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9 SECTION 2 NEEDS ASSESSMENT 2.1 OBJECTIVES OF THE Literature Review and Summary NEEDS ASSESSMENT Recent research efforts have involved surveys of state The purpose of the needs assessment was to gain a better DOT personnel on issues related to the use of decision sup- understanding of state DOT needs with respect to analyti- port tools for asset management. The research team identi- cal tools for resource allocation. The needs assessment was fied and summarized eight relevant studies documenting these focused on providing the research team with a clear idea of efforts. The types of information that agencies would like to Structured Interviews have to improve asset investment decisions, The degree of the agencies' receptivity to different types The primary data collection effort for the needs assess- of analysis methods and procedures for investment deci- ment involved interviews with target users at 10 state DOTs. sion support as well as the likely degree of influence that Representatives from five of these DOTs were interviewed analysis results would have on agency decisions, in-person; remaining interviews were by telephone. The typical requirements for integration with existing data and systems, and The desirable features of existing tools and the shortcom- Selection of States ings that might be addressed by new or modified tools. Seventeen DOTs were identified as candidates for the inter- views, as shown in Table 2. These DOTs represent a range of variation in size of system and transportation budget, geo- 2.2 NEEDS ASSESSMENT METHODOLOGY graphic location, degree of urbanization, current use of eco- nomic analysis and analytic tools, approach to asset man- The needs assessment methodology was designed to build agement, and degree of funding flexibility across modes and upon the already established experience of the research team project types. and to provide direction for the remaining tasks in a highly Based on comments from the panel, a target set of 10 DOTs efficient manner. It was not intended to produce an in-depth was identified based on the following criteria: or comprehensive study that is fully representative of the needs and opinions of any individual state DOT and certainly not Geographic distribution, of all state DOTs. Rather, its goal was to provide insights Variation in size of budget (with FHWA apportionment from a variety of perspectives that could be used to guide the as a proxy for this), research team in identifying and prioritizing new types of Inclusion of at least two DOTs that have not been adopt- tools for development. ing the asset management principles and framework as The needs assessment effort consisted of the following specified in NCHRP 20-24(11), and activities: Variation in the extent to which resource allocation and project selection decisions are centralized versus made Literature review and summary, at the district level. Structured interviews with target users at state DOTs, and Exploratory discussion with target users at conference States targeted for interviews were sessions. Michigan, California, Each of these activities is described in the following Massachusetts, paragraphs. Montana,

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10 TABLE 2 Candidate states for needs assessment interviews AASHTO Region Size (FY 2001 FHWA Mississippi Apportionment ) Valley Southeastern Northeastern Western < $400 Million Kansas South Carolina Vermont Montana Colorado $401-$900 Million Wisconsin Virginia Massachusetts Arizona Maryland Washington >$900 Million Michigan Florida New York California Ohio Pennsylvania Wisconsin, Interview Structure and Content Ohio, New York, Interviews consisted of four parts: South Carolina, Florida, and 1. The first set of questions determined what types of deci- Maryland. sion support systems are in place. Tools in place were related to the level of interest in new tools; for exam- ple, if the agency already uses project-level benefit/cost Users Interviewed analysis and indicates a low level of interest in new benefit/cost tools, the agency finds benefit/cost analy- Interviews were conducted with potential users of new ana- sis useful, but not a capability in which it is experienc- lytical tools--both the direct, hands-on users and the decision- ing an important gap. The systems in place also were makers who would be requesting and receiving information useful for understanding integration needs for new tools. from the tools. These users and decision-makers include rep- 2. The second set of questions related to the agency's cur- resentatives of the following three major functions: rent approach to asset management. These questions addressed whether the agency's current business pro- Policy, planning, and program development; cesses would easily fit with the kinds of functions envi- Engineering (construction, maintenance, operations) sioned for the analytical tools to be developed in this Chief engineers or their designees project. For example, if an agency is not analyzing District engineers or their designees (in states where tradeoffs across categories and has no flexibility to real- districts have significant resource allocation lati- locate funds across categories based on expected per- tude); and formance, a tool that performs such tradeoff analysis Budget and finance. would not be expected to have a high degree of impact on resource allocation decisions. While the primary emphasis of this research was on ana- 3. The researchers presented a matrix showing different lytical tools to support decision-making within the highway types of analyses that new analytical tools might sup- mode, the target interview subjects included individuals in port. Respondents were asked about their level of inter- each state who could comment on the level of use and/or est in new or enhanced tools in each category. They also interest in tools to support multimodal investment tradeoffs. were asked to suggest desired features of the tools in For each state selected for inclusion in the needs assess- which they expressed a high degree of interest. ment, the research team identified a primary contact person, 4. The final series of questions was designed to learn about with the assistance of the project panel and based on our estab- the specific requirements of tools to be developed. lished network of contacts. This primary contact person helped These questions covered the shortcomings of existing to identify two to four target users who could adequately assess tools that are to be avoided, integration issues, and the their state's needs from the three previously stated perspec- platform for the new tools. Some open-ended questions tives. Interviews were then arranged for the target users. As were included to elicit the respondent's viewpoint noted, representatives of at least five of the selected states were about the most desirable qualities of new tools. interviewed in person. Because of the content of the survey, group interviews were conducted where possible to encourage The researchers used an interview guide to ensure collec- discussion across different perspectives. However, individual tion of a consistent set of information that could be summa- interviews were conducted in a few cases where scheduling a rized across respondents. This guide was sent to respondents group interview presented a problem. before the interviews.