The present condition of highway infrastructure in many parts of the United States is testimony that funding levels have not been adequate for maintenance. Effective communication of budget requests to chief administrative officers (CAOs), highway and transportation commissions, and legislative bodies is a key to funding highway maintenance operations at levels that will preserve investment in the highway system, minimize long-term replacement and user costs, and provide user services. However, many state highway agencies have not been successful in communicating such maintenance needs. This may be due to a number of factors, including consideration that benefits from maintenance operations are much less immediately visible to the public than those from construction, and the apparent inability of maintenance managers to convey to executive and legislative bodies the quantifiable benefits of adequate maintenance funding.
There is a critical need for appropriate guidelines to aid maintenance managers in developing effective maintenance budgeting strategies. Although maintenance will continue to compete with other transportation programs, the use of such guidelines will facilitate better recognition of maintenance needs, in the context of total transportation budget requirements, and it will increase the probability that the highway infrastructure will be preserved.
The objectives of the study are to (1) identify current practices in formulating and justifying state highway maintenance budgets; (2) assess the strategic usefulness of the various approaches to achieve funding levels consistent with preserving and operating the highway system at acceptable standards; and (3) develop guidelines for effectively conveying maintenance budget requests to CAOs, highway and transportation commissions, and legislative bodies.
This project includes the following tasks:
Task 1. Identify key elements in developing and presenting maintenance budgets in an effective manner; in other words, focus on questions that need to be answered and how they should be addressed in successfully presenting maintenance budgets to CAOs, highway and transportation commissions, and legislative bodies.
Task 2. Survey and compare, in terms of similarities and differences, the methods currently used by state highway agencies to develop maintenance budgets and the procedures followed to justify and communicate budget needs to executive and legislative bodies. As part of this survey, variations from the definition of maintenance found in the AASHTO Maintenance Manual (1987) should be highlighted. The researchers shall have the survey instrument reviewed and approved by the project panel and, then, pilot tested in several states prior to distribution to all state DOTs. The researchers shall, in addition, select a sample of at least 10 states, including states using dedicated funds and states using general funds, to conduct in-depth field visits in order to identify in detail the best practices.
Task 3. Review and analyze the survey results to assess the effectiveness of various state maintenance budget request strategies, in relation to the key elements identified in Task 1. The assessment should include, but not be limited to, an identification of the strengths and weaknesses of existing practices, how legislative and public feedback is obtained, and how innovative or creative strategies are used.
Task 4. Document the findings of the previous tasks in an interim report. In addition, formulate a detailed work plan for the remaining tasks and incorporate this plan into the interim report. Submit the interim report for review by the NCHRP project panel. Soon after distribution of the interim report, a meeting between the research team and the NCHRP project panel will be scheduled for the purpose of providing the panel members the opportunity to interact with the researchers in a detailed discussion on the contents of the interim report. NCHRP approval of the interim report will be required before proceeding with the remaining tasks.
Task 5. Identify existing analytical techniques and data sources that can be used to determine road user costs, safety costs, environmental impacts, tort liability, measured maintenance service levels, and other consequences of alternative maintenance budgets. This effort should draw primarily on published literature. Suggest procedures that can integrate and adapt the analytical techniques and data identified to generate information that can be used as enhancements to maintenance budgeting practices.
Task 6. Identify ISTEA requirements for management systems and institutional changes, review state actions to comply with these requirements, and develop guidelines for the use of management system data in the maintenance budgeting strategies.
Task 7. Evaluate the results of recently completed NCHRP projects on maintenance activities and incorporate the findings into the guidelines and procedures for maintenance budgeting strategies.
Task 8. On the basis of the work performed in the previous tasks, develop guidelines for alternative strategies that a maintenance manager can consider in effectively formulating, presenting, and defending maintenance budgets. The researchers shall also present the results of this research effort at a meeting of the AASHTO Highway Subcommittee on Maintenance.
Task 9. Prepare a final report documenting the research.
All work has been completed, and research findings have been published as NCHRP Report 366, "Guidelines for Effective Maintenance-Budgeting Strategies."