Highway Needs:

An Evaluation of DOT's Process for Assessing the Nation's Highway Needs

RCED-87-136: Published: Aug 7, 1987. Publicly Released: Aug 7, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Department of Transportation's Highway Performance and Monitoring System (HPMS) to determine the reasonableness of its highway needs assessment.

GAO found that: (1) the data collection procedures that the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) and states used in preparing HPMS were statistically sound; (2) FHwA did not test the model's sensitivity to changes in key input data; (3) although FHwA scheduled a calibration test to determine how closely past and future needs paralleled actual capital investments, it did not develop a test methodology or establish a test completion date; (4) FHwA did not include sufficient information for model users in its technical manuals; and (5) the report presented total highway needs amounting to $315 billion through the year 2000, but it did not indicate that about one-half of that amount represented existing backlogged needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FHwA released a new version of the HPMS Analytical Process in January 1988 to incorporate procedures for determining the capacity of a facility outlined in the 1985 Highway Capacity Manual. The technical manual includes a discussion of the changes made in the models and outlines the new procedures.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to include more detailed documentation in published technical manuals addressing such things as key model changes, their underlying rationales, and their effect on the model's results. This documentation would help ensure model continuity in the event of key FHwA employee turnover, assist researchers attempting to study the model's results, and assist those states attempting to modify the national HPMS model for their own needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FHwA has developed a methodology for testing how well the HPMS Analytical Process projections for conditions and performance correlate to the conditions and performance being reported in the HPMS data. The preliminary results of this methodology have been documented in a draft report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to develop and document a methodology for a model calibration test and commit to a test completion date. Test results should provide FHwA and others with a clearer indication of how closely the model's needs estimates have paralleled actual highway investment practices and should help provide added confidence in the model's results.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FHwA will include this information in the next biannual report to be completed by December 28, 1988 and submitted to Congress.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to adjust the Highway Needs report to separate backlogged from future highway needs in order to provide clearer information on highway needs and progress being achieved under current policies and programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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