The Transportation Research Board in 2019 published two documents presenting wide-ranging perspectives on matters of importance to the future of the nation’s transportation system and its capabilities to support our continued prosperity. The first of these documents, TRB Special Report 329: Renewing the National Commitment to the Interstate Highway System: A Foundation for the Future (CIHS), the product of a Congressionally mandated study, presented a series of recommendations for government actions needed “to upgrade and restore the Interstate Highway System to fulfill its role as a crucial national asset, serving the needs of people, cities and towns, businesses, and the military while remaining the safest highway network in the country” (CIHS, p. viii). The second document, Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 (CIT2019), was prepared by the TRB Executive Committee to frame high-level questions that can be addressed during the next 5 to 10 years through research, policy analysis, and debate to help society prepare for potentially unprecedented changes likely to affect our transportation system’s service to individuals and society (CIT2019, p. 2).
Together the two documents comprise a thought-provoking but complex basis for the leadership of state transportation agencies to gain insight into the challenges their agencies will face in coming decades and to formulate strategies for meeting these challenges. These strategies will likely be influenced by the specific geographic, demographic, economic, social, and political character of each state and multi-state regions and by more recent experience with public health, climatic, and other events influence demand for and use of transportation systems and services. Nevertheless, what the agencies have in common is their intent to ensure that the transportation system for which the agency is responsible continues to support the prosperity and well-being of the state’s citizenry.
Particular challenges are posed by the prospect that changes will need to be made to reconfigure the systems for which state transportation agencies are responsible. Evolution of technology and travel demand are giving rise to new transport modes and changing the utilization of infrastructure. Such concepts as “right sizing,” “performance-based practical design,” and “complete streets” reflect a broad rethinking of our societal goals and measures of system performance. Research is needed to inform state transportation agency decision makers’ understanding of how our concepts of system performance are evolving and to develop a framework and guidelines agencies can use in their system-management decision-making. An ultimate product of such research, possibly looking beyond the current project, may be a comprehensive, sustainability- and data-based tradeoff analysis tool or set of tools to facilitate transportation project level decision-making and system adaptation and in a resource-constrained and rapidly transforming socio-economic context.
NCHRP Project 20-126 generally is intended to undertake research to assist state transportation agencies and others to understand and address the issues raised by CIHS and CIT2019 as they relate to an agency. As an early phase of this research, the objectives of NCHRP Project 20-126(02) are to develop and present an analytical framework and guidelines for multifaceted decision-making to support state transportation agencies in fulfilling their missions and ensuring that future system performance supports our nation’s prosperity and well-being. The project will entail delivery of at least the following products:
A critical review of TRB and other literature on research and development activities on the evolution of definitions and measures of performance as the term is applied to management of transportation systems by state transportation agencies and trends that may influence these definitions and measures over the next 10 to 20 years.
A framework and tools for characterizing and addressing key issues and principal tradeoffs likely to influence resource allocation management priorities for state transportation agencies seeking to ensure optimum transportation system performance over the next 10 to 20 years.
A descriptive cataloging of currently available information sources and practical tools agency decision makers can use or adapt to support system performance monitoring and multifaceted decision-making for transportation system planning and management.
In addition, the contractor will be responsible for facilitating a workshop of the NCHRP project panel and other invited participants to review preliminary research results and suggest high-priority topics for additional research on multifaceted strategic decision-making to achieve high system performance.