State departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and other planning agencies increasingly face the challenge of developing meaningful plans and making thoughtful investment decisions during a time of uncertainty. These uncertainties are composed of a confluence of trends including changes in demographics, the economy and workforce, land use and development patterns, and other social, cultural, and geopolitical trends; the impact of rapidly changing technologies including automated, connected, electric, and shared vehicles; a growing number of risks ranging from extreme weather and climate change to cybersecurity concerns; and continued uncertainty about future funding for transportation. There is also significant uncertainty regarding the short-term duration and recovery from the pandemic and the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on travel behavior.
Recent research has helped agencies understand potential trends and disruptions and helped develop scenario planning and risk analysis tools to assess the potential impacts of these changes. However, additional research and guidance are needed to help state DOTs, MPOs, regional and other planning agencies incorporate these uncertainties into statewide and metropolitan long-range transportation plans (LRTPs), statewide and metropolitan transportation improvement programs (STIPs/TIPs), and other planning documents. Agencies often face challenges related to introducing greater flexibility into existing planning and programming processes, particularly where existing processes rely on specific types of data, forecasts, and modeling tools; must remain consistent with local land-use decisions; must demonstrate fiscal constraint; and must demonstrate progress toward transportation performance management targets.
The objective of this research is to identify examples of how agencies are incorporating uncertainty into their planning and investment decisions; develop a framework for how DOTs, MPOs, and other planning agencies can address uncertainty in their plans; and provide guidance and a toolbox for use by DOTs, MPOs, and other planning agencies consistent with this framework. The framework and guidance should be flexible to address different scales or contexts for specific types of agencies. This guidance should focus on incorporating uncertainty into LRTPs, and, through these plans, inform investment decisions as documented in TIPs at multiple scales. The guidance is intended to augment prior or ongoing research regarding incorporating risk into asset management and other performance-based planning processes. The guidance should reflect the unique characteristics of DOTs, MPOs, and other planning agencies, and provide approaches that would be appropriate to incorporate into different types of planning processes with consideration for the level of resources available.
Direction from the AASHTO Special Committee on Research & Innovation: The project should build on the NCHRP Report 750 “Strategic Issues Facing Transportation” (Foresight Series)