The National Academies

NCHRP 03-94 [Final]

Transportation Systems Operations and Management Guide

  Project Data
Funds: $475,725
Research Agency: PB Consult
Principal Investigator: Steve Lockwood
Effective Date: 2/20/2009
Completion Date: 5/1/2013

The objective of this research was to create a strategic guide to developing, evolving, and sustaining transportation system management and operations as a core business practice of state DOTs. This core business practice should be enabled by institutional mechanisms such as organizational structure, resource and workforce management, change management, and system performance monitoring. The guide should be suitable for publication by AASHTO.


The website is complete (https://www.aashtosomguidance.org/) and has been adopted by AASHTO. 

In their 2005 Strategic Plan, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) set the following objectives (among others):

  • Develop customer-driven delivery models in the areas of system operation and management;
  • Establish transportation as a vital element of national security;
  • Increase mobility by encouraging multimodal and intermodal solutions, policies, and technologies;
  • Establish safety as a national priority; and
  • Develop centers of excellence in safety, operations, finance, and freight.
Integral to all of these objectives is the need for transportation agencies to proactively manage and operate the transportation system in order to achieve a wide range of system goals. These goals go beyond congestion relief to encompass safety, freight movement, transportation security, and reliability of system performance. System management and operations is vital to sustaining the value to the public of investments in the transportation system and meeting public expectations. 
The AASHTO Publication “The 21st Century Operations-Oriented State DOT” presents a vision of how state DOTs can address transportation system management and operations and the characteristics of a comprehensive program for managing and operating the system. The major barriers to achieving this vision are institutional and there are additional barriers external to the DOT.  Research is needed to help a state DOT determine how proactively they should manage and operate the multimodal transportation system, often in collaboration with other agencies, and then chart a course to deal with the constraints they face. Such research would also help them continuously improve their core business practice of transportation system management and operations as customer expectations and new capabilities evolve. 
Task 1. Building upon the results of NCHRP Project 20-07/Task 238, review domestic and international literature related to transportation system management and operations. Compile a thorough bibliography that will be useful for developing text or references for the guide developed in Task 9. 
Task 2. Delineate and describe the operational functions (e.g., emergency response, event management, work zone management, arterial management) of a transportation system management and operations program. Develop a framework that relates operational functions, system elements, and benefits to travelers.  The descriptions and framework should provide a consistent approach to describing transportation system management and operations programs.
Task 3. Describe institutional mechanisms that are critical and enabling to successful transportation system management and operations. These mechanisms should address organizational structure, goal-setting, culture, policies, and procedures. Identify agencies that have developed innovative mechanisms for possible inclusion in the Task 8 focus groups.
Task 4. Categorize stakeholders external to a state DOT that should be considered in transportation system management and operations. Describe common and innovative practices for engaging and collaborating with those stakeholders. 
Task 5. Conduct telephone interviews with state DOT chief executives to identify the information needed to gain support for transportation system management and operations.   Interviewees should include agencies with varying levels of operations support.
Task 6. By April 30, 2009, submit a technical memorandum on Tasks 1 through 5, a proposed list of focus groups for Task 8, and a draft annotated outline for the guide to be developed in Task 9. Participate in a meeting with the project oversight panel to refine the materials.
Task 7. Present the status of the project and conduct workshops on key issues related to development of the guide at the June 14-17, 2009 meeting of the AASHTO Highway Subcommittee on Systems Operations and Management (SSOM) in Manchester, New Hampshire. Meet with the project oversight panel immediately afterwards to refine the plan for subsequent tasks.
Task 8. Conduct focus groups composed of state DOT staff and external stakeholders at several locations across the United States to determine the effectiveness of a wide range of institutional mechanisms and collaboration techniques.
Task 9. Develop a Transportation System Management and Operations Guide to support the advancement of transportation system management and operations as a core business practice. The guide should be a comprehensive resource at a strategic level, but should include a bibliography of technical references. The guide should facilitate: (a) achieving a commitment to proactive transportation system management and operations throughout the organization; (b) setting strategic agency operational goals; (c) conducting an agency self-assessment of program capabilities and performance;  (d) developing transportation system management and operations policies and procedures; (e) developing a process for continuous improvement of transportation system management and operation; (f) conducting benefits analysis of system alternatives, including representative benefits; and (g) collaborating with external stakeholders. The guide should include a concise executive summary that clearly makes the business case for transportation system management and operations, including information on benefits and costs of transportation system management and operations. The guide will be designed and developed for web, rather than paper, publication. At the conclusion of the project, all necessary materials to regenerate the website will be provided to NCHRP for transfer to AASHTO.
Task 10. Make presentations on the guide at the 2010 AASHTO SSOM meeting and the Fall 2010 AASHTO Annual Meeting. 
Task 11. Submit a final report that documents the entire research effort and includes the Task 9 guide and Task 10 presentation materials as appendices. All deliverables should be submitted in the format of the most current version of the Microsoft Office Suite that is in widespread use in the user community.

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