VIII. Preservation of Existing Infrastructure
“The transportation planning process shall explicitly consider… Preservation of existing transportation facilities and, where practical, ways to meet transportation needs by using existing transportation facilities more efficiently@ 23 CFR '450.316(a)(1)
he CDTC places a strong emphasis on maintaining the transportation infrastructure, as can be seen in CDTC allocation of upwards of 70% of its TIP resources to infrastructure renewal. In the New Visions plan, preservation of the infrastructure is the first of ten strategies and has the first claim on available resources. The principle of Preserving and Managing the region=s transportation system is CDTC=s highest stated priority[i]. Transportation investment is based on function and need, not upon facility ownership. The plan lays out a performance based management strategy (e.g., painting bridges before they corrode, building more durable pavements, matching design treatment to road function rather than ownership or funding category).
Under the concept of preserving and maintaining the system, CDTC addresses the maintenance, repair and renewal of the existing highway and bridge system in a cost-effective manner. Appropriate investment in repair and renewal is said to be a higher priority than investment in expanded capacity. Public transit, sidewalks and bicycle facilities are included in the considerations.
The New Visions plan adopts a strategy of maintaining infrastructure in good condition, while focusing transportation investment identified for the priority treatment networks[ii]. To achieve this preservation strategy, the plan details specific actions:
Definition of “System Preservation”
The New Visions plan defines “system preservation” in terms of maintaining existing facilities at the current conditions. As stated previously, the plan drew a figurative 1996 “line in the sand” regarding the condition and benefits of the transportation system. CDTC required the plan to maintain or improve the overall transportation service quality from 1996 conditions and enhance the quality of life in the region.
This definition of preservation has implications for project investments. Capacity and safety improvements and design upgrades carried out in conjunction with facility renewal are considered separately discretionary improvements, similar to stand-alone capacity, safety, or bike/pedestrian actions. Thus, the plan assigns first priority to the tightly defined system preservation needs. This approach is different than that taken in most MPOs, where the primary goal is to improve the condition of the infrastructure. CDTC seeks first to preserve existing infrastructure and any proposed improvements are weighed equally with other types of objectives. This approach also applies to the transit program, where system preservation needs are defined in terms of maintaining the existing fleet, other equipment and facilities at current size and condition. Upgrades and expansions are treated as improvements. Funding priority is assigned to preservation, and transit improvements are advanced along with other desired improvements as funding permits.
Because of the CDTC’s historic and commendable approach of assuring that the basic needs of system preservation should be the top priority, infrastructure tends to eat up a significant portion of CDTC=s capital resources. CDTC uses a risk management strategy in its overall investment policy considerations to maximize available funding.
The traditional assumption about congestion is that an improved LOS is the choice of the public. However, CDTC discovered through the public involvement process that congestion should not be the sole measure of whether or not a highway improvement is necessary. For example, during the survey of residents along the relatively congested Route 5 corridor in Albany, 79% said existing level of congestion along on Route 5 would be acceptable if other services were improved (transit, pedestrian, etc.). In other words, maintaining the existing level of congestion was acceptable.
The risk management approach begins with the premise that significant physical highway capacity additions carried out in the context of major infrastructure renewal are only appropriate under certain conditions. Capacity and safety improvements and design upgrades carried out in conjunction with facility renewal are considered separately as discretionary improvements, similar to stand-alone capacity, safety, or bike/pedestrian actions. Rather than seeking infrastructure improvement, this approach seeks first to preserve existing infrastructure (1996 condition), and improvements are evaluated along with other types of objectives.
The traditional approach to project development has an agency designing improvements to achieve a certain Level of Service in the future. For example, a bridge rehabilitation/replacement project (structure rated “poor) may be presently uncongested but forecasted to have congestion in 25 years due to normal growth in traffic. The traditional approach involves designing to accommodate those future traffic projections. A risk management approach, however, examines the costs and benefits of alternative designs and makes capacity treatment an explicit choice. A risk management approach asks questions like: Do 20-year traffic projections justify widening the bridge now? What is the projected congestion risk of replacement in-kind? What would be the additional expense involved in providing the incremental capacity later?
When considering various alternatives for improving a LOS E intersection, a risk assessment would evaluate the risk of providing for a future LOS D (because the intersection has a chance that it may not be congested in 2030) as opposed to improving the intersection to accommodate a LOS C (i.e.; the traditional approach). How much more does it cost to get a LOS of ‘xyz’ in 2030? Do you invest funds solely based on peak hour VMT when the capacity is not needed during the rest of the day? Thus, a facility’s design through a risk assessment (tradeoff analysis) focuses on the opportunity cost of selecting alternative designs. This trade-off frees resources to address current needs on other projects. Risk assessment means just that, however - there is a risk you might be wrong.
To some extent, the concept of risk management is already evident in NYSDOT’s Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) initiative. [iii] CSS is an interactive process that attempts to develop a transportation solution that fits into its local context. CSS is not a separate process or set of standards, but rather a philosophical approach from the project-scoping phase through design and into construction and maintenance. The emphasis is on finding the project’s context – how it fits into the community and surroundings. The cornerstone of successful CSS is early, effective, and continuous public involvement. Under CSS, a proposed project has early and effective public involvement to identify community issues through continuous venues for exchanging ideas (workshops, committees). There is a strong effort to collaborate with local governments to deliver well-built projects that add value to the community with minimal disruption. NYSDOT then considers alternative solutions in order to benefit a broad range of stakeholders, while at the same time recognizing the limited fiscal resources and eligibility constraints.
The concept of Risk Assessment is slowly evolving in CDTC. It is being used at the NYSDOT level (project managers) on a case-by-case basis, but it is rarely done below the state level at present. CDTC and NYSDOT, in conjunction with the New Vision 2030 update, will work together to try to develop specific procedures for the tradeoff analysis’ specified in CDTC’s congestion management principles.