Copperleaf® provides enterprise decision analytics software solutions to organizations investing in and managing critical infrastructure. In this blog series, Connor Cox, Global Industry Lead for Transportation at Copperleaf, shares insights on pressing topics facing departments of transportation today. In this installment, Connor explores some of the challenges related to aligning short- and long-term investment planning—and the importance of getting it right.
Governments around the world have introduced strategic mandates and spending to contend with aging infrastructure, enhance safety, reduce congestion, promote innovation, improve equity, and manage risk and resilience. In turn, roadways agencies have incorporated these goals into strategic frameworks and delivery plans, promising tangible results.
Across the US, state-level departments of transportation (DOTs) are required to prepare a multimodal long-range plan, and communicate how the transportation system will evolve to meet the state’s strategic objectives, including economic development, sustainability, and safety goals, over a 20+ year period. Underpinning the long-range statewide transportation plan is the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which provides a detailed list of all the projects selected to be undertaken by a DOT in the coming four years, including funding and timeline information for capacity and preservation projects, in addition to many other programs.
It’s no easy task to connect the dots between the 20-year vision and the 4-year STIP plans to ensure day-to-day activities are directly contributing to long-term goals. Assessing, selecting, and prioritizing thousands of projects can be a long, inefficient, and subjective process, involving hundreds of stakeholders across many—often siloed—departments.
Understanding the “Why” Behind Investment Decisions
Operating under strictly allocated budgets, ambitious performance targets, and keen oversight, DOTs must demonstrate the value of projects in their STIP and the “why” behind their decisions to secure the trust of all stakeholders, including elected and unelected officials, taxpayers, and roadway users. Agencies must then enable the employees executing day-to-day decisions to deliver on these objectives that span years to decades.
Each investment candidate for a STIP offers a different value profile. Some are designed to meet state-of-good-repair performance measures, while others are intended to advance safety, resilience, risk management, economic, and environmental objectives. Comparing and selecting the right combination of projects is never a straightforward “apples-to-apples” exercise for planners.
Selecting the Right Projects for Maximum Value
To arrive at the most effective STIP, agencies must make hard decisions at the program, project, and plan levels, and thoroughly consider questions like:
- How does one project measure up against another on cost, safety, resilience, capacity, or equity impact?
- Where or when to replace or refurbish existing assets to meet performance targets and contribute effectively to long-term goals?
- Which capacity-building projects will have the biggest impact on mobility or economic growth?
- And finally, how to combine projects into a plan that maximizes value for every dollar spent?
Navigating this demanding exercise requires a rigorous decision-making process paired with the ability to optimize funding and timelines, quickly and confidently. While it might be feasible to choose between a few similar project options during meetings using spreadsheets, making consequential transportation decisions across hundreds to thousands of dissimilar projects demands a much more sophisticated approach.
How Copperleaf Can Help
Copperleaf’s Decision Analytics Solutions give transportation agencies the ability to streamline project selection, programming, and funding allocation—and create plans that maximize long-term value, while respecting targets and constraints.
Central to Copperleaf’s approach is a decision-making framework that allows organizations to evaluate all projects on equal footing. It incorporates strategic objectives laid out in the long-range plan, key performance measures that determine how potential projects contribute to these long-term goals, as well as budgetary and resourcing constraints. This centralized, standardized framework allows all potential projects to be evaluated and compared on a common scale.
Investment planners can optimize project planning at the portfolio level, determine the best time to start projects based on available funding and resources, and bundle projects based on geography or type to minimize disruption and cost. Copperleaf’s solutions provide transportation agencies with the enterprise-level tools to develop plans that deliver on immediate and long-term goals.
In the next article in this series, I’ll explore how our solutions help transportation agencies balance spending to meet competing strategic objectives, incorporate risk and resilience into portfolio planning, and make decisions across multimodal operations quickly and confidently.
To learn how your organization can benefit from Copperleaf’s Decision Analytics Solutions, reach out to me directly or read our white paper: Driving Towards Better Decision Making in the Roadways Industry.