The National Academies

NCHRP 20-60 [Completed]

Performance Measures and Targets for Transportation Asset Management

  Project Data
Funds: $350,000
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Frances D. Harrison
Effective Date: 7/14/2003
Completion Date: 9/30/2005


Although concepts of asset management are applicable throughout a transportation agency to support decision making, for purposes of providing focus and a starting point, transportation asset management, under NCHRP Project 20-24(11), is currently being defined as a strategic approach to managing transportation infrastructure. Therefore, under this definition and for purposes of this research, transportation asset management promotes more effective allocation and use of resources to address preservation, operation, and improvement of transportation infrastructure.

Many transportation agencies have developed system-level performance measures to help track the impacts of program investments, maintenance, and operations improvements. These performance measures are usually technical in nature, capturing an engineering or operational attribute of the transportation system. A review of these measures is needed to assess their usefulness for asset management (e.g., their application in tradeoff analyses and investment decisions). The development or further refinement of measures for more nontechnical (e.g., security, social, environmental, and economic) issues affecting transportation decisions is also needed.

In addition, some transportation agencies define targets with which current conditions can be objectively compared to determine whether the transportation system is performing acceptably. The basis on which these targets are set varies, and there is no generally accepted methodology or framework for their establishment and use in an asset management context. Guidance for establishing performance targets for use by transportation agencies is needed.


The objectives of this project are to (1) provide an assessment of and recommendations for performance measures suitable for asset management that effectively address resource allocation and that address facility preservation, operation, and improvement and (2) develop a framework that decision makers can use for selecting suitable performance measures and setting performance targets. The research proposed in this project should complement the "Guide" being developed under NCHRP Project 20-24(11).

Under Objective 1, investigation of performance measures suitable to transportation asset management should consider the following features:

a. Utility at various organizational levels in a transportation agency and at network, corridor, and project levels for short- and long-range decisions.
b. Applicability within the context of an expanding sphere of interest to transportation agencies with initial emphasis on highway facilities.
c. Methods of collecting measurement data with consideration given to cost, relevance, sensitivity, precision, bias, and consistency across jurisdictional boundaries.
d. Extent to which performance measures are effective in
    • Evaluating practical and appropriate investment decisions for tradeoff analyses.
    • Communicating agency goals and performance to customers (e.g., public, legislature, and interest groups).
    • Making decisions by top management.
    • Supporting underlying agency goals and objectives.
    • Making mode-neutral decisions.
    • Measuring social, environmental, and economic effects as well as security concerns.
Under Objective 2, with an initial emphasis on highway facility assets, development of a framework for selecting suitable performance measures and setting targets should consider the following features:

a. Integration of performance measures among asset classes, vertically and horizontally, from planning through program delivery, operations, and performance tracking.
b. Capability of predicting performance and setting performance targets based on funding.
c. Applicability to agencies with different organizational structures.
d. Linkages to policy development.
e. Usefulness to executive information management systems.
f. Internal and external buy-in.
g. Complexity and resources needed to manage the framework.
h. Accommodation of Governmental Accounting Standards Board approved Statement No. 34 (GASB 34) 'modified' approach (if used) and utility in demonstrating linkage between plans and programs pursuant to Title 23, United States Code, Sections 134 and 135.
i. Ability to demonstrate the overall health and critical deficiencies of infrastructure assets including:
    • Compensating for overall system averaging effects.
    • Analyzing trends.
Status: Research is complete.

Product Availability: The agency final report has been published as NCHRP Report 551. Linked here is a Summary and PowerPoint Presentation prepared by the agency to highlight the research findings.

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