Causes and Effects of Transportation Data Variability

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Causes and Effects of Transportation Data Variability


Funding

$400,000

Research Period

12 months

Description

• State departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) across the United States are required to establish performance targets as part of their asset management efforts. The target- setting requirements for transportation performance management (PM2) of pavement and bridge condition generally require agencies to consider three factors; the measured condition of the assets, expected deterioration over time and project level accomplishments. The measured condition of the asset is the ultimate measure of progress and an effective way for agencies to demonstrate that they are making progress as required by federal regulations.
• Research assessing the consistency of National Bridge Inventory (NBI) condition metrics has found variability between individual inspectors when inspecting “control bridges” for study. In other words, there is the potential for any given bridge inspector to assess the current condition of same bridge differently. This variability means that the conditions of bridge could improve in the absence of a project just by having a different inspector interpret the field condition differently. A similar potential exists for pavement condition assessments. This demonstrates the potential inconsistencies due to human interaction, but the same could be true of technologies if applied or calibrated differently across agencies.
• Pavement and bridge conditions rely on assessment methods that are subject to variability from one assessment to the next and from one assessor or one technology utilization to the next. This variability may occur in the absence of projects or significant field deterioration. This research project would attempt to evaluate the impact of condition assessment variability on agency wide target setting required for asset management.


Literature Search Summary

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Objectives

The outcome from this effort will benefit quality assurance (QA) methods for data collection and inspection efforts, quantify the variability and sensitivity in target setting for DOTs, and help budget planning for asset inconsistencies.


Urgency and Potential Benefits

• To be completed at 9/9 research workshop


Implementation Considerations

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Notes

• Since the performance measures are consistently tied to specific data inputs, each state could use this research to understand the potential volatility in target setting and performance measures. The summary of best practices and pitfalls will also allow transportation agencies and vendors to improve inspection protocol. Testing of the data should be a part of the research, with a few select agencies comparing potentially the same data in a single year across multiple sources or reviewing the historic trends of individual data pints to highlight inconsistencies and the impact of those inconsistencies to overall measures and targets.
• This research would best be shared in an open forum or webinar so all agencies and consultants tasked with data management can obtain the information. The AASHTO Performance Management Committee should be interested in supporting this research to ensure that the performance measures produced by transportation agencies are of the highest quality.


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