Considerations in the Development of Procedures for Prioritizing Transportation Improvement Projects in Virginia

Report No: 02-R6

Published in 2002

About the report:

The transportation programming process is undergoing a fundamental change akin to that which transpired with the advent of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act in 1991. Some stakeholders have expressed a desire that the programming process be transparent, and some have expressed an interest in using data-driven performance measures. Although there is widespread agreement concerning broad criteria, stakeholders may disagree over specific performance measures. Thus, transportation agencies have become interested in methods for selecting projects based on their merits rather than the more traditional approach of "first in first out." Accordingly, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) requested that the Virginia Transportation Research Council develop a template that VDOT could use to prioritize capital improvement projects. The role of the template is to help VDOT decide which project should be undertaken first. The scope of the template is limited to projects that are already being programmed. A template based on 14 of 75 performance measures examined was developed and applied to two projects. The template is oriented toward projects relating to the interstate and primary systems, but it is flexible enough that key policy choices can be made in its framework. These include controversial issues, such as access management and land use configurations, and more tedious but critical considerations, such as the relative importance of crash risk, infrastructure maintenance, economic development, and congestion relief. A promising benefit of the template is that it provides an opportunity to manage the debate as to the approach for deciding the order in which projects are programmed. The template will not eliminate disagreement, but it can foster discussion when parties have legitimate and differing opinions as to how projects should be prioritized. To that end, the template may be used as a discussion instrument between VDOT and some of its key stakeholders, including metropolitan planning organizations, planning district commissions, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, and advocacy groups who influence transportation infrastructure decisions.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Rod E. Turochy, James Hamilton.Lambert

Last updated: December 4, 2023

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