The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(037)D [Final]

Measuring Performance Among State DOTs, Sharing Best Practices--Operations Performance Using Incident Response Time
[ NCHRP 20-24(037) (Measuring Performance among State DOTs: Sharing Good Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $75,000
Research Agency: University of Maryland
Principal Investigator: Tom Jacobs
Effective Date: 11/19/2009
Completion Date: 12/19/2010


The objective of this project was to conduct a comparison of state departments of transportation (DOTs) regarding operations-related performance measures and report on successful techniques employed by the leading agencies. As with earlier work conducted under NCHRP 20-24(37), this comparison included identification of high-performing organizations with respect to a selected set of key performance indicators and determination of the practices that these organizations have employed to achieve these results. The goal of the study was to enhance the performance of participating peer state DOTs by identifying and sharing good practices.

As in the previous comparison studies, the purpose was not to rank the participants, but to highlight top performing strategies. Anonymity is maintained for states providing the comparison data with the exception of the top performing states that are highlighted in the reporting of successful practices.


The contractor's final report has been delivered to AASHTO for their further use. 


Previous work by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has demonstrated the value of comparative performance measurement in three areas to date: Project Delivery, Smooth Pavements, and Safety. Each of these projects has involved compilation of detailed performance data for multiple DOTs, calculation of performance measures for each agency, composition of peer groups for comparative analysis, identification of the top tier of agencies with respect to the selected measures, and interviews to determine practices that may be related to exemplary performance.

The first comparison of on-time, on-budget capital project delivery performance project successfully demonstrated how the comparative process developed by NCHRP 20-24(37) is gathering user support as well as delivering timely feedback on best practices that have achieved successful results. The next comparative initiative, which was completed in April 2008, successfully demonstrated that states can benefit from comparative measures. This comparative study highlighted five states that have "smooth pavements" and what practical management methods and technical applications they are using to obtain smooth pavements. The third comparative measures effort is just completing on safety performance using the Fatalities Accident Reporting System data. This effort focused on ten state interviews to identify best practices in governance, budgeting, and technical methods that resulted in the reduction of fatalities.

This work has been well received by the transportation community and has resulted in the collection of a wealth of data and information to be shared among agencies. These successful endeavors created momentum for further interest in comparative performance measurement. This momentum can be continued to address another key concern of transportation officials: improving operational performance in the management of the nation’s highways.

DOT experience with increased volumes on our roads over the past two decades indicates that one of the most viable methods of improving mobility is to provide better real-time incident management – the faster an accident or breakdown is cleared, the sooner traffic resumes to normal flow. We intend to use incident response times to identify successful practices in operations activities of a state DOT. This performance indicator can highlight best practices in specific incident response techniques as well as organizational structures, relationships with partner organizations, and budgeting practices.

Effective incident response programs can make a significant improvement in the reliability of travel time, which is known to be of great importance to travelers. The operations performance comparative effort would use available state DOT data on incident response performance and provide a time series/cross-sectional analysis of incident response performance, which could be measured based on average, median or maximum incident response time, total incident duration or incident clearance time. Through cross-state comparison (factoring for urban and rural differences) and examination of changes in performance over time, the study would identify practices that can be instrumental in reducing incident durations, with associated benefits to travelers.


  1. Perform one or two conference calls with volunteer states (~30 states) to identify data requirements.
  2. Perform one conference call to confirm that each volunteer state can produce the required data conforming to the definitions and variables defined by the previous call(s).
  3. Each state will collect and submit the agreed-upon data to the consultant for compilation and analysis.
  4. Draft compilation of the metrics and analysis is to be provided to each of the volunteer states.
  5. Anonymity will be maintained using nondescript codes and the option will remain open for volunteer states to withdraw from the study at any time.
  6. States identified as lead performers will agree to disclose their identities for the purpose of determining Best Practices that contribute to superior performance results.
  7. At the AASHTO Spring Meeting in May 2010, a presentation of this project will be made to the SCOH and other interested Standing Committees to communicate the purpose of this project and the outcomes expected from this comparative performance measurement effort.
  8. Begin a detailed Best Practice Analysis of the top performing states. All participants will be surveyed for recommendations for improvements to data or process for future comparisons. The survey will include a question on the state’s congestion measures, if any. A final report will share survey findings with the performance results and be completed by the end of May 2010.
  9. Results of comparison will be shared at the 2010 AASHTO Highway Subcommittee on Systems Operations and Management meeting.

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