The United States has made significant investments in its transportation infrastructure and, as this infrastructure is used and exposed to natural environmental forces, it ages and deteriorates. Responsible agencies expend time, effort, and money to preserve and maintain the infrastructure to ensure that it will support consistent, reliable, and safe transportation services and produce economic benefits.
One of the nation's most significant investments in transportation infrastructure is the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways, often referred to simply as the Interstate Highway System. That system, initiated 50 years ago, is vital to the nation's economy and is an increasingly critical contributor to global production and distribution systems. Investments in the system are managed by the state departments of transportation (DOTs) and a variety of other associated agencies responsible for specific Interstate facilities. To ensure that the benefits of the Interstate Highway System continue for future generations, these agencies must preserve, operate, maintain, and augment the system's assets.
The principles and practices of transportation asset management constitute a framework for making decisions about planning, programming, design, construction, maintenance, and operation of roadways, bridges, tunnels, and other transportation facilities. These principles and practices have been developed in recent years and applied in a number of countries and parts of the United States to protect and ensure high returns on investment in transportation infrastructure assets. Interpretations and practices of transportation asset management can vary among these several applications in appropriate response to the specific asset portfolios, institutional settings, funding, and priorities affecting each particular agency.
While many agencies share responsibility for Interstate investments, these assets serve national purposes. Research is needed to develop a practical framework for applying asset-management principles and practices, with an appropriate balance between state and national interests, to support decision making for management of the assets produced by Interstate Highway System investments.
The objective of this research was to develop a practical framework for applying asset-management principles and practices to managing Interstate Highway System investments. Such a framework should be holistic; be applicable to existing facilities and those that may be developed in the future; provide the bases for making decisions across asset classes in an integrated manner and from a systemwide perspective about operation and maintenance as well as new construction and reconstruction; and be easy to implement, cost-effective, and sufficiently beneficial to be attractive for adoption by transportation officials and agencies nationwide.
The project entailed identifying asset performance indicators appropriate for use in understanding the condition and performance of Interstate assets and suitable as the bases for making decisions across asset classes and from a systemwide perspective about operation, preservation, and maintenance, as well as new construction and reconstruction. Particular attention was given to specific mechanisms for incorporating risk of system failure in an asset-management framework for the Interstate Highway System and describing how risk may be considered systematically as an influence on asset-management decision making. Data needed to support asset-management decisions, and cost-effective data-collection schemes were addressed, as well as decision support tools that can be used in applying asset-management principles and practices for Interstate Highway System investments. Extensive discussions with practitioners were held to ensure the practicality of the management system. The project also considered indicators of the measurable system benefits that DOTs and others could use to evaluate their application of asset-management principles and practices, with particular emphasis on the perspective of highway agency officials who make decisions to adopt the framework for managing their Interstate Highway System investments.