The National Academies

NCHRP 08-118 [Active]

Risk Assessment Techniques for Transportation Asset Management

  Project Data
Funds: $600,000
Staff Responsibility: Lawrence D. Goldstein
Research Agency: Starisis Corporation
Principal Investigator: Shobna Varma
Effective Date: 5/9/2019
Completion Date: 6/23/2021


As transportation agencies are faced with aging and deteriorating infrastructure in a context of limited resources, it becomes imperative that assets are managed efficiently and effectively. To this end, Federal Regulations Title 23 CFR Part 515 require state transportation agencies to develop  Risk-Based Transportation Asset Management Plans (TAMP), including a risk management plan. The risk management plan must include identification, assessment, evaluation, and prioritization of risks, as well as a mitigation plan for addressing and monitoring top priority risks. State transportation agencies are seeking to improve the assessment of risks to transportation assets as part of optimized investment decision-making.

Transportation agencies must contend with a wide variety of risks as they manage transportation assets. Owners must respond to impacts of events both within and outside their control. These risks can include funding uncertainty, regulatory changes, leadership and policy changes, increasing costs, severe weather events, evolving technology, and others. Underestimating risk can lead to costly repairs and reconstruction, while overestimating risk can lead to wasted resources. Asset owners require better techniques for assessing and managing risk.

Approaches to managing risk range from qualitative assessments of likelihood and consequence at the enterprise level to quantitative, probabilistic approaches at the network and program levels such as scenario analysis, simulation, and other approaches to predictive modeling. Successful organizations, across both the public and private sectors, effectively and efficiently quantify the effects of risk and uncertainty related to threats and opportunities.


The objectives of this research project are to

·        Develop enhanced techniques to consider and evaluate asset management-related risks as part of investment decision-making practices, including qualitative, quantitative, and analytical methods—building on and aligning with previous and continuing research efforts in the areas of TAM and risk management;

·        Review effective processes to determine how existing and potential approaches can be used when integrating enterprise, network, and program level risk analysis.  Alternative approaches should address how state departments of transportation (DOTs) make multi-objective, cross-asset investment decisions under uncertainty to best support national, state, and local asset performance goals for pavements, bridges, and other assets; 

·        Develop strategies and procedures for risk mitigation and response with applicable tools and tracking mechanisms for transportation agencies to improve risk assessment in existing and evolving asset management business processes; and

·        Develop implementation guidance, including practical tools and techniques for incorporating risk and uncertainty, as well as possible measures of asset resilience that can be integrated into risk assessment procedures in support of national, state, and local asset performance goals.  


Proposers are asked to present a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objectives.  Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time, including an indication of how proposed research will make use of and build on available resources.  Proposals must demonstrate in sufficient detail an understanding of the issues and a sound approach to meeting the research objectives, including a review of other studies in general and related NCHRP research studies in particular. 

The research plan should be presented as a two-phase effort.  Phase I will synthesize materials on existing practice and perform a critical assessment of existing tools, approaches, performance measures, and procedures that can be used to build new or improved risk assessment tools and techniques in support of transportation asset management.  Phase II will produce supporting implementation guidance and tools.

The research should build on existing asset management guidance detailed in previous NCHRP reports, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Transportation Asset Management (TAM) Guide, and other state-of-the-practice guidance for assessing and managing risks, including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  AASHTO material is available on the AASHTO TAM portal, and FHWA guidance is accessed through its web pages focused on asset management and resilience.  The research also will help improve the state of practice in risk-based transportation asset management and help ensure that the full range of relevant factors is incorporated into transportation agency resource allocation procedures. 

In meeting the objectives of this study, the research plan should consider, but not be limited to, the following.

Phase I

1.    Incorporate results from a review of available literature, ongoing research, legislative requirements, and state-of-the-practice for risk assessment into a set of possible approaches for managing transportation assets more effectively, including identifying gaps in current procedures. 

2.    Identify and assess potential approaches and techniques for enterprise, network, and program level risk assessment to develop procedures and strategies for improving existing asset management decision in support of project objectives.  Potential approaches should address how state DOTs make multi-objective, cross-asset investment decisions under uncertainty in support of national, state, and local asset performance goals for pavements, bridges, and other assets. 

3.    Identify potential constraints and barriers to implementation and steps to address them.

Phase I will conclude with preparation of an interim report detailing the results of Phase I research and presenting an updated detailed scope of work for Phase II.  Phase I should account for no more than 40% of the overall effort.  NCHRP will meet with the research team at the end of Phase I to review.  NCHRP approval of the interim report is required before proceeding with Phase II. 

Phase II

4.    Based on the conclusions of Phase I, develop improved strategies and tools for risk-based asset management and prepare draft implementation guidance. 

5.    Conduct a set of test scenarios with three or more state DOTs using the draft implementation guidance and associated tools.  Summarize lessons learned and present recommended changes and improvement to the guidance and tools as appropriate.

6.    Prepare draft and final reports and supporting materials detailing the results of the research.   

The research plan should build in appropriate checkpoints with the NCHRP project panel including, at a minimum (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the contract’s execution date; (2) the face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting to be held at the end of Phase I; and (3) at least two additional web-enabled teleconferences tied to NCHRP review and approval of any other interim deliverables as deemed appropriate.

Final deliverables will include at a minimum: (1) implementation guidance and supporting analytical tools (e.g., visualizations, metrics, strategies); (2) a final report that documents the entire research effort; (3) an executive summary as a stand-alone document that outlines the research findings and recommendations; and (4) a presentation (e.g., a Microsoft® PowerPoint, video, etc.) aimed at state DOT staff and senior management that simply and concisely explains why the guidance and supporting materials are helpful and how they will be used.  Any tools or models developed as part of the research program will be open source using readily available software.  Final deliverables will also include a stand-alone technical memorandum entitled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.” 

STATUS: Phase I of this study is now underway.

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