-366-9981; email: robert.mooney@fhwa.dot.gov).

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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