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6 CHAPTER one Introduction Background particular statutory, political, or financial requirements. Most agencies use a computerized tool, a bridge manage- Bridges are one of the most visible and important compo- ment system (BMS), to manage and process relevant data and nents of a transportation system. By providing crossings to provide analytical support for bridge program decisions. at critical locations, bridges maintain network continuity, Again, the particular BMS products agencies use can differ, traversing natural and manmade features that otherwise and even the same product may vary in its details among would add significant travel time and cost. Designing, agencies in how it is customized and applied. The familiarity building, maintaining, repairing, and replacing bridges of upper management with the assumptions, data, and con- involve critical investment decisions for agencies because ventions of bridge management, and with the capability of of the high cost of these investments, the need to sustain their agency's BMS, may also vary among agencies. DOTs an appropriate level of investment throughout the consid- would like to understand how their peers apply and benefit erable life of a bridge, and the important structural and from their bridge management processes and systems when functional implications of the selected investments. Agen- making resource allocation decisions. cies therefore try to get these investments right, both to minimize life-cycle cost (LCC) and to provide safe and efficient mobility to transportation system users. Agencies Management Perspectives must at the same time account for the revenue stream that is available to fund transportation programs, the project A DOT's upper management and its bridge managers are eligibility rules and degree of flexibility afforded by dif- involved in bridge program decisions. However, these two ferent funding sources, and the competition between the groups bring different responsibilities, perspectives, and cri- bridge program and other transportation needs for the lim- teria to their respective roles regarding resource allocation as ited dollars available. it affects the bridge program. The DOT chief executive offi- cer (CEO) and his or her senior management team provide Decision making regarding the funding of state and pro- executive leadership to the agency. They: vincial bridge programs occurs at different organizational levels within departments of transportation (DOTs). The Translate federal and state public policy and regula- ways in which these decisions are reached, and with what tions into agency objectives, procedural requirements, data, depend on an agency's philosophy and approach to and performance targets bridge management as well as broader processes for long- Set strategic priorities for the agency range planning, revenue projection, capital and maintenance Understand and provide strategic direction regarding programming, and budgeting. These more broad-based interactions among federal and local governments and functions set the levels of investment and the allocation of the state DOT resources among agency programs, geographic districts or Provide guidance and oversee decisions on the depart- regions, and support activities. This synthesis study was ment's long-range transportation plan, the Statewide motivated by a desire among DOTs to understand how their Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), budget peer agencies conduct bridge management, and how this development, and resource allocation, including: information supports upper-management decisions affect- Meeting short-term and long-term projections of ing the bridge program. needs Addressing uncertainties in the projections of eco- All state DOTs (for brevity, "state" will be understood in nomic and demographic shifts, traffic volume and this report to refer to both "state" and "provincial" unless composition, and revenue streams from different noted otherwise) have a bridge management process in place. sources Later chapters will show that this process can vary consider- Accounting for geographic equity considerations ably from one agency to another. There is no single "model" in the balancing of needs; that is, resource alloca- process. These variations may reflect management philoso- tions among districts, regions, or other geographic phy and culture; they may also be pragmatic responses to subdivisions