The National Academies

NCHRP 07-21 [Active]

Asset Management Guidance for Traffic Control Devices, Barriers, and Lighting

  Project Data
Funds: $550,000
Staff Responsibility: B. Ray Derr
Research Agency: Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Nancy Lefler
Effective Date: 4/10/2013
Completion Date: 12/9/2015

The objective of this research is to develop asset management guidance for selected categories of traffic and safety assets that are owned and maintained by an agency. The selected categories are signs, traffic signals (including beacons, flashers, and ramp meters), markings, barrier systems (including guardrails, end treatments, and impact attenuators), and lighting. Additional emphasis will be placed on asset management processes, procedures, and tools that will help DOTs to operate their traffic signal systems at maximum efficiency. 

For each category of asset, the guidance should address:
  • Rationale for justifying the establishment of an asset management program to agency decisionmakers, including responses to typical concerns.
  • Suggested uses of the information provided by an asset management system by maintenance, safety, traffic, and budgeting staff (including life-cycle cost analyses, benefit-cost analysis, cross asset budget allocations, systemic and local safety analysis) and illustrative examples of these uses.
  • Recommendations for establishing performance measures and targets at minimal and desirable levels.
  • Definitions of the critical and desirable data needed to generate the performance measures and for other analyses and the attendant levels of data quality, precision, accuracy, and timeliness.
  • Methods of weighting different types of assets within an asset category (e.g., regulatory, school, guide, and warning signs) for budgeting and response prioritization purposes.
  • Methods of collecting and updating the necessary data, including costs and other impacts to the agency.
  • Methods of storing and managing the data, including costs and other impacts to the agency.
  • Methods for estimating the remaining service or functional life of the asset.
  • Challenges and benefits of uniform usage of the asset management system across an agency, between agencies, and over time.
  • Indirect impacts of instituting an asset management program (e.g., use of the information in tort liability cases).

The Task 8 interim meeting was held in February 2014 and work is proceeding on subsequent tasks.

The contract has been amended to develop guidance on asset management processes, procedures, and tools that will help transportation agencies operate their traffic signal systems at maximum efficiency. This work was originally programmed as NCHRP Project 03-116 and is included as Task 11.

Task 1. Hold a kickoff meeting with the NCHRP Panel to discuss the objectives of the study and agree on the overall technical approach and schedule.
Task 2. Conduct a critical review of literature on the selected transportation assets. It will build upon NCHRP Synthesis 371: Managing Selected Transportation Assets: Signals, Lighting, Signs, Pavement Markings, Culverts, and Sidewalks that was published in 2007.
Task 3. Identify the best practices in asset management for pavements and bridges that can be used to provide input into the guidance.
Task 4. Develop a draft and final outline of the guidance that will serve as the final report for this project.
Task 5. Fully develop a chapter for one asset category.
Task 6. Revise the Amplified Work Plan based on the work conducted in Tasks 1-5 and submit a revised Work Plan
Task 7. Summarize the activities and findings from Tasks 2-6 in a Phase I report.
Task 8. Conduct a meeting with the Panel to review the Work Plan and Phase I report and get their feedback to help guide the direction of Phase II.
Task 9. Interview identified agencies regarding their practices and obtain information that can be used in the guidance.
Task 10. Develop a preliminary draft of the final guidance report that will provide guidance to transportation agencies in how to best manage their traffic and safety assets. 
Task 11. Conduct a gap assessment to identify needed tools for managing traffic signal systems and develop the highest priority tools.
Task 12. Gain feedback on the guidance developed as part of the preliminary draft guidance report (Task 10) from key stakeholders.
Task 13. Revise the preliminary draft guidance report based on feedback from the stakeholders, submit the revised draft report to the Panel to review, and finalize the guidance report based on feedback from the Panel.

Traffic and safety assets, including signs, signals, lighting, pavement markings/markers, and guardrails, are essential for enhancing traffic safety. However, asset management systems and approaches are not as well defined for traffic and safety assets as they are for other transportation assets such as pavements and bridges. As transportation agencies consider application of asset management systems to a broader spectrum of assets, they seek to answer a number of questions, including: 
  • What is the current state of the physical transportation asset?
  • What are the required levels of service and performance delivery?
  • Which assets are critical to sustained performance of the transportation system?
  • What is the expected growth in the number of assets given new standards, increased traffic, and changes in traveler and community expectations?
  • What are the funding needs and best investment strategies for operations, maintenance, replacement, and improvement?
  • What is the best long-term funding strategy?
Prior research has shown that there is little consistency among agencies concerning the development and maintenance of traffic and safety asset inventories or how decisions are made to maintain, adjust, refurbish, or replace these assets. Many agencies have not been able to justify the development of an asset management system for these assets. Given the importance of traffic and safety assets to the functioning of the system and the large number of them, effective allocation of scarce resources for managing traffic and safety assets is critical to an agency’s success.
A number of agencies have made progress in areas such as establishing asset inventories, developing approaches for determining what asset data to collect and store, taking advantage of new automated approaches for data collection, and relating needs for maintaining and improving traffic and safety assets to safety and operational performance. Further, Volume 2 of the AASHTO Transportation Asset Management Guide provides an overall framework for asset management and describes a number of successful implementation examples. Resources such as the FHWA Model Inventory of Road Elements (MIRE) provide approaches for standardizing data management practice. Research is needed to develop comprehensive and practical guidance for managing traffic and safety assets based on best practices and previous research that provides asset owners with answers to the basic questions outlined above.

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