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The National Academies

NCHRP 20-127 [Active]

Business Case and Communications Strategies for State DOT Resilience Efforts

  Project Data
Funds: $349,704
Staff Responsibility: Stephan A. Parker
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Principal Investigator: David Willauer
Effective Date: 12/15/2020
Completion Date: 12/15/2022

BACKGROUND
 
Significant research has been conducted on many different aspects of system resilience and security, but research is lacking on the topics of (1) how state transportation officials can make a business case for investing in resilience strategies and (2) resilience-oriented communications strategies. Communications strategies are central to successful balloting of state and local funding initiatives. This project is focused on both the "hard" technical business cases and the arguably "harder" communications strategies applicable to the general public as well as governors, legislators, staff and leadership at state departments of transportation (DOTs), and regional transportation planning organizations.
 
The 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (Pub. L. No. 114-94) included several requirements for transportation agencies that reflected an increasing concern for system and operational resilience and security. For example, statewide and metropolitan transportation planning processes were to consider projects/strategies to improve the resilience and reliability of the transportation system. It continued all prior National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) eligibilities and added (among four new eligible categories) one for projects to reduce the risk of failure of critical NHS infrastructure (defined to mean a facility, the incapacity or failure of which would have a debilitating impact in certain specified areas). The FAST Act keeps in place a resilience provision introduced in the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which required state DOTs to develop risk-based asset management plans.
 
State DOTs are addressing resilience issues in concert with local and regional organizations, including governments, planning organizations, non-profits, and the business community. In order to identify effective business case and communications strategies for state DOT resilience efforts, it is key to acknowledge the different demographics, infrastructure, and resource capabilities of each state DOT and agency, as well as the differing resilience opportunities and challenges they face. In addition, some state DOTs and local and regional transportation agencies have begun and achieved robust resilience activities. It is apparent that system resilience is becoming an ever more important concern for transportation officials at all levels of government.
 
OBJECTIVE
 
The objective of this research is to develop resources for state DOTs and other transportation organizations to help them explain the value of investing in resilience throughout the life cycle of planning, engineering, design, operations, construction, and maintenance activities.
 
The resources should provide tools for state DOTs to (1) build the business case for investing in resilience strategies and (2) develop communication strategies to make the public and stakeholders aware of the importance of resilience as part of the state DOT's overall mission. This project should consider the diversity of resiliency issues among state DOTs and agencies.
 
Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.
 
TASKS
 
 
Phase I
 
Task 1.  Literature review. Review relevant practice, performance data, research findings, and other information related to (a) building a business case for resilience and (b) resilience communications strategies. Include a broad spectrum of industries and resources; legal and regulatory justifications; social and economic losses associated with disruptions; international and other levels of cross-border planning. 
 
Task 2. Employing quantitative and/or qualitative research methods, review current resilience business case examples and communications strategies. Measuring performance of communications efforts—especially as it relates to public and internal agency support for resilience initiatives—is of particular interest. Include common obstacles and how they are overcome. Ensure that a full range of diverse disruptions is represented, and at least includes those caused by various shocks and stressors, such as natural, societal, technological, and human-caused. Include unpublished information such as after action reports from state DOTs.
 
Task 3. Based on what was learned in Task 1 and Task 2, develop a revised work plan to support the development of project deliverables in Phase II (i.e., case studies and tools).
 
Task 4. Prepare an interim report on the findings and conclusions of Tasks 1 through 3. The interim report should include draft tables of contents for products that will be developed in Phase II and detailed plans for Task 5 and Task 6. The research plan shall provide a 2-month period for review and approval of the interim report. An interim meeting of the project panel to discuss the interim report with the research agency will be required.
 
Phase II
 
Task 5. Based on the approved Phase II work plan, prepare no fewer than 6 diverse case studies of how agencies have (a) developed business cases for resilience and (b) planned and executed communication strategies for resilience programs. Case studies should cover communications tailored for various internal and external stakeholders such as
  • Governors
  • Legislators
  • Policymakers
  • Local communities
  • General public
  • State DOT leadership
  • State DOT staff
  • Regional transportation planning organizations such as Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs)
 
Task 6. Prepare tools for state DOTs and other transportation organizations to explain the value of investing in resilience throughout the life cycle of a DOT’s planning, engineering, design, operations, construction, and maintenance activities. The tools should support agencies as they (1) build the business case for investing in resilience strategies and (2) develop communication strategies to make the public and stakeholders aware of the importance of resilience as part of a state DOT’s mission. Also prepare a final report documenting the research and a 2-page executive summary.
 
Tools for use by the primary audiences should include (a) “resilience communications plan in-a-box”; (b) “business case in-a-box”; and (c) Task 5 case studies.
 
Status:
Research in Progress. An interim report is pending.

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