Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Applying Transportation Asset Management to Intelligent Transportation Systems Assets: A Primer

ChapterĀ 2. Background

In recent years, asset management has grown in practice at transportation agencies throughout the world. In the United States, many transportation agencies have invested in implementing asset management principles

Transportation Asset Management

TAM is used to manage the transportation infrastructure with improved decisionmaking for resource allocation. TAM processes help agencies identify programs/projects on which to spend/invest their funding for the best long-term benefit.

Federal legislation, including the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012 (MAP-21), has codified asset management principles. ISTEA first established the use of management systems for roads, bridges, and other public transportation assets.1 More recently, MAP-21 required all State departments of transportation (DOTs) to develop risk-based TAMPs, a requirement that is continued in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.2,3

The FHWA has implemented the asset management requirements of 23 U.S.C. 119 by promulgating the asset management rule at 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 515. The regulation defines asset management as:

A strategic and systematic process of operating, maintaining, and improving physical assets, with a focus on both engineering and economic analysis based upon quality information, to identify a structured sequence of maintenance, preservation, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement actions that will achieve and sustain a desired state of good repair over the lifecycle of the assets at minimum practicable cost.4

Further, 23 CFR 515.7(a) requires State DOTs to develop a TAMP that describes how the agency will manage the National Highway System (NHS) to achieve system performance effectiveness and its targets for asset condition while managing risk, in a financially responsible manner, at a minimum practicable cost over the lifecycle of its assets.

FHWA developed guidelines and guidance to help transportation agencies design and populate a TAMP.5 State DOT TAMPs must address eight key elements for NHS pavements and bridges.6 Although encouraged, there are no requirements for ITS assets in a TAMP. Some State DOTs included ITS assets in their first iteration of the TAMP document. If a State elects to include other NHS infrastructure assets or other public roads assets in its asset management plan, 23 CFR 515.9(l) describes the minimum information to be included, and also states that the level of effort used should be consistent with the State DOT’s needs and resources. The elements required for NHS pavements and bridges, however, provide guidance for asset management approaches for other assets, including ITS assets. The following eight elements, extrapolated from 23 CFR part 515 can also be applied to ITS assets:

  1. Summary Listing of Assets (23 CFR 515.9(b)-(c) and (d)(3))—A summary of assets, including a description of the asset condition.
  2. Lifecycle Planning (23 CFR 515.7(b))—A process to estimate the cost of managing an asset class, or asset subgroup, over its whole life with consideration for minimizing cost while preserving or improving the asset’s condition.
  3. Asset Management Objectives (23 CFR 515.9(d)(1))—Objectives, aligned to the agency’s mission, designed to achieve and sustain the desired state of good repair over the lifecycle of the agency’s assets at a minimum practicable cost.
  4. Measures and Targets for Asset Condition (23 CFR 515.9(d)(2))—Asset management measures and asset condition targets that are aligned with the agency’s asset management objectives. These could include measurements and associated targets to assess the performance of the highway system as it relates to those assets.
  5. Risk Management (23 CFR 515.7(c))—A process and framework for managing potential risks, including identifying, analyzing, evaluating, and addressing the risks to assets and system performance.
  6. Performance Gap Identification (23 CFR 515.7(a) and 515.9(d)(4))— Gaps between the current asset condition and agency targets for asset condition, and the gaps in system performance effectiveness that are best addressed by improving physical assets.
  7. Financial Planning (23 CFR 515.7(d) and 515.9(d)(7))—A long-term plan spanning 10 years or more, presenting the agency’s estimates of projected available financial resources and predicted expenditures in the asset category to support achievement of the desired state of good repair.
  8. Investment Strategies (23 CFR 515.7(e), 515.9(d)(8), and 515.9(f))—A set of strategies that result from evaluating various levels of funding to support achievement of the desired state of good repair at a minimum practicable cost while managing risks.

Transportation Systems Management and Operations

TSMO is defined in 23 U.S.C. 101(a)(30)(A) as:

[I]ntegrated strategies to optimize the performance of existing infrastructure through the implementation of multimodal and intermodal, cross-jurisdictional systems, services, and projects designed to preserve capacity and improve security, safety, and reliability of the transportation system.

The goal of TSMO is to maintain, and where possible, restore the performance of the existing system before it needs extra capacity.

An effective TSMO program enables agencies to target underlying operational causes of congestion and unreliable travel through innovative solutions that typically cost less and are quicker to implement than adding capacity. TSMO also expands the range of mobility choices available to system users, including shared mobility and nonmotorized options.

Asset management works to enhance system performance with processes similar to TSMO but with a different focus. Asset management is concerned with preserving or improving the condition of assets, and TSMO focuses on preserving and maximizing safety, mobility, and reliability. However, both systems share a strategic, performance-based approach to monitoring performance and applying actions to reach targets.

Transportation Performance Management

FHWA defines Transportation Performance Management (TPM) as a strategic approach that uses system information to make investment and policy decisions to achieve performance goals. TPM provides key information to help decisionmakers understand the consequences of investment decisions across assets and improve communication of these decisions among all stakeholders.7

The TSMO, Transportation Asset Management, and Transportation Performance Management Relationship

There is a close relationship between TPM and TAM in the Federal-aid Highway Program: both consider asset and system performance, risks, and available resources to achieve desired objectives over time. However, TPM focuses on the approach to managing transportation system performance outcomes, while asset management applies this approach to manage the condition of the infrastructure assets. Agencies should ensure their TPM approach is considered and integrated when implementing asset management, as illustrated in figure 1.8

ITS assets can play a critical role for an agency’s achievement of the performance outcomes for which it is responsible. To effectively perform this role, an agency needs to understand the asset investment needs for ITS assets to deliver those performance outcomes.

A diagram illustrating the integration of performance management and Transportation Asset Management (TAM) consisting of two circles.

Figure 1. Diagram. Integration of Performance Management and Transportation Asset Management.
(Source: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.)

Emerging Themes in Intelligent Transportation Systems Asset Management

As the area of ITS asset management continues to develop, transportation agencies are seeking a more developed understanding of current practices and implementation efforts. This primer is structured around five emerging themes in ITS asset management and uses recent, relevant examples from agencies to provide suggested steps towards implementation. The five themes are summarized here and further expanded upon in subsequent chapters. These themes are extrapolated from TAMP elements to assist an agency in including ITS assets in its TAMP:

  1. Asset Identification.

    TAMP Element: Summary Listing of Assets (23 CFR 515.9(b)-(c) and (d)(3)).

    Agencies should identify what asset information is needed, why it is needed, and how to use that information once it is collected. Collecting the right information at the right time can help agencies make informed decisions about long-term asset needs. This theme provides an overview of the type of asset information agencies should be collecting for ITS assets and why.

  2. Management Systems for Assets.

    TAMP Elements: Summary Listing of Assets, Lifecycle Planning, Performance Gap Analysis, Risk Management, Financial Planning, Investment Strategies (23 CFR 515.7 and 515.17).

    A management system is a critical component of an overall successful asset management program, assisting the agency in managing and maintaining asset data across the entire lifecycle of its assets, from acquisition to disposal. Management systems are a collection of processes, procedures, tools, or software systems to help an agency collect and store information while providing analysis to inform asset management decisionmaking. A management system may be a software system, a procedure, or a simple tool (e.g., a spreadsheet) depending on the level of detail that is appropriate.

    A management system may include, but is not limited to:

    1. Collection and storage of asset inventory and condition information.
    2. Work order and maintenance management.
    3. Lifecycle modeling and planning, including, forecasting deterioration, and determining the benefit-cost over the lifecycle of assets to evaluate alternative actions.
    4. Assessment of short- and long-term needs.
    5. Recommended programs of work that maximize overall program benefits within the financial constraints.

    An effective management system focuses on key information at the right level of detail. This theme addresses type of systems and how those systems should be implemented.

    Note that State DOTs are required to meet minimum standards for developing and operating their bridge and pavement management systems, as outlined in 23 CFR § 515.17. There is no requirement for pavement and bridge management systems or other management systems to be used for ITS assets, but similar procedures also could be used to enhance asset management decisionmaking for ITS assets.

  3. Performance Measures and Targets.

    TAMP Elements: Asset Management Objectives, Measures and Targets for Asset Condition, Risk Management (23 CFR 515.9(d)(1)-(2) and (6)).

    A target is the level of progress or performance expected for an objective. Many agencies have noted that there is no consistent way to measure the condition of ITS devices (e.g., like the National Bridge Inventory scale for bridges). As a result, each agency determines how to best track and measure the performance of its these critical assets. Further, many ITS assets have a variety of different components with different life expectancies and conditions, leading to uncertainty about how to best define the overall condition. This theme highlights some of the practices that agencies adopt to combat this challenge.

  4. Maximizing Performance—Lifecycle Planning.

    TAMP Elements: Lifecycle Planning, Risk Management Analysis (23 CFR 515.7(b)-(c)).

    Lifecycle planning is a process to estimate the cost of managing an asset class, or asset sub-group, over its whole life, with consideration for minimizing cost while preserving or improving the condition. Many agencies are starting to adopt long-term maintenance plans and consider lifecycle analysis for ITS assets. It can be difficult to quantify funding needs, which can lead to inefficient and inconsistent approaches to maintenance. Further, agencies should plan for a time when ITS assets may become obsolete or unsupported. In the highway industry, this is a unique challenge for these assets and merits special attention. This theme looks at best practices for planning and maintaining ITS assets.

  5. Resource Allocation—Financial Plan, Investment Strategies, Performance Gap Analysis.

    TAMP Elements: Performance Gap Analysis, Financial Planning, Investment Strategies (23 CFR 515.7(a), 515.7(d)-(e), 515.9(d)(4), (7)-(8), and 515.9(f)).

    A lack of a formal funding needs assessment for ITS assets as part of an asset management program may hamper long-term management efforts for these assets. There are opportunities to use asset management to improve in-reach (outreach within an agency) to build a stronger understanding of funding needs. Further, agencies are starting to use valuation-based approaches when it comes to needs assessments. This theme looks at recommended approaches for identifying and communicating those needs for ITS assets.

These five themes, aligned to the eight TAMP elements defined by FHWA (shown in table 1), can help agencies adopt leading practices for ITS asset management. Each theme is further explained in the subsequent chapters, including specific examples from State DOTs and recommended action steps for implementing asset management for ITS devices.

Table 1. Alignment of themes to transportation asset management plan elements.
Theme TAMP Elements
1. Asset Identification.
  • Summary Listing of Assets.
2. Management Systems for Assets.
  • Summary Listing of Assets.
  • Lifecycle Planning.
  • Risk Management.
  • Performance Gap Analysis.
  • Financial Planning.
  • Investment Strategies.
3. Performance Measures and Targets.
  • Asset Management Objectives.
  • Measures and Targets for Asset Condition.
  • Risk Management.
4. Maximizing Performance—Lifecycle Planning.
  • Lifecycle Planning.
  • Risk Management.
5. Resource Allocation.
  • Performance Gap Analysis.
  • Financial Planning.
  • Investment Strategies.

1 See ISTEA section 1009(e)(4) (codified as amended at 23 U.S.C. 119(e)). [Return to footnote 1]

2 See MAP-21 section 1106 (codified as amended at 23 U.S.C. 119(e)). [Return to footnote 2]

3 Public Law 117-58. This document was written before the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) in November 2021. The BIL amended 23 U.S.C. 119(e)(4) to add a requirement that the lifecycle cost and risk management analysis elements of a TAMP take into consideration extreme weather and resilience, but otherwise left the statutory requirements for TAMP elements unchanged from the requirements carried forward in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. [Return to footnote 3]

4 23 CFR 515.5. [Return to footnote 4]

5 FHWA’s guidance on TAMP development is available at Asset Management Guidance. [Return to footnote 5]

6 23 CFR 515.9(d). [Return to footnote 6]

7 FHWA “What is TPM?” [Return to footnote 7]

8 FHWA “How TPM and Asset Management Work Together.” [Return to footnote 8]