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The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(09) [Completed]

State Departments of Transportation---Strategies for Change
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $279,855
Research Agency: National Academy of Public Administration
Principal Investigator: Dr. Thomas Larson
Effective Date: 6/15/1993
Completion Date: 12/14/1994

State departments of transportation (DOTs) are continually evolving because of planned and unplanned reactions to internal and external influences. Recently, however, the pace of this evolutionary process has greatly accelerated, so much so that many state DOTs must rethink traditional ways of doing business. Influences contributing to this evolution include legislative, economic, and demographic changes; variations in service and use demands; rehabilitation needs versus new construction; modal integration; and elective and mandatory changes in relationships with other governmental agencies and private organizations. Specifically, requirements in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 and the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) of 1990 accelerated changes in state DOTs and created more challenges to their operations and functions. A few examples of initiatives in response to these acts included (1) renewed interest in transportation planning, which includes a requirement for statewide planning and the consideration of the interrelationships and trade-offs among the various modes; (2) increased public involvement in planning and decision-making processes; (3) heightened attention to air quality and other environmental considerations; (4) increased flexibility in the use of federal-aid transportation funds; and (5) better cooperation among DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), other state agencies, and other transportation providers particularly transit agencies.

Moreover, ISTEA raised the expectations and the responsibilities of state DOTs. However, in many instances, these expectations and responsibilities are not accompanied by commensurate increases in resources. In some cases, state DOT staffs have been reduced to comply with across-the-board cuts in state governments, resulting in DOTs trying to do more with less. At the same time, ISTEA also has raised the expectations and increased the responsibilities of other governmental and private organizations. Because of ISTEA's increased flexibility in the use of funds, many organizations now see the possibility for accessing these funds and sharing in decision-making responsibilities.

Overall, the purpose of this research, was to provide assistance to state DOTs for anticipating and handling change. Specifically, the researchers (1) evaluated current and potential influences that affect the future of state DOTs, (2) described and discussed the impacts on DOTs, (3) provided guidance for DOTs to assess their ability to respond, and (4) made recommendations that will assist DOTs in meeting current and future challenges. Although the research results will be of interest to many employees of or other individuals associated with state DOTs, specific guidance in the form of self-assessment tools was targeted to chief administrative officers (CAOs) and other top managers with functional responsibilities for highway engineering and administration, budget and finance, planning, personnel, and public transit. These tools were constructed as sequenced sets of questions to lead the user through key considerations for understanding the issues, synthesizing information, assessing the organization's ability to respond, identifying potentially appropriate actions, and establishing measures for judging success.

Research is complete; the agency final report has been published as NCHRP Report 371, "State Departments of Transportation: Strategies for Change." As part of the initial presentation of project results, the agency also provided a "toolkit" directly to CAOs of the various state DOTs. This toolkit contained the same self-assessment tools and supporting materials found in the published NCHRP report.

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