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3 CHAPTER 1 Introduction 1.1 Research Objectives mobility gaps, effective management of the IHS will be more important than ever before if the United States is to remain The objective of NCHRP Project 20-74 is to develop a competitive in the world economy. practical framework for applying asset-management principles On a national scale, the IHS has transformed the nation, en- and practices to managing IHS investments. The framework abling coast-to-coast travel and trade in a matter of days instead developed through the project is intended to: of weeks. Approximately 20 percent of all road travel by auto- mobiles, trucks, and buses occurs on the one percent of miles Be holistic, applicable to existing facilities and those that represented by the IHS. On a regional level, the IHS has facili- may be developed in the future; tated economic integration and accessibility within numerous Provide the basis for making decisions across asset classes multistate corridors, as evidenced by the growing number of in an integrated manner and from a systemwide perspective voluntary interstate corridor coalitions of states and metropol- about operation and maintenance as well as new construc- itan areas that have sprung to life over the past 15 years. On a tion and reconstruction; and more local level, in literally hundreds of urbanized areas around Be easy to implement, cost-effective, and sufficiently benefi- the country, networks of beltways and radial highways serve as cial to be attractive for adoption by transportation officials the surface transportation backbone of metropolitan regions. and agencies nationwide. Despite the undeniable significance of the IHS as a physi- cal, economic, and social asset at all geographic levels from The IHS is the backbone of the nation's transportation sys- the globe to the beltway, there is no generally accepted frame- tem, essential nationwide for providing mobility and crucial work for managing and operating these assets in a manner to the United States maintaining its economic competitive- that considers the unique needs of the IHS. The absence of ness. A number of efforts are currently underway to assess the such a framework is understandable considering: state of the IHS and the future of the system. The objective of the current effort is to supplement other work on the past and The focus for over four decades on completing the initial future of the IHS with tools and approaches for better man- system. aging the system in the present. The variation in needs across the system reflecting differ- ences in age and in traffic volumes and patterns, as well as 1.2 Criticality of the Interstate weather and soil conditions, and differences in expecta- Highway System tions and priorities of system users and owners. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the IHS to Ownership and maintenance responsibilities are dispersed global, national, regional, and local area movements of people among the 48 contiguous states (plus Hawaii, which has and goods. On a global scale, the competitiveness of the United three interstate routes), and therefore it is understandable States in international trade and the need to surmount the that different approaches to preserving, operating, and en- challenges of moving goods over long distances has benefited hancing the system would emerge over the years. immensely from this far-reaching network of roads that for a For many of the entities that own and operate the IHS, generation had no equal. Moving forward, with the looming this system must fit within the financial and operational economic power houses of China and India building similar paradigms confronting each agency for a much larger system networks as they emulate our success and close their internal of streets and highways as well as other facilities over which