The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 48-07 [Active (Synthesis)]

Investment Prioritization Methods for Low Volume Roads
[ NCHRP 20-05 (Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 5/9/2016 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Jo Allen Gause
Research Agency: EDR Group
Principal Investigator: Glen Weisbrod
Effective Date: 9/15/2016
Fiscal Year: 2016

Final Scope

Current Transportation Asset Management (TAM) practices for low volume roads typically use asset condition, traffic, and safety metrics to prioritize the allocation of funds for preservation, maintenance, repair, and replacement projects. In theory, these metrics permit agency asset managers to direct scarce available funding to those projects that will result in the maximum net improvement to network performance. However, they do not fully measure economic, social, and environmental impacts of individual projects.

A recent study by the Iowa DOT investigated the use of Social Return on Investment (SROI) which takes a holistic view of the economic, environmental, and social impact of low volume road projects. The study used SROI to justify funding the replacement of a bridge that carried an annual average daily traffic (AADT) of 80 over a competing project to replace a bridge that carried 800 AADT because the lower volume bridge serviced a greater area of corn and soy bean acreage and eliminated a longer detour for heavy vehicles that could not cross the weight limit posted bridge. The use of a more holistic return on investment methodology creates the ability to better articulate the outcome of the decision-making process to stakeholders. SROI is merely one metric that extends the capability of the agency to make asset improvement funding decisions. There are many other metrics available in the literature and potentially in use by transportation agencies.

The purpose of this synthesis is to document current practices used by transportation agencies to make investment decisions about low volume roads. This synthesis will investigate metrics and considerations used by agencies for prioritization of low volume road investment that include economic, social, and environmental impacts.

Information gathered will include (but is not limited to):
• Agency definitions of low volume roads and percentage of system categorized as low volume roads;
• Current investment prioritization methods including quantitative and qualitative factors;
• Processes, procedures, and examples that integrate economic, social, and environmental metrics into the decision making process;
• Databases, software, and other tools used to aid investment prioritization decisions; and
• Examples of successful agency outreach efforts to communicate low volume road investment decisions to stakeholders.

Information will be gathered by literature review, a survey of state DOTs, Canadian provincial transportation agencies, and federal land management agencies. The consultant will conduct follow up interviews with selective agencies to provide case examples. The literature review will include both international and domestic experiences with this topic. Gaps in knowledge will be noted along with research needs to address these gaps. 

TRB Staff
Jo Allen Gause
Phone: 202-334-3826
Email: jagause@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel:  September 15, 2016, Washington, DC
Teleconference with Consultant: October 6, 2016, 11:00 a.m., EST
Second Panel: July 13, 2017, Washington, DC

Topic Panel
Anita K. Bush, Nevada DOT
Asif Faiz, World Bank (Ret)
Eric M. Frempong, Maryland State Highway Administration
Samuel Labi, Purdue University
David R. Luhr, Washington State DOT
Mitch Rasmussen, Minnesota DOT
Aung Gye, Federal Highway Administration
Nadarajah "Siva" Sivaneswaran, Federal Highway Administration
Nancy M. Whiting, Transportation Research Board

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