Budget constraints and continued public demand for transportation services put pressure on state departments of transportation (DOTs) to “do more with less.” In some cases, this has led to deferral or other changes in activities to maintain and preserve surface transportation facilities and equipment, and consequently to deterioration of current performance, accelerated aging and deterioration, and reduced service life for pavements, bridges, and other system components. Transportation professionals recognize these consequences and can forecast both their severity and the levels of maintenance and preservation effort that would optimize the public’s return on their transportation system investment.
Experience in other areas of public policy suggests that improving transportation agencies’ ability to communicate effectively with stakeholders can enhance public understanding of the consequences of deferring maintenance and preservation effort and help decision makers facing difficult resource-allocation choices. The objective of this research was to develop guidance that state DOTs and other transportation agencies can use to develop and implement strategies for communicating the role and importance of maintenance and asset-preservation in sustaining highway system performance.
The research team reviewed literature and current practices for communicating the importance of system maintenance and preservation in DOTs and a range of fields facing facility management issues similar to those of DOTs. Subsequent analysis focused on (a) how such entities identify and characterize their stakeholders, develop communication strategies, and create and refine messages; (b) communications strategies, media, and communications methods used; and (c) criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the communication. Based on their analysis of effective strategies, the team described methods that can be used to create messages (such as surveys or focus groups, for example) about highway system maintenance and preservation for stakeholders and developed specific examples that can serve as models or templates a DOT can use to communicate about their own particular situation. The reults of the study are documented in a guide to formulating an effective strategy for communicating the importance of highway maintenance and preservation, criteria and methods for evaluating the effectiveness of a communication strategy, and adjusting a strategy if necessary and ensure its effectiveness. The guide has been published as NCHRP Report 742: Communicating the Value of Preservation: A Playbook.