oversight

Transportation Infrastructure: States' Implementation of Transportation Management Systems

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-02-26.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                    United States General Accounting Office

GAO                 Testimony
                    Before the Subcommittee on Transportation and
                    Infrastructure, Committee on Environment and Public
                    Works, U.S. Senate


Hearing held on
February 26, 1997   Transportation
                    Infrastructure

                    States’ Implementation of
                    Transportation Management
                    Systems
                    Statement for the Record by Phyllis F. Scheinberg,
                    Associate Director, Transportation Issues, Resources,
                    Community, and Economic Development Division




GAO/T-RCED-97-79
    Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

    We appreciate the opportunity to provide this statement for the record on
    the states’ implementation of transportation management systems. These
    six systems—for managing highway pavement, bridges, highway safety,
    traffic congestion, public transportation facilities and equipment, and
    intermodal transportation facilities and systems—were mandated by the
    Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). The
    National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 (NHS Act) made the six
    systems optional, except the congestion management system in certain
    areas.1 These management systems are tools that provide information to
    assist state and local decisionmakers in selecting cost-effective policies,
    programs, and projects to protect and improve the nation’s transportation
    infrastructure. In January 1997, we reported on the status of the states’
    development and implementation of the systems, how the states expect to
    use the systems, and the factors that have facilitated or hindered the
    development and implementation of the systems.2 In summary, we found
    the following:

•   As of September 1996, about half the states were moving forward with all
    six transportation management systems, even though they were no longer
    mandatory. The remaining states were developing or implementing at least
    three of the systems. All states were implementing a pavement
    management system, and nearly all states were implementing bridge,
    safety, and congestion management systems. Congestion management
    systems were being developed for all 128 transportation management
    areas, where they are still mandatory.3 About 30 states were implementing
    public transportation and intermodal management systems. The six
    transportation management systems take a variety of forms, including
    computerized inventories of assets, software programs, and systematic
    procedures for collecting and analyzing information.
•   The states were developing the systems for use by decisionmakers in the
    planning process and to help transportation officials conduct daily
    operations. Some states have realized that to obtain the most uses from
    the systems, the systems need to be integrated so that, for example, users

    1
     The NHS Act made statewide congestion management systems optional but still required the systems
    in transportation management areas (urbanized areas with populations greater than 200,000 or other
    areas so designated at the request of the governor and the metropolitan planning organization or
    affected local officials).
    2
     Transportation Infrastructure: States’ Implementation of Transportation Management Systems
    (GAO/RCED-97-32, Jan. 13, 1997).
    3
    All states and Puerto Rico have at least one transportation management area, except Idaho, Maine,
    Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.



    Page 1                                                                         GAO/T-RCED-97-79
                          can combine information from several management systems to analyze the
                          overall transportation needs in a geographic area. Nationwide, over half
                          the states plan to integrate the systems.
                      •   Although pavement and bridge management systems have been around for
                          several decades, the other mandated systems were new to many states.
                          Three of the seven states that we reviewed as case studies4 indicated that
                          the 1991 legislative mandate provided a catalyst or “jump start” to
                          developing and implementing the new systems and resulted in the systems
                          receiving high-level support and top priority status. Although
                          implementing the systems is now optional, several states are continuing
                          their efforts because they view the systems as beneficial to the
                          decision-making process in that they provide more accurate, timely
                          information than was previously available. On the other hand, the removal
                          of the federal mandate lessened support for developing certain systems. In
                          addition, some states reported that the U.S. Department of
                          Transportation’s (DOT) failure to issue a clear and timely rule on
                          management systems following the 1991 mandate had caused difficulties
                          in implementing public transportation, congestion, and intermodal
                          management systems. Several states indicated that the Federal Highway
                          Administration (FHWA) was helpful in providing initial workshops and
                          training to states to develop the systems. Officials in all seven states that
                          we reviewed, however, stated that they continue to need federal assistance
                          in solving technical problems with software and/or learning from other
                          states’ experiences in implementing and integrating the systems.


                          As of September 1996, 24 states reported that they were moving forward
All States Are            with all six systems, even though they were no longer mandatory. (See
Implementing Some         app. I.) The remaining states reported they were developing or
Systems but               implementing at least three of the transportation management systems
                          originally mandated by ISTEA. Nearly all states reported that they were
Customizing Them to       developing and implementing management systems for pavement, bridge,
Meet Their Own            highway safety, and traffic congestion. Pavement and bridge management
                          systems may be easier for the states to develop and implement than other
Needs                     management systems because many states had established inventories or
                          a form of management system for these assets before ISTEA.

                          Nearly all states were developing and implementing congestion
                          management systems, which continue to be required in transportation
                          management areas. Congestion management systems were being

                          4
                           The seven states we selected were Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oregon,
                          and Texas. We selected these states to provide geographic balance and a variety of experiences in
                          implementing the management systems.



                          Page 2                                                                       GAO/T-RCED-97-79
developed by state or local agencies for all transportation management
areas. Moreover, several states that did not have transportation
management areas were developing these systems.

About two-thirds of the states reported that they were developing and
implementing the public transportation management system and the
intermodal management system. According to transportation officials,
fewer states may be proceeding with these two systems because (1) the
systems are newer and the states are less familiar with them and (2) the
states generally lack jurisdiction over the assets covered in these systems.
(See apps. II through VII for more information on each management
system.)

Once the NHS Act made the management systems optional, officials in the
seven states we reviewed told us that they reassessed their needs and
decided whether to (1) proceed with the systems as originally planned,
(2) reduce the scope of the systems, and/or (3) discontinue certain
systems. Among our case-study states, Michigan was the only one that
decided to implement the six management systems with no change in
scope to the plans they had developed on the basis of DOT’s interim rule.5
Transportation officials in that state viewed the management systems as
an opportunity to improve decision-making and as a way to address other
departmental objectives.

The other six case-study states scaled back the extent to which they were
developing certain systems, especially pavement and congestion
management systems. For example, ISTEA required the states to
incorporate all federal-aid highways, which included some roads under
local jurisdiction, in their pavement management systems. After the NHS
Act made the systems optional, five of the states we reviewed—Maryland,
Montana, New York, Oregon, and Texas—decided to include only
state-maintained roads and roads on the National Highway System in their
pavement management system, at least initially. In addition, three states
we reviewed—Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas—decided to
discontinue certain management systems—the intermodal and/or the
public transportation management systems—once they were no longer
mandatory. In each case, state transportation officials determined that the
state’s needs were being met sufficiently by existing programs and/or
activities. Finally, five states we reviewed—Montana, New York, Maryland,
Oregon, and Texas—used the flexibility they gained from the passage of

5
 ISTEA required DOT to issue regulations on the management systems by December 18, 1992. FHWA
and the Federal Transit Administration jointly issued an interim final rule in December 1993 and a final
rule in December 1996.



Page 3                                                                            GAO/T-RCED-97-79
                       the NHS Act to extend the time frames for implementing some systems
                       beyond those established in initial work plans. Officials in these states
                       found ISTEA’s and DOT’s initial time frames unrealistic and replaced them
                       with more accurate estimates for completing the initial work on the
                       management systems.


                       Many state decisionmakers intend to use information from the
Systems Used for       management systems in developing statewide and regional transportation
Planning and Daily     plans. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Decision-Making        Officials (AASHTO) surveyed its membership in May 1996 and found that all
                       37 states that responded intended to integrate the systems within their
                       planning processes. With respect to our seven case-study states, each was
                       using or intended to use the management systems in its planning process
                       as well as using information from the systems in making decisions
                       involving day-to-day activities. For example, state and county maintenance
                       engineers may use information on pavement condition from the pavement
                       management system to determine maintenance needs and priorities.

                       While some states planned to use the management systems as stand-alone
                       tools to assist decisionmakers in their respective departments, other states
                       also planned to use the systems in an integrated/coordinated manner. At
                       least 26 states planned to integrate parts of their managements systems,
                       according to AASHTO’s May 1996 survey. Coordination and integration of
                       the systems helps to eliminate duplication by identifying common features
                       and data elements and enhances the usefulness of the systems by enabling
                       decisionmakers to compare trade-offs at a program level or among
                       transportation modes. Integrating the management systems, however,
                       raises numerous issues—such as establishing common data definitions
                       and common geographical referencing systems. To handle these issues,
                       three states we reviewed have established special committees and
                       dedicated resources beyond those that are needed to develop and
                       implement the individual systems.


                       Several states we reviewed responded to the ISTEA mandate by providing
Several Factors Have   high-level support and top priority to quickly develop and implement the
Influenced             six management systems. For instance, in New York we were told that the
Implementation of      mandate provided a “jump start” to the overall development and
                       implementation of the systems. The state provided additional resources
Management Systems     and technical support for enhancing five existing systems and for
                       developing a new one required by the mandate. Although the systems are



                       Page 4                                                      GAO/T-RCED-97-79
now optional, many states have continued to develop and implement them
because of the potential benefits associated with the systems. For
example, several case-study states commented that the systems reduce
redundancy and provide more complete, accurate information in a single
location. In addition, states view the management systems as a way to
improve the planning process by providing objective, timely information to
decisionmakers.

In several case-study states, the removal in 1995 of the ISTEA mandate
lessened support for the development and implementation of
transportation management systems and resulted in some systems being
dropped. In addition, some states reported that DOT’s failure to issue a
clear and timely rule following the enactment of ISTEA on developing and
implementing the management systems caused difficulties, particularly in
terms of the congestion, public transportation, and/or intermodal
management systems. These difficulties resulted in one state delaying
development of some systems. Another state, which found the concept of
an intermodal management system not clearly spelled out in either ISTEA or
the interim rule, decided not to implement the system. While a number of
states acknowledged receiving assistance from FHWA, several case-study
states indicated that they had received little or no assistance from the
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on implementing a public
transportation management system. FTA officials told us that they had, in
fact, provided assistance, which included issuing guidance on the system
and providing related software.

Most states would like additional federal assistance in implementing the
management systems. AASHTO found that a majority of the states
responding to its May 1996 survey would like both FHWA and FTA to provide
more technical assistance by sponsoring conferences and training courses,
acting as an information clearinghouse, establishing task forces, and
funding research. In addition, our case-study states indicated that they
need additional technical assistance from FHWA that focuses on areas such
as developing software for the systems, explaining geographic information
systems technology,6 establishing performance measures for systems, and
integrating the management systems. Finally, states told us that DOT should
establish an information clearinghouse that would provide the results of
the research pertaining to the management systems and examples of best
practices for various states’ efforts to implement and integrate systems.


6
 Geographic information systems are the computer hardware and software that allow for the assembly,
storage, manipulation, and display of geographically referenced data (i.e., data that are associated with
specific places on earth, such as the location of a bridge).



Page 5                                                                            GAO/T-RCED-97-79
In conclusion, the NHS Act, which generally made the management systems
optional, resulted in reduced federal involvement with the systems and an
increase in the states’ role. The states are continuing to develop and
implement most systems, but they are now doing so according to their
own needs and time frames rather than by following federal requirements.
As the states proceed, however, they are facing technical problems that
they would like further federal help in addressing. While the management
systems are no longer mandatory, we believe there continues to be a role
for FHWA and FTA to play in helping the states address the problems they
face in developing, implementing, and integrating the systems that will
best meet their needs.

Our report recommended that DOT work with the states to more fully
determine the types of technical assistance needed. In addition, we
recommended that DOT establish an information clearinghouse on
(1) training, conferences, and workshops being offered, regionally and
nationally; (2) the status of the states’ experience with implementing and
integrating the six management systems; (3) the available software
applications and technology; (4) the systems’ performance measures;
(5) examples of “best practices” of the states that are effectively
implementing and integrating the systems; and (6) other issues identified
by the states. DOT has not commented on our recommendations. The
department is required by law to respond to our recommendations within
60 days of report issuance, which will not occur until mid-March.




Page 6                                                     GAO/T-RCED-97-79
Page 7   GAO/T-RCED-97-79
Appendix I

Number of Management Systems Being
Developed and Implemented by Each State


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                   2 states developing and implementing 3 systems

                    15 states and Washington, D.C., developing and implementing 4 systems
             AAAA
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             AAAAAA 9 states and Puerto Rico developing and implementing 5 systems

                   24 states developing and implementing 6 systems




                                              Page 8                                                                                     GAO/T-RCED-97-79
Appendix II

The States Implementing Pavement
Management Systems (as Reported by the
States)


                                                                         F
                                                                                                                            F
                                                                                                                                F


         F




                                                                               F
                       F




              50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico developing/implementing systems



                                                 F = System covers all federal-aid highways.

                                                 Notes: There is little or no uniformity among the states in the way they measure, collect, and
                                                 report pavement condition. The states have been developing their pavement management
                                                 systems independently, and no two are the same.

                                                 We do not have information on the systems’ coverage for New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island,
                                                 and Washington, D.C.

                                                 Sources: Status reports submitted by the states to FHWA during 1996; American Association of
                                                 State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) survey, May 1996; GAO interviews with
                                                 state officials in 1996.




                                                 Page 9                                                                             GAO/T-RCED-97-79
Appendix III

The States Implementing Bridge
Management Systems (as Reported by the
States)

             F
                                   F                    F
         F                                                                                                               F
                                                                               F                                  F
                                                                                           F                            F
                                                                                                                             -Connecticut
                                                                                                 F                           -Delaware
                                                                                                                             -Massachusetts
     F                                         F                                                                             -New Hampshire
                                                                                                                             -New Jersey
                                                                                                              F              -Rhode Island
                                       F                      F                                                              -Vermont
                                                                                                                             -Washington, D.C.
                                                                                          F                       F - Washington, D.C.
                                                                           F
                  F
                                                                                                          F
                                           F


       48 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico developing/implementing systems
       2 states not developing systems

       States using Pontis software.



                                                   F = System covers all bridges on and off federal-aid highways.

                                                   Notes: Pontis is an off-the-shelf software package for bridge management systems. AASHTO’s
                                                   version (3.0) of the software has been available since July 1995, and version 3.1 was issued in
                                                   July 1996.

                                                   We do not have information on the coverage of the system for Nevada, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island,
                                                   and Vermont.

                                                   Sources: Status reports submitted by states to FHWA during 1996; The Status of the Nation’s
                                                   Highway Bridges: Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program and National Bridge
                                                   Inventory, FHWA, June 1995; AASHTO’s survey, May 1996; GAO’s interviews with state officials.




                                                   Page 10                                                                        GAO/T-RCED-97-79
Appendix IV

The States Implementing Safety
Management Systems (as Reported by the
States)




         48 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico developing/implementing systems
         2 states not developing systems



                                             Notes: South Carolina planned to begin implementing the system in fiscal year 1997, and Ohio
                                             had components of a safety management in place according to a February 1996 study.

                                             The composition of a safety management system takes many forms—from an administrative
                                             structure composed of a coordinating or executive committee and subcommittees with members
                                             representing many agencies to a large database that merges safety information from a number of
                                             sources.

                                             Sources: Status reports submitted to FHWA during 1996; AASHTO’s survey, May 1996; GAO’s
                                             interviews with state officials.




                                             Page 11                                                                      GAO/T-RCED-97-79
Appendix V

The States Implementing Congestion
Management Systems (as Reported by the
States)

                T

                                                                         T



                                                            T            T
                              T                                                   T
                                            T
                                                              T
                                                                                          T                 T
                                                                  T
                                                                                                        T
                                                                                                  T
                                                                                   T
                                                          T                  T
                     T

                                                                             T

             46 states and Puerto Rico developing/implementing systems
             4 states and Washington, D.C., not developing systems




                                              T= System covers only transportation management areas.

                                              Note: We do not have information on the coverage of the systems in Kentucky, Nevada, Ohio, and
                                              Rhode Island.

                                              Sources: Status reports submitted by states to FHWA during 1996; AASHTO’s survey, May 1996;
                                              GAO’s interviews with state officials.




                                              Page 12                                                                     GAO/T-RCED-97-79
Appendix VI

The States Implementing Public
Transportation Management Systems (as
Reported by the States)


                              F
       F
                   F                                                       F                                        F
                                                                                                            F           F
                                                                                     F
                                                                   F                                    F               F - Rhode Island
                                                                                   F
                                                                                                F

                                                                                    F                   F
                       F
                                  F

                                                                       F
               F
                                                                                                    F




       33 states and Puerto Rico developing/implementing systems
       17 states and Washington, D.C., not developing systems



                                              F = System covers federally funded or FTA-funded transit operators.

                                              Note: Of those states implementing the system, seven (Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York,
                                              North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Tennessee) already have operational systems in place.

                                              We do not have information on the coverage of the systems in Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia,
                                              Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, and Vermont.

                                              Sources: Status reports submitted by states to FHWA during 1996; AASHTO’s survey, May 1996;
                                              GAO’s interviews with state officials.




                                              Page 13                                                                        GAO/T-RCED-97-79
Appendix VII

The States Implementing Intermodal
Management Systems (as Reported by the
States)


                                          S                                                                                   S
               S                                                                                                           S
                                                                                                                            S
                                                                                              S                           S
                                                                            S                                   S
                                                                                      S      S
           S
                                                                              S

                                                                                                 S
                              S               S                                  S


                        S
                                                                                                            S




               30 states and Washington, D.C., developing/implementing systems

               20 states and Puerto Rico not developing systems



                                                  S = Statewide coverage of management system.

                                                  Note: We do not have information on the coverage of the systems in Kentucky, Minnesota, New
                                                  Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C..

                                                  Sources: Status reports submitted by states to FHWA during 1996; AASHTO’s survey, May 1996;
                                                  GAO’s interviews with state officials.




(342933)                                          Page 14                                                                     GAO/T-RCED-97-79
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