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The National Academies

TCRP J-05/Topic 18-05 [Active]

Fix It, Sign It, or Close It: State of Good Repair in an Era of Budget Constraints
[ TCRP J-05 (Legal Aspects of Transit and Intermodal Transportation Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $50,000
Staff Responsibility: Gwen Chisholm-Smith
Research Agency: Parker Corporate Enterprises, Ltd
Principal Investigator: Terri Parker
Effective Date: 1/28/2019
Completion Date: 1/28/2020
Comments: Research in Progress

 
BACKGROUND
 
The condition of the transportation infrastructure in the United States is an issue of national importance. State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and transit agencies are facing tough choices with limited finances. These transportation agencies are having to make decisions about how and when to keep the assets safely open to the public. Transportation agencies that are recipients of federal formula grant dollars may need the funding agency to be involved in any decision to repair the asset(s) or whether to improve, rebuild, or close them.
 
Research is needed on the legal ramifications to transportation agencies that are faced with deciding whether to repair, improve, or rebuild assets that are in poor repair.

Note: Highway transportation infrastructure assets include the physical elements such as pavements, bridges, culverts, signs, pavement markings, and other roadway and roadside features that comprise the whole highway infrastructure network, from right-of-way line to right-of-way line. Public transit asset categories include rolling stock (e.g., buses or railcars), equipment (e.g., construction or maintenance equipment), infrastructure (e.g., fixed guideways or power), and facilities (e.g., passenger facilities or parking).
 
OBJECTIVE
 
The objective of this research is to provide a state by state summary of pertinent laws and practices related to achieving a state of good repair for transportation assets and include a summary of decisions and the experiences of transportation agencies. 
 
At a minimum, the following questions should be considered:
  • How are the assets being used?
  • When does it become prudent to close a portion of a transportation asset because there are insufficient financial resources to keep the asset safely open to the public?
  • When an asset repeatedly fails inspections and budgetary restraints persist, how is the decision made to close or shut down the asset?
  • If federal funds were used to build the failing structure, when does the funding agency weigh in on closure?
  • Does a closure, or approval of a closure, constitute a federal action requiring compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?
  • Will federal funds need to be refunded?
  • When the public is not allowed to travel over an asset that has been closed, is there exposure for failure to provide equal protection of the laws or failure to comply with civil rights protections?
  • What governance practices are in use?
  • What lessons can be drawn from current experience?  
Status: Research in Progress
 

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