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1.0 Introduction

1.1 Project Background

Experience over the past 30 years with transportation asset management systems has focused primarily on collection of inventory and condition information, and the development of maintenance, rehabilitation, and reconstruction/replacement strategies for major infrastructure components (pavement, structures) and associated hardware (e.g., signs, guardrails, fences). Recently, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) adopted the new Asset Management Guide, which defines transportation asset management as “a strategic approach to managing transportation infrastructure” with a focus on “business processes for resource allocation and utilization with the objective of better decision-making based upon quality information and well-defined objectives.” This definition is intended to broaden the scope of transportation asset management beyond the historical focus on preservation of physical facilities. As attention shifts towards operations as a critical means of addressing current congestion and safety problems, decision-makers need better methods to decide how to best allocate resources within and across operations program areas, and ultimately, between capacity expansion and operations.

The US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Operations is undertaking a program of research to develop methodologies for operations asset management. An initial step in this research program is to conduct an investigation of a specific area of operations – traffic signal systems, and explore what an asset management system might look like to support resource allocation decisions within this area.

Asset management applied to operations can certainly borrow some of the approaches, tools, and techniques from infrastructure asset management, but operations is in many respects different from infrastructure. While operations programs do include physical assets that need to be maintained, repaired, and replaced, their performance is not measured by the condition of these assets, but by how well traffic moves, how much delay is experienced, and how many crashes occur. Therefore, factors such as equipment reliability and down-time, signal timing plans, and response time to incidents are key determinants of operations program performance. These factors are a function of three different aspects of operations programs – physical equipment that is deployed; the systems that connect, control, and manage this equipment; and the people that maintain and operate the equipment, keep it functioning well, and respond to problems. An operations asset management system concept needs to consider each of these elements and assist program managers to determine how to best manage them – individually and in combination – to achieve the best possible performance.

1.2 Document Overview

The purpose of this report is to define the elements of a comprehensive signal system asset management system (SSAMS). It builds on the results of a state-of-the-practice review of signal systems asset management, and lays the groundwork for investigating how a SSAMS could be used to evaluate alternative investment strategies. The document includes the following sections:

Section 2.0 provides an overview of asset management principles, which provide a framework on which to base the definition of a SSAMS.

Section 3.0 lays out the general operational and management characteristics of a signal system that need to be considered in designing a SSAMS. This is based on a state-of-the-practice survey of 26 agencies and follow-up in-depth interviews at Wisconsin DOT and the Minnesota DOT Metro District.

Section 4.0 presents an example of a “generic” signal system management organization and describes its operation and management characteristics as defined in Section 3.0.

Section 5.0 identifies key elements of a SSAMS that would support the functions of the generic signal system.

Section 6.0 presents an analysis of scenarios for signal system improvement illustrating how a SSAMS could be used to evaluate tradeoffs across different options for addressing signal system deficiencies.

Section 7.0 compares the SSAMS concepts developed in Section 5.0 to both infrastructure asset management and information technology (IT) asset management systems and identifies similarities and differences.

Section 8.0 summarizes findings and conclusions concerning the development and implementation of signal systems asset management.

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