Develop an Integrated Systems Planning and Project Development Process for Screening Transportation Solutions

Focus Area

NEPA Process


Environmental Process




Over $750,000



Research Idea Scope

A new decision making process is needed to underpin the system planning and project development process, one that is equipped to consider multi-modal and operations solutions that minimize adverse environmental and other effects while maximizing a broad range of benefits such as economic development. Such a decision making process must begin early during long-range, state-level planning when broad transportation needs are identified. It should continue during capital programming as financially constrained, regional-level programs or plans (e.g. a Transportation Improvement Plan, or TIP) are prepared that identify a specific roster of projects. Finally, such a decision making approach should be continued in project development, which usually includes extensive review of possible alternatives, impacts, and mitigation approaches, as well as extensive
public involvement.

The new framework should enable transportation agencies and their partners in the transportation planning process to work together efficiently to screen transportation solutions based on an understanding of system performance needs, costs, and environmental and other effects of alternatives. The framework should cover the entire transportation process from system planning and capital programming, to project development and delivery.

This project involves the development and implementation of a conceptual framework for transportation decision making. Tasks:

Phase I – Approaches for Developing Integrated Solutions Packages to Address
Transportation Capacity Needs

a) Summarize the range of institutional and analytic processes that are used to assess transportation needs and develop plans, capital programs, and projects (focus on highway capacity projects).

b) Assess institutional and analytic barriers to 1) the development of multimodal
transportation solutions for meeting transportation needs and 2) the integration of
management-and-operations-based strategies (e.g., real-time signalization, lane
reversal, etc.) in the formulation of plans and programs.

c) Develop institutional and analytic approaches for 1) comprehensive, timely, and
coordinated review of transportation systems when determining how to meet
transportation needs and 2) development of integrated solutions packages that
transcend multimodal, management and operations, and new highway infrastructure

d) Test and refine new approaches via a pilot program (involving at least three
transportation agencies) that focuses on integrated solutions to addressing
transportation needs of specific urban, ex-urban, and rural regions.

Phase II – Develop a Solutions Screening Process, that Balances Environmental, Economic, Social, and Community Livability Considerations, for Project Evaluation, Selection, and Programming

e) Develop a systems-based performance measurement framework for assessing the human and natural environmental footprints of solutions to transportation capacity needs, and that accounts for capital programming considerations.

f) Construct a “solutions screening process” that uses systems-based performance
measures for supporting project selection and capital programming, and develop
guidance on its application that focuses on institutional, analytic, and process
requirements. Include as part of this task 1) guidance on public participation
techniques for supporting implementation of the “solutions screening process,” 2)
guidance on collaborative decision making, and 3) guidance on developing and
implementing environmental stewardship and enhancement strategies.

Phase III – Test and Refine the Solutions Screening Process

g) Test and refine the “solutions screening process” via a pilot demonstration program targeting four State DOTs. The pilot programs will focus on improving the planning and project development process broadly, which may involve a range of organizational and
cultural changes within the organizations.

h) Prepare a practitioners’ handbook that 1) documents, in detail, the institutional,
analytic, process, and other requirements associated with the “solutions screening
process,” 2) describes how agencies can tailor the process to meet their specific
needs, 3) describes intra-agency requirements for implementing such a process
(including organizational, manpower, and financial resources considerations), and 4)
demonstrates the application of the process via the results of the pilot demonstration
under Task g).

i) Design, organize, and execute a training program on the “solutions screening

TERI Administrator Note (January 2009): Research Underway
SHRP 2 Project C01: A Framework for Collaborative Decision Making on Additions to Highway Capacity. Project completion date: 2/27/09.

The objective is to improve collaborative decision making and the process for selecting solutions to capacity problems. The project scope includes at least these elements: Existing processes that influence or are influenced by transportation planning and project development; decision points that may be external to transportation planning but can influence the outcome; the relationships among stakeholders; strategies for interactive communication; supporting information technology, analysis tools, and data. A contract in the amount of $2.6 million was awarded to ICF International in January 2007. Work on this project is expected to yield a tested decision making framework and decision support systems by 2010.

TRB SHRP-2 Project C02: Systems-Based Performance Measurement Framework for Highway Capacity Decision Making. Project completion date: 2/27/09.
The objective is to develop a performance measurement framework that supports a collaborative decision making process. The measures will reflect mobility, accessibility, economic, safety, environmental, watershed, habitat, community, and social considerations. The framework will become an integral component of collaborative decision making and decision support tools. A proposal by Cambridge Systematics was selected for the $825,000 project, which is expected to produce the performance measures framework and the template for a Web-based resource that provides: a performance measures library and classification system; examples of best practice that can be augmented by users; and a plan for short- and long-term location and maintenance of the resource. The project is expected to be completed in 2009.

Urgency and Payoff

The product of this research project will be a solutions screening process that can be adopted by transportation agencies that seek to improve the rigor of their long-range planning, capital programming, and project development processes. The product will allow transportation agencies to address the analytic, institutional, and process-related elements of decision making that hinder thorough and timely development of integrated long range plans, capital programs, and projects that meet the needs of their stakeholders.

Suggested By

Interim Planning Activities for a Future Strategic Highway Research Program: Study 4 - Capacity, Transportation Research Board (2003) AND FHWA Strategic Plan for Environmental Research 1998-2003

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