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5 be expected to perform or retain an intended condition given foreseeable revenue streams. By contrast, disinvestment is understood not to characterize situations such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle (where old infrastructure is simply being abandoned and replaced with new infrastructure) or the San Francisco Embarcadero Freeway (where a facility is not replaced because the community concludes that a better and higher use of space can be achieved). The major character- istic of disinvestment, as defined in the current synthesis, is the objective of reducing the long-term investment levels in an asset and accepting the conditions and performance implications of this change. One hope of the current synthesis is that it will raise awareness of disinvestment situations such that agencies can (1) recognize the situations as they occur, and (2) make decisions to realize potential opportunities associated with such situations. For example, if decision makers are aware of a disinvestment situation, related investments, policies, and practices may be oriented to mitigate adverse economic implications. In this way, agencies may use economic analy- sis to make the most efficient and highest use of the remain- ing asset as well as whatever scarce resources can be invested to meet the need previously covered by the disinvested asset, system, or program. Although many plans and studies identify investment needs and economic costs associated with leaving needs unmet (see chapter two: âStudies of Underinvestment and Its Con- sequencesâ), the findings of such studies are almost entirely dependent on the magnitude of the needs estimate. Realistically addressing the economic implications depends primarily on the ability to identify the linkage between unmet needs, trans- portation performance outcomes, and economic performance. For this reason, the current synthesis resists the temptation to summarize and compare different needs studies (and the eco- nomic outcomes they would suggest) and instead places its emphasis on the state of the practice for applying and using economic methods to arrive at a responsible understanding of the economic outcomes likely to result from a transportation investment or disinvestment scenario. The critical deferred needs of state and local transporta- tion systems have been well documented (AASHTO 2010; ASCE 2011). Although the economic impacts of investing in transportation systems have been extensively studied and generally found to be positive (FHWA 2012b), the impacts Federal, state, and local governments are continually con- fronting the reality of deciding which elements of the nationâs transportation infrastructure network will be triaged as main- tenance and investment budgets shrink and cuts must be made. Fundamentally, decision makers understand that a sub- optimally maintained transportation system can have adverse economic consequences. Likewise, there is broad recognition that efficiently moving people and goods improves quality of life, reduces travel costs, sustains economic growth (through improved accessibility to jobs and reduced costs to firms), and reduces the negative environmental impacts of travel (U.S. Department of the Treasury 2012; Rodrigue 2013b). And yet, that recognition alone does not mean that these impacts are being systematically evaluated and used in current decision- making processes. This synthesis examines the current state of research and practice on these issues. It specifically focuses on macro- economic effects, intermodal tradeoffs, and methods for broadly informing federal, state, and regional disinvestment decision making in an era of constrained resources. Disinvestment in a transportation facility or program is always a relative term. At the outset, any âdisinvestmentâ situation presumes that an agency is truly invested in an asset or its performance. For this reason, this synthesis addresses how agencies come to be âinvestedâ as part of the basis for understanding the implica- tions of âdisinvestment.â Disinvestment may represent a level of investment either (1) below that which would be required to achieve a future projected needs target, or (2) insufficient to maintain an asset at its current level of condition or per- formance. Because most investment decisions are long term, seeking to address future needs, the emphasis in the current study is on the prior more than the latter, although this study considers both types. Also, it is notable that transportation dis- investment occurs at county and municipal levels; however, these situations often go undocumented in the literature and occur outside of formal planning processes and are, hence, largely beyond the focus of the current synthesis. There are several practical examples of disinvestment situ- ations. One example would be the decisions made after Hur- ricane Katrina not to rebuild damaged facilities to previous standards (whether the result of changed needs or to optimize scarce resources). In some cases, paved roads are allowed to return to granular surfaces. Other examples may include pol- icy decisions not to build or rebuild facilities in areas that may be flooded or where such systems and facilities simply cannot chapter one INTRODUCTION
6 of disinvestment have not been widely studied. There are several reasons for this. Given the complex interplay of transportation systems within and between metro and non-metro economies it is sometimes difficult to determine how disinvestment affects linkages to key nodal points and capacities of different fac- ets of the transport system. Therefore, it can be difficult to assess disinvestment impacts on national and regional economic growth, the distribution of income, and social and environmental sustainability. Moreover, it is not always clear how currently used transportation analytical techniques can be applied to ascertain the economic effects of disinvestment. By addressing these issues in an era of constrained resources, decision makers can be expected to benefit from new perspec- tives that establish the degree to which disinvestment out- comes will have implications for economic growth, business formation, and job creation. It is understood that the performance implications of a disinvestment scenario are expected to affect key economic drivers including: 1. Direct transportation impacts. Disinvestment can lead to speed slowdowns; road, bridge, or viaduct clo- sures; or vehicle size and/or weight restrictions, all of which can lead to changes in traffic volumes, speeds, and routings, which show up as vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) and vehicle-hours traveled (VHT) changes. Reductions in quality of pavement can also lead to changes in vehicle damage rates. 2. Wider transportation impacts. The direct trans- portation changes (see #1) can affect the set of avail- able links, their volume and/or capacity ratios, and vehicle size or weight limits, all of which can lead to changes in reliability, accessibility, and intermodal connectivity. 3. Direct economic impacts. The direct and wider transportation impacts (#1 and #2) will translate into changes in business operating cost, business produc- tivity (returns from deployment of vehicles, as well as effects on inventory levels), and household expenditure patterns. 4. Wider economic impacts. The direct economic impacts (#3) can lead to wider economic impacts on transporta- tion and production efficiencies (through cost impacts), supply chain and logistics technologies (through reli- ability and intermodal connectivity impacts), and busi- ness agglomeration opportunities (through regional accessibility impacts). This synthesis explores how the economic methods, tools, and techniques for assessing the following drivers have been or can be applied to disinvestment scenarios. Understand- ing how these mechanisms are affected in a disinvestment scenario it is necessary to understand the scenario itself and how its implications can be represented in economic terms. Consequently, the work performed for this study addresses the following topics: â¢ The need and economic role of analyzing disinvestment scenarios in the overall development and management of the transportation system. â¢ The applicability and sufficiency of economic models, data, and tools available for assessing the economic implications of disinvestment scenarios. â¢ Studies and practices that have examined or applied trans- portation disinvestment scenarios (actual or hypothetical). â¢ Lessons learned from case examples of the current state of the practice in economic analysis of disinvestment scenarios. â¢ A summary of current practices among transportation agencies seeking to understand the economic implica- tions of disinvestment situations including: â The incidence and frequency with which agencies face disinvestment scenarios; â The levels of scrutiny and accountability requirements facing agencies when confronting disinvestment situations; â The degree of rigor in current economic methods and tools employed; â The confidence of practitioners in the economic meth- ods and tools currently available; and â The greatest desires or unmet needs in the practitioner community pertaining to economic tools and methods for analyzing disinvestment outcomes. â¢ Potential research needs for additional methods, tools, or capacity building resources for agencies facing dis- investment situations. Information has been gathered through a literature review and a survey of state transportation agencies to identify agen- cies that have assessed disinvestment scenarios. A survey of state practices was also conducted, relying primarily on mem- bers of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Transportation Finance Policy. This report also includes seven case examples of cur- rent practice at state departments of transportation (DOTs) and regional agencies. BACKGROUND Understanding the economics of transportation disinvestment entails understanding the disinvestment situation itself: how the situation occurs, how it is approached, and the associated frame of economic implications. The current state of the prac- tice for assessing the economic implications of disinvestment in highway and bridge infrastructure is largely a function of changing long-term paradigms of infrastructure investment and asset management. Within this larger context, the cur- rent synthesis offers a framework for understanding the eco- nomic implications of disinvestment situations, and provides a working definition of disinvestment and an arrangement of related concepts. It also suggests a contemporary investment
7 paradigm in which âdisinvestmentâ can be analyzed and con- sidered as part of an economic decision process. Changing Paradigms Expansion Paradigm 1956â1992 In the mid- to late-20th century, the United States completed the Interstate Highway System; auto ownership and VMT increased steadily (Litman 2014); and transportation agen- cies invested in new highway and bridge facilities to keep pace with the increasing role of vehicular travel in the United States (Lee 1982). During this era, residential, commercial, and industrial development patterns relied on new highway expansion to ensure connection of key trade centers, make additional land available for economic development, and accommodate the preferences of a growing driving population of people and businesses seeking moderate to low densities of development. The highway investment paradigm during this era is widely understood to have been one of highway expansion, where revenues available for capital investment in transportation were allocated to accommodate the increasing demand for new facilities in a growing economy. Investments could be economically justified in market terms on the basis of the existing or emerging populations and economic activities served by new or expanded facilities. It was generally believed that as long as VMT kept pace with highway expansion, fuel tax revenues could keep pace with highway and bridge expansion and preservation requirements. During this period, federal legislation created metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), which began to model and forecast future travel demands based on socioeconomic pro- jections (Solof 1998). Also during this period, the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA 1970) began to require assessments of environmental implications of trans- portation investments, which included issues of the overall economic costs and benefits of investments (CEQ 2005). During the expansion era, costâbenefit analysis generally would assume growing future demand, and compare a failure to expand the system to accommodate demand against a base case in which the system was not expanded. Very few agen- cies prior to 1992âthe year in which the interstate system was completed (Row et al. 2004)âlinked travel demand and performance models to economic impact models, as the eco- nomic analysis of long-term transportation economic impacts was still early in its early stages. Asset Management Paradigm 1970â2014 Before the end of the expansion paradigm, the ongoing costs of maintaining and operating highway and bridge facilities began to place a strain on transportation revenues. Periodic costs of resurfacing and replacing assets, as well as annual operation and maintenance, continued to mount as the nationâs highway and bridge system continued to expand and age. Agencies during this era began struggling to find the appro- priate balance between investment to preserve existing assets in places where no expansion was required against the need to expand the system by adding capacity or new facilities (U.S.DOT 1999). During this time, there has been an increas- ing awareness of the life-cycle costs of expansion projects and growing concerns about the ability of revenue sources to both maintain todayâs assets and invest in those areas where demand continues to increase (FHWA 2004). The 2007 National Sur- face Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission study drew attention to the effects of increasing fuel economy, aging infrastructure, and other factors on the nationâs abil- ity to meet the investment needs of its transportation system. While economic impacts were not considered in their study, the Revenue Commissionâs work drew attention to the need to invest in maintaining transportation assets and the inabilities of existing revenue sources to keep pace with growing and changing investment needs. Many states began to adopt the mantra of âfix it firstâ as a series of federal transportation laws from the 1991 ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) to the 2012 MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Cen- tury) placed a growing emphasis on the need to maintain exist- ing assets for fear of losing the âsunk costâ (irrevocable cost) of long-standing investments. The role of costâbenefit analy- sis has increased as the FHWA has made tools and techniques available to state agencies for assessing both (1) the agency life-cycle costs of deferred maintenance, and (2) the economic user costs of deficient pavements and bridges (Cambridge Sys- tematics 2005). The asset management paradigm has strongly impressed on transportation decision makers the reality that if an assetâs conditions are allowed to deteriorate below certain levels, the cost of restoring that asset increases with each year the preservation need goes unmet. A growing body of research documents how deteriorating pavements and bridges affect the transit costs of goods, and the overall economic competitive- ness of states, regions, and the nation as a whole (as further described in chapter two). Just as the nation began to develop appropriate tools and methods for assessing the economic needs and implications of asset preservation and management, new changes have begun to challenge the âfix it firstâ asset management ethic. In the 21st century, there have been more fundamental changes in urban development and transportation patterns that have uncertain consequences for the future. Some cities have expe- rienced a residential renaissance as the âmillennialâ generation has started migrating to their core central areas (McCahill and Spahr 2013). From 2007 to 2008, VMT actually declined across the United States as a whole, as a result of an economic down- turn, with the steepest decline occurring in rural areas (FHWA 2008). However, traffic and congestion in many urban areas has continued to increase. Changes in settlement patterns were further exacerbated by the real estate and economic crisis
8 of 2009, which significantly changed the rate of residential development in many U.S. cities from what it was projected to have been when transportation assets were originally built (U.S. Census Bureau 2014). Ongoing changes in housing preferences and urban land markets make it more difficult to predict transportation demands 20 and 30 years into the future (HUD 2003). As the 21st century progresses, it is becom- ing more evident that it will not be possible to simply transi- tion from an era of highway and bridge expansion, to an era of preserving existing assets as built. As a consequence, the asset management era is beginning to give way to an era in which formerly invested and aging assets with growing preservation costs are serving declining demand in many areas, while at the same time other areas show needs for new investment in the absence of clear revenue streams to accom- modate this change. Strategic Investment Paradigm 2012+ The highway expansion and asset management paradigms have led the United States to the current situation where it is widely understood that agencies cannot simply âbuild their way outâ of transportation performance challengesâsuch that building could overwhelm agencies in life-cycle costs. However, many state and regional transportation agencies have also arrived at a realization that simply âfixing it firstâ and âkeeping what we haveâ can lead to ongoing investment in underutilized assets and underinvestment in changing demands. Given these realizations, agencies (and federal legislation) are increasingly seeking to leverage performance metrics, eco- nomic and engineering data, and tools and technologies to sup- port better investment decisions (Cambridge Systematics, Inc. et al. 2010). By combining the models used to assess needs for asset preservation, forecasting future traffic, assessing risk, and assessing economic benefits and impacts agencies are beginning to develop investment ârecipesâ that can economi- cally optimize the use of transportation revenues in the long term. Although this paradigm is far from complete, the clear direction in transportation investment is toward a dynamic, performance-based approach. The 2012 MAP-21 legislation introduced the concept of âperformance-based planningâ as a basis for using comprehen- sive data, tools, and systems to manage ongoing performance and investment tradeoffs in statewide and MPO transporta- tion planning and programming. Economic methods, with their ability to monetize and compare performance outcomes for different investment âmixesâ across performance areas are understood to play an important role in realizing this (see chapter two: âNeeds-Based Planning and Quantifying the Effects of Unmet Needs by Programâ). The new paradigm of strategic investment (supported by performance-based planning) recognizes that investment management must consider not only the strategic use of revenues to pay for new or existing assets, but also a critical examination of the most efficient use of assets themselves. For example, highways and bridges built in the 1950s and 1960s today serve very different populations than when they were built (see chapter two: âDemographic and Demand Shiftsâ). However, is it reasonable to expect (or to invest) in maintaining such assets to the standards for which they were originally built, or are there cases where it may be more eco- nomical to change the expected function and performance of assets? The previous paradigms (expansion and asset manage- ment) primarily considered the economic implications of expandingâor at least maintainingâan asset in comparison to a future where the asset was not expanded or maintained (assuming the demand or need would be constant). However, the new paradigm entails considering the economic impli- cations of reducingâor maintaining at a different function or performance standardâan asset that no longer needs to perform its previous function. In confronting this new issue, there is risk that the exist- ing methods, tools, and data may take an asymmetrical view of the economic implications of investments. For example, models, data, and tools have long been cultivated to identify and observe future needs over time, identify the costs of meet- ing those needs, and compare them with the economic costs of leaving such needs unmet. However, models, data, and tools have not been so well cultivated that they identify where needs are declining, and where disinvestment (or reductions in investment to support other needs) can be achieved with fewer adverse economic consequences. This is made even more complicated because of the asymmetry of benefits and costs associated with disinvestment (i.e., that small changes in investment cost can sometimes have much larger consequences for the usability of past investments). Therefore, the new questions that arise include: â¢ What is the appropriate or economically efficient invest- ment level for an asset or program? â¢ What is the economic risk of disinvestment to a lower than efficient level? â¢ What benefits might be foregone in a disinvestment situation or what benefits may accrue if disinvestment situations can be avoided or better managed? â¢ What are the economic costs of overinvestment in some assets to the neglect of others? â¢ Given that fully investing in all former and future assets is not feasible, what justifies a disinvestment choice? â¢ What are the risks of simply underinvesting without ever making a disinvestment choice? This study synthesis explores the degree to which practi- tioner experiences and formal research have begun to address these questions.
9 Defining Disinvestment For the purposes of this synthesis a distinction is made between simply underinvesting in an asset or system relative to a per- ceived need and actually disinvesting in existing assets or pro- grams. Underinvestment (or deferred investment) has always been a relevant issue in fiscally constrained planning and programming. The economic implications of falling short of a needs target can generally be assessed by comparing a base case of âbusiness as usualâ investment levels (or a projected revenue stream) to a build case, where additional investments are made. The difference in transportation user costs between the base and build cases is generally understood as the basis of the economic benefit of investment (or cost of under or disinvestment). Once the agency understands these cost dif- ferentials, they can apply using widely accepted economic impact models (such as REMI or TREDIS) to derive wider economic impacts on local earnings, output, gross domestic product (GDP), and employment. However, the current synthesis defines disinvestment as an instance where an agency, instead of simply tolerating underinvestment, makes a conscious choice to accept a lower performance standard or use of an alternate asset in order to channel life-cycle costs elsewhere. For this reason, the current synthesis offers the following working definitions of disinvestment: â¢ Disinvestment: a process by which an infrastructure asset (which may be a specific facility, program or net- work) is allowed to fall below previously accepted stan- dards of condition or performance by either investing resources elsewhere or simply not investing resources in the disinvested asset. This may also include choosing not to invest in new infrastructure or assets as needed to maintain an accepted level of performance on an existing facility or system. â¢ Intentional disinvestment: a conscious policy choice to disinvest in an infrastructure asset in order to make funds available elsewhere or to manage funding shortfalls. â¢ Passive disinvestment: a policy choice (or series of policy choices) that, while not intended to allow an infrastructure asset to fall below previously accepted standards of condition or performance, effectively has such an effect over time. Because it is understood that disinvestment can be uninten- tional (such as when a choice is made to forego investments at a particular time, while still recognizing the unresolved and unmet need), the following chapters will include a review of conscious underinvestment as examples of passive disinvestment. Related Concepts Because disinvestment can only be defined in relation to a particular target asset condition, performance, or investment level it is important to the understanding of how disinvest- ment relates to other concepts in performance-based plan- ning. Chapter two explores multiple definitions and concepts related to disinvestment. First, however, the following defi- nitions are offered by way of introduction to broadly capture the framework within which the economics of disinvestment are understood: Economic development is the process by which a state, regional, or local economyâs use of human, natural, and other resources evolves to create a given stan- dard of living and effective role within the larger economy. Minimum tolerable conditions is an asset management term used to describe the condition or performance below which an asset is considered to be âdeficientâ and needing additional investment to perform prop- erly. These usually consist of pavement conditions, bridge ratings, volume-to-capacity ratios, or inter- section level of service. Intentional disinvestment lowers minimum tolerable conditions to reduce the needed investment level. Investment gap is the dollar amount that would have to be invested above and beyond currently budgeted amounts to achieve minimum tolerable conditions for all assets over a period of time. Intentional disinvestment reduces an investment gap by lowering minimum tolerable con- ditions, whereas passive disinvestment allows the gap to grow while still holding an intention to somehow âcatch up.â Underinvestment is any revenue or budgetary policy that allows some investment gap in any given year for any given reason. Underinvestment over time may become passive disinvestment if conditions deteriorate so much that the agency could never afford to catch up or achieve its desired performance levels. Programmatic investment strategy is a planning strat- egy that considers different possible revenue allocations among programs to minimize the adverse economic implications of investment gaps in various programs. A programmatic investment strategy may also compare the economic implications of additional taxes, tolls, or user fees against the economic implications of investment gaps in transportation programs. Disinvestment scenarios may have a role in a programmatic investment strategy. Base case in an economic analysis is the scenario that assumes there is no change from the current invest- ment pattern. Investment (or disinvestment) case in an economic analy- sis is the scenario that assumes some change from the current investment pattern. In the case of intentional disinvestment, it may represent a change in perfor- mance standard for a given program or asset, the transi- tion of demand to an alternate facility, or the costs and economic outcomes anticipated from retrofitting the disinvested asset for some other use.
10 Adaptive re-use is a tactic of redesigning or redesignat- ing a piece of infrastructure formerly used for one pur- pose so that it can be used for a different purpose (at a lower cost). The Rails to Trails re-use of railroad right- of-way is an example of this. Adaptive re-use may be a source of benefits in a disinvestment situation. Jurisdictional turnback is a tactic of a federal or state agency giving an asset to a county or municipal unit of government, making it effectively no longer a part of the state or federal transportation system. A turnback is often understood as assigning ownership and financial responsibility for a facility to an entity more directly representing its users. Although a turnback is not always a form of disinvestment (it may simply change the investing agencies), turnbacks can lead to disinvestment when they are accompanied by changes in classification or intended use for a facility. Abandonment is the act of relinquishing an asset entirely and regarding the infrastructure investment as a âsunk costâ with the possible exception of the salvage value of the land. STUDY APPROACH The current synthesis of economic approaches to understand- ing transportation disinvestment draws on information from: (1) formal published literature, (2) case-based examples from the real world practice of transportation agencies, and (3) a descriptive survey of state transportation officials. For the purposes of this synthesis, the scope is limited to highway and bridge disinvestment in the United States, although relevant examples from other modes, nations, and industries are con- sidered as they relate to U.S. highway and bridge disinvest- ment situations. The findings of each of these lines of inquiry are interpreted within the context of the background and con- text presented previously, with the synthesis concluding with suggested best practices and areas of future research on the economics of highway and bridge disinvestment.