TABLE 6-1 Summary of Principal Findings and Conclusions

Infrastructure Performance and its Measurement

1. Infrastructure comprises valuable assets that provide a broad range of services at national, state, and local levels. Its performance is defined by the degree to which the system serves this multilevel community's objectives. Identifying these objectives and assessing and improving infrastructure performance occur through an essentially political process involving multiple stakeholders.

2. Performance measurement, a technical component of the broader task of performance assessment, is an essential step in effective decision making aimed at achieving improved performance of these valuable assets.

3. Despite the importance of measurement, current practices of measuring comprehensive system performance are generally inadequate. Most current measurement efforts are undertaken because they are mandated by federal or state governments or as an ad hoc response to a perceived problem or the demands of an impending short-term project.

4. No adequate, single measure of performance has been identified, nor should there be an expectation that one will emerge. Infrastructure systems are built and operated to meet basic but varied and complex social needs. Their performance must therefore be measured in the context of social objectives and the multiplicity of stakeholders who use and are affected by infrastructure systems.

5. Performance should be assessed on the basis of multiple measures chosen to reflect community objectives. which may conflict. Some performance measures are likely to be location-and situation-specific, but others have broad relevance. Performance benchmarks based on broad experience can be developed as helpful guides for decision-makers.

6. The specific measures that communities use to characterize infrastructure performance may often be grouped into three broad categories: effectiveness, reliability, and cost. Each of these categories is itself multidimensional, and the specific measures used will depend on the location and nature of the problem to be derided.

Assessment Process

7. The performance-assessment process by which objectives are defined, specific measures specified and conflicts among criteria reconciled is crucial. It is through this process that community values are articulated and decisions made about infrastructure development and management.

8. Methodologies do exist for structuring decision making that involve multiple stakeholders and criteria, but experience applying these methodologies to infrastructure is limited.

9. Performance assessment requires good data. Continuing, coordinated data collection and monitoring are needed to establish benchmarking and performance assessment.

10. The subsystems of infrastructure—transportation, water, wastewater, hazardous and solid waste management, and others—exhibit both important physical interactions and relationships in budgeting and management. Effective performance management requires a broad systems perspective encompassing these interactions and relationships. Most infrastructure institutions and analytical methodologies currently do not reflect this broad systems perspective.

11. The long-term and sometimes unintended consequences of infrastructure systems, whether beneficial or detrimental, frequently go far beyond the physical installations themselves. Community views of these consequences become a part of the assessment and decision-making process.

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