Emergency Transportation Operations

Traffic Incident Management Cost Management and Cost Recovery Primer

Chapter 5. Strategies for Recovering TIM Costs

Good TIM cost management and cost recovery include good incident response management. Outlining the most effective TIM coordination techniques and how they help reduce the cost of TIM will help establish a capability for better predicting costs associated with the unpredictable events. The Pennsylvania Cost Recovery and Tracking System, shown in Figure 18 below, demonstrates that the capability exists to expand how much TIM cost information can be collected.

Figure 17 shows the first screen of the Pennsylvania cost recovery tracking system.

Screenshot of screen 1 of the Pennsylvania Cost Recovery Tracking System, showing address and bank data.
Figure 17 – Screen 1 of the Pennsylvania Cost Recovery Tracking System

Screenshot of screen 2 of the Pennsylvania Cost Recovery Tracking System, showing a document overview of the incident tracking.
Figure 18 – Screen 2 of the Pennsylvania Cost Recovery Tracking System

Figure 18 shows the second screen from the Pennsylvania cost recovery tracking system. These two figures demonstrate how the financial transaction is tracked to completion when crashes occur. This system is most closely associated with recovering costs for infrastructure and the tactical costs of TIM.


An agency may suggest or support legislation that will enable TIM cost recovery by:

  • Modifying existing systems to include reimbursement for traffic control, TMC operator time, etc.; and
  • Allowing an agency to charge a surcharge for DUI crashes.

However, agency TIM managers and decisionmakers cannot rely on legislation as a way to recover the costs of TIM. It remains the responsibility of the transportation agency to understand the grant process and to continue to explain the benefits of TIM to stakeholders, such as metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), so that funding can be made available.

Public-Private Partnerships

Private industry and government entities continue to search for ways to partner on projects. Industry and government have discussed partnering in the context of infrastructure maintenance, but the concept has not been fully explored in the context of transportation operations or TIM beyond safety service patrol vehicles and HAZMAT response capabilities. An opportunity to expand this relationship is based on the approaches described below.

Safety Service Patrol Programs

This type of partnership is already in place in many areas around the country and provides the opportunity to recover costs for TIM. Generally, fees are not assessed to customers of these services; however, leasing advertising space on the patrol vehicles or allowing the vehicles to be branded by a sponsor demonstrate two ways that these services can be self sustaining.

Selling Traffic Data

The private sector continues to show interest and value in providing information that has traditionally been supplied by the government. Examples of this include many of the items in the support portion of TIM such as traffic data providers. If a transportation agency can verify that the information it possess is reliable, the information can be sold to traffic data providers. This data can be metered and adjusted to reflect the demand from the area. Though no demonstrated practice was identified, it is feasible that private providers would find value in partnering with transportation agencies to provide more reliable information to customers.

High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes

The ability to change the price of travel in a given lane represents an opportunity to include the cost of TIM in the fee formula. However, to have TIM as part of the fee formula, an agency must have complete awareness of the magnitude of TIM costs. Otherwise, the service cannot be accurately represented in the fee formula and the agency misses the opportunity for full cost recovery.

Special Federal Programs

Although the availability of Federal funds to recover TIM-related costs may be more closely identified with larger scale emergency transportation events, it is helpful to understand what programs are available and when events may qualify. There are specific cases of nationally declared disasters which provide opportunities to recover TIM costs through application for special Federal funding. The two potential sources are FHWA Emergency Relief Funding and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding.

Emergency Relief Program: In Title 23, United States Code, Section 125, Congress authorized a special program for the repair or reconstruction of Federal-aid highways and roads on Federal lands that have suffered serious damage as a result of (1) natural disasters or (2) catastrophic failures from an external cause. The program, commonly referred to as emergency relief (or the ER program), assists States or their political subdivisions in paying for unusually heavy expenses resulting from extraordinary disaster events that sometimes result in the catastrophic failure of the infrastructure, which is defined as the sudden and complete failure of a major element of the highway system that causes a disastrous impact on transportation services.

Examples of natural disasters include floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, tidal waves, severe storms, and landslides, although disaster events can also result from man-made or external causes. A bridge suddenly collapsing after being struck by a barge is an example of a catastrophic failure from an external cause.

While the primary purpose of ER funds is to repair the damage caused by the disaster, certain TIM-related services may be eligible. Among the eligible costs for ER funding are Transportation System Management (TSM) strategies. This can include efforts to monitor and control traffic and to manage transportation on streets and highways during and immediately following a disaster to restore traffic. The elements of a TSM plan may include highway advisory radio, closed circuit television, video image process surveillance, installation of changeable message signs, a public awareness program, etc.

ER funds are eligible to provide emergency traffic management services by the police during and immediately following a disaster if those services are 1) directly related to the disaster and 2) represent added costs above and beyond costs related to normal, day-to-day responsibilities.

ER funds for the costs associated with restoring essential highway traffic, minimizing the extent of damage, or protecting the remaining facility, which are incurred in the first 180 days after the disaster, are available at a 100 percent Federal share. For permanent repair and costs incurred after the first 180 days, the Federal share is based on the type of highway, normally 80 or 90 percent.

The process for ER application normally starts with the Governor issuing a formal disaster proclamation. A presidential declaration, or the Governor's request for the declaration, can serve the same purpose. The State transportation agency then works with the FHWA to assess the damage and make a determination of eligibility. Further detail on ER funding and the application process can be found at: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/erelief.cfm.

FEMA Disaster Relief Program: Recovering costs through either the FHWA Emergency Relief or FEMA Disaster Relief program requires good cost management to be in place, especially the ability to track costs related to a particular declared disaster. Having charge codes in place to track personnel, equipment, or other related costs is a prerequisite to being able to seek reimbursement for these costs.

Federal assistance for public roads not covered by the FHWA's ER program is available through the disaster relief program administered by FEMA under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. FEMA funding is available for those events where the focus is on non-Federal-aid highways.

The process for FEMA assistance also starts a presidential declaration, or the Governor's request for the declaration, that there is a major disaster. Application is through the Governor's Authorized Representative, normally the State emergency management agency. The Federal share is normally 75 percent, however during immediate response, often the Federal Government covers 100 percent of the TIM Operations cost during immediate life-saving, life-sustaining operations. This includes moving people out of danger via evacuation and clearing roads.

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