The National Academies

NCHRP 20-57 [Completed]

Analytic Tools to Support Transportation Asset Management

  Project Data
Funds: $750,000
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics, Inc
Principal Investigator: Frances Harrison
Effective Date: 4/24/2002
Completion Date: 3/1/2005

Background: Transportation agencies wishing to improve the management of a wide range of assets may be constrained by analytic limitations of their legacy management systems and existing business practices. Management systems put in place some time ago often lack decision-support capabilities such as economic optimization of investment alternatives, customized decision rules, or estimates of costs and benefits accruing to customers. Current systems procedures in planning, program development, and program delivery may not be geared to investigation of the full range of investment options or to the analyses needed to compare and conduct tradeoffs among alternatives. While initial steps may have already been taken to define performance measures, some agencies may lack the capability to conduct trade-off analyses for different investment levels.

Thus, there is a need for tools that would enable engineering-economic analyses of decisions such as the following: the economically preferred investment option; effects of deferred versus preventative maintenance; tradeoffs between capital improvements and system preservation; the appropriate threshold between maintenance and rehabilitation; and analyses of risk. The tools would (1) promote and enhance asset management within transportation agencies; (2) to the greatest extent possible, be compatible with existing management systems; and (3) provide a quick, low-cost, low-risk way of strengthening an agency's analytic toolbox for identifying, recommending, and evaluating investment decisions in the agency's assets. They would also take advantage of, and build upon, current research such as NCHRP Projects 08-36/Task 7, "Development of a Multimodal Tradeoffs Methodology for Use in Statewide Transportation Planning," and 20-24(11), "Asset Management Guidance for Transportation Agencies."

These tools should incorporate key engineering, economic, financial, policy, and management factors as appropriate to the particular problems being addressed. They should be easily adaptable by different agencies. If a software tool is proposed, it should be developed in a format that is in general use, and not require unique, specialized hardware or software platforms.

Objective: The objective of this research is to develop a set of user-friendly analytical tools for adaptation and use by state DOTs and other transportation agencies that will improve their ability to identify, evaluate, and recommend investment decisions for managing the agency's assets.

The tools should incorporate analyses of the tradeoffs associated with: (1) different approaches to sustaining an asset through its service life, such as capital improvements versus preventative maintenance treatments; and (2) competing policy objectives such as preservation, mobility, access, safety, and economic development. The primary emphasis should be on the analysis of trade-off decisions within the highway mode, but should also include limited development of tools for making multimodal investment trade-off decisions. The tools should be compatible, to the greatest extent possible, with the existing range of legacy systems (pavement, bridge, and other asset management systems) currently used by state DOTs, and be easily used by practitioners with varying levels of technical capability.

Tasks: Accomplishment of the project objective will require the following tasks. (1.) Develop and submit a proposed methodology to assess the needs of state DOTs with respect to analytical tools for asset resource allocation. It is expected that this methodology would include some combination of literature review, surveys, site visits, or interviews with state DOTs and other stakeholders. (2.) Upon approval of the proposed methodology by the NCHRP, conduct the needs assessment. (3.) Review existing analytical procedures and software programs such as HERS/ST, MicroBENCOST, StratBENCOST, TransDec, and other tools used by state transportation agencies, in terms of their deficiencies and potential for adaptation to meet the needs identified in Task 2. (4.) Present recommendations on general analytical and logical concepts for a range of new or modified tools that could be developed to meet the project objective. The recommendations should include an estimate of the costs of fully developing each tool (and suggested priorities), with the expectation that the project panel will select the tools that will be developed and tested with the remaining project budget. The recommendations should include: (1) the proposed implementation format (e.g., spreadsheet or database application, other software program, guidebook, or workbook) and (2) input and output data requirements. All tools developed in this project should be, at a minimum, scaleable and expandable, nonprescriptive, compatible with a range of systems currently in use, modular (each tool can be implemented independently of the others), capable of producing replicable and consistent results, and adaptable to differing user goals. (5.) Submit an interim report to document the results of Tasks 1 through 4 for review by NCHRP, as well as an updated work plan for the remaining tasks. The contractor will be expected to meet with the NCHRP approximately 1 month later. The research agency shall not begin work on the remaining tasks without NCHRP approval. (6.) Develop the preliminary design of the tools, or refinement of existing tools, approved by the NCHRP panel. The design should include the proposed logic and algorithms, and anticipated data needs. Develop a plan for field testing the prototypes. The field testing plan should indicate how many agencies will participate, criteria for agency selection, duration of testing, and methods of evaluating the results. (7.) Submit an interim report documenting the results of Task 6. The contractor will be expected to meet with the NCHRP approximately 1 month later. (8.) Refine the designs based on the NCHRP review of the interim report and develop prototype tools. (9.) Submit a technical memo documenting the results of Task 8. (10.) Upon approval of the Task 9 technical memo by the NCHRP, conduct the field testing of the prototype models.
(11.) Revise and refine the tools based on the field test results. (12.) Deliver the final versions of the analytical tools as well as a final report that documents the entire research effort.

To help focus the research, the following examples illustrate some of the concepts for potential analytical tools:

1. A life-cycle cost analysis tool to consider options in preserving existing assets (e.g., pavements and bridges). This type of tool could address capital-maintenance tradeoffs, leading to guidelines on the most cost-effective approach to sustaining each asset through its service life.

2. An illustrative tool to structure program tradeoffs among policy objectives within one mode. This type of tool could create a structure that organizes programs by their policy objective (e.g., preservation, mobility, or safety); develops example forecasts of the costs, benefits, and other consequences of different funding levels in each group of programs; and relates these projections to commonly used performance measures in each program area. The example forecasts could be based on scenario testing using pavement and bridge management systems and the FHWA HERS/ST system. An agency should be able to adapt the illustrative approach to its own program structure and apply its own management systems and performance measures in developing analogous forecasts and program trade-off comparisons.

3. A tool to perform multimodal tradeoffs, built on the framework now being developed in NCHRP Project 08-36/Task 7. This NCHRP study is due to be completed by the end of 2001 and will provide an overall framework for considering the implications of investing in different modal solutions to address a given transportation need or situation.

Status: Completed

Product Availability: The final report is available as NCHRP Report 545. The software tools, AssetManager NT and AssetManager PT, and their User Guides are provided on CRP-CD-57 attached to the report.

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