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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Developing and Sustaining a Transportation Systems Management & Operations Mission for Your Organization: A Primer For Program Planning


Transportation agencies have historically organized themselves around a core mission to expand and deliver infrastructure capacity. As our society begins to place more and more value on system performance and reliability, the use of technology, and the ability to share information rapidly, transportation agencies must evolve their mission to effectively manage and operate the transportation system that has been built in order to meet public expectations.

More and more, agencies are recognizing the importance of focusing on transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) as a core mission. This shift in focus comes from a growing understanding of the extensive impacts on traffic that result from incidents, reconstruction, weather conditions, emerging technologies (such as connected and autonomous vehicles), and greater access to and use of real-time information. Managing and operating the transportation system now needs to move beyond implementing specific ad hoc projects to become a structured core function of a transportation agency as well as a sustained part of its mission.

Research conducted through the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) demonstrated that agencies that most effectively manage and operate their transportation systems were not differentiated by budgets, types of projects, or technical skills alone. Very often, the SHRP2 research found that these agencies developed critical processes and institutional arrangements that enable systems management and operations to be seen as on par with infrastructure and capacity improvements.

Subsequent assessments by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) found that several of these transportation agencies developed a Program Plan to structure and sustain TSMO as one of their core missions. FHWA found that many agencies planned to develop a TSMO program plan.

FHWA prepared this primer because program planning is viewed as such an effective management tool for building and sustaining an effective TSMO mission within a transportation agency.

Recognizing that there are no Federal requirements to develop a TSMO program plan, this primer is intended to provide general guidance on TSMO program planning in order to help improve the consistency and quality of TSMO program plans. The document is not intended as a "cookbook" to be strictly followed. Instead, it lays out key questions and considerations for agencies to explore based on their unique needs, organizational structures, and the issues confronting their particular organization or region.

FHWA intends for State transportation agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and other transportation organizations to use this resource to help them develop and sustain a TSMO mission and advance effective program delivery. For more information on TSMO and TSMO program planning, please visit the website for the FHWA Office of Operations at:

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