In 2017-2018, NCHRP Project 08-36, Task 144 (Redd and ten Sietoff), evaluated TAM capabilities across a dozen DOTs and six foreign agencies, including their maturities in risk management. This and other recent studies have suggested that risk management methods vary across transportation agencies and are likely implemented inconsistently. Risk priorities can vary based on differences in geography, agency size, financial circumstances, population, topography, climate, and many other factors. Finally, the types of threats and uncertainties that affect any one agency may be wide-ranging, from flooding to workforce management issues to funding variability. As a result, the details of risk management processes have appeared to vary considerably across agencies.
In 2018 and 2019 however, experiences in supporting the efforts of state DOTs in preparing transportation asset management plans (TAMPs) for their June 2019 submittal indicated that a convergence in processes and a consistency in results were feasible and in fact likely. This was due largely to the guidance provided for the preparation of the 2019 round of TAMPs per the objectives stated in 23 CFR 667. These objectives helped focus the attention of state agencies toward actual risk events on their networks, and the costs and benefits of appropriate risk management strategies.
A reasonable interpretation of key CFR 667 requirements includes the following:
• Estimating future “risk costs” of each solution, including the use of a full probability spectrum
for the risk (impact) analysis of potential outcomes for each identified threat
• Identifying and considering (“evaluating”) a full range of solution candidates and strategies
• Estimating the risk reduction of each candidate solution in terms of annualized dollars
• Estimating the cost and duration of each candidate solution
What emerged from these TAMP efforts were observations regarding which current risk analysis capabilities were well in hand by DOTs, which were generally feasible for usage, and finally which types of capabilities would agencies still need to strive toward in achieving intended CFR objectives in the future.
This program will establish a series of individual research projects born out of NCHRP 23-09, Scoping Study to Develop the Basis for a Highway Standard to Conduct an All-Hazards Risk and Resilience Analysis. Similar to other NCHRP research programs such as NCHRP 20-102, Impacts of Connected Vehicles and Automated Vehicles on State and Local Transportation Agencies, this is a long-term research program that will result in an industry standard for all-hazards risk and resilience analysis for use in decision-making.
A “roadmap” laying out a coherent evolution path for risk analysis capabilities could be drafted in order to define a research program and enable continued progress across DOTs in capturing opportunities in risk management.
The product of this research program will be a collection of tools and techniques that transportation agencies can use for all-hazards risk and resilience analysis similar to what has been produced for the Highway Capacity Manual and the Highway Safety Manual.
These research products would be intended to help agencies not only meet the “letter of the law”, but the full spirit of the objectives in 23 CFR667 and other guidelines. Potential capabilities to further develop include:
1. Estimate a full-spectrum of event probabilities and associated damage for each identified threat. This capability will require some development in general because current approaches are inconsistent across DOTs, or entirely nonexistent. This capability is essential, since many (all?) of the following capabilities depend upon this capability.
2. Develop a deeper quantification of “risk costs” for identified threats, across all event frequencies, in order to better scrutinize leading resilience and mitigation investment candidates. This scrutiny includes the ability to compare benefit-to-cost across high-priority strategies. We recommend using annualized “risk costs” for quantifying the impacts of uncertainty as well as quantifying the $ savings from risk reduction. The goal would be to create “calculators” for risk cost elements, which fully quantify impacts of risk on safety, mobility, environmental damage, economic impacts, asset damage/repair, and perhaps others.
3. Devise and implement a process for considering a full range of risk management strategies for each threat situation, across all event frequencies. Objectives would include benefit-to-cost aspects of candidate strategies as well as determining points of diminishing return when considering increased resilience investments. This would of course require consistent, standardized approaches to estimating the cost of candidate remedies in providing resilience and/or mitigation benefits (see above). Finally, as mentioned above, a consistent method for calculating or estimating the reduction in annualized risk costs for each candidate strategy will be required.
4. Improve the consistency, quality, and/or availability of situational threat and vulnerability data across the network by establishing “archetypal similarities” (or “proxies” for missing or sketchy data) for at least the major types of network threats, based on correlative dimensions such as topography, terrain, rainfall, vegetation, corridor characteristics, and other factors. This is an issue that many agencies are struggling with, due to the lack of threat characterization and is a strong leverage point in achieving consistent, successful outcomes. The objective here is to avoid having to perform site-specific risk cost/impact analyses for every possible threat location/site across all corridors.
5. Develop the ability to perform tradeoffs re: rehabilitation opportunities versus resilience opportunities. In other words, there are often synergies as well as compromises in considering a range of risk management strategies, given the age and condition of the asset(s) involved; hence there are choices to be made in a) whether to rehabilitate the asset and to what extent, b) whether to provide resilience investment and to what extent, c) what are the relative magnitudes of either rehabilitation or resilience investment, and d) other considerations.
6. Develop on-going monitoring, optimization and (re)selection of vulnerability and resilience strategies through time, starting by systematic tracking/modeling of threats, results, etc. This might be established as part of the development of rehabilitation strategies in parallel with the choice of resilience strategies as part of risk management strategy optimization (see above).
7. Resource allocation – define coherent process(es) for including resilience and risk management investment opportunities in overall asset management choices – for decisions at both project and program funding levels.