Plan approaches and challenges and trends mentioned in DOT Statewide Long Range Transportation Plans

2017 Review of Plans

Of the 52 SLRTPs reviewed, the majority incorporated a combination of plan types (see Figure 1). This might be due to the fact that States have significant latitude in determining what planning approach to take and what content to include in the SLRTPs, although they must also address several Federally required elements. States likely choose a variety of approaches when developing their SLRTPs to better meet States’ complex transportation needs and objectives.

Figure 1 shows the number of plans that apply each plan type. It shows that the most common plan types are policy-based (52 percent of all plans), vision-based (40 percent), needs-based (37 percent), and performance-based (35 percent). Fewer plans include corridor-based (21 percent), financially realistic (15 percent), or project-based (13 percent) approaches.

Title: Figure 1: Frequency of SLRTPs incorporating plan type approaches (percentages are out of 52 SLRTPs) - Description: A graph that shows the number of SLRTPs that incorporate plan type approaches. 52% are policy-based, 40% are vision-based, 37% are needs-based, 35% are performance-based, 21% are corridor based, 15% are financially realistic, and 13% are project-based.
Figure 1: Frequency of SLRTPs incorporating plan type approaches (percentages are out of 52 SLRTPs)

(Source: FHWA)

Certain combinations of plan types were more common than others, suggesting that some approaches to developing SLRTPs are complementary. For example, 8 SLRTPs (15%) include elements of a financially realistic approach. Of these, 5 SLRTPs also incorporate elements of a needs-based approach. The frequency with which SLRTPs combine needs-based and financially realistic approaches indicates that States find it important to assess transportation needs as a means to establish a long-term financial direction for the State’s transportation system.

SLRTPs Incorporating a Performance Approach

Performance-based SLRTPs incorporate performance measures in a range of ways, including associating goals with measurable outcomes (e.g., reduction of injuries for a safety goal), setting targets for improved performance through project selection criteria, or setting goals for facility maintenance or operations decisions. A performance-based plan might also describe approaches or criteria for developing performance measures; it might consider linkages between performance objectives and overall plan goals or policies.

States reference different types of performance measures. For example, plan-related performance measures include project delivery timelines or percentage of projects completed within budget. System-related performance measures include congestion rates or infrastructure conditions.

Of the 52 SLRTPs reviewed, twelve percent of plans (six plans) were strongly oriented towards a performance-based approach; but overall, 35 percent of SLRTPs (18 plans) incorporated some elements of a performance-based approach.

Georgia’s SLRTP offers an example for incorporating a performance-based approach. This SLRTP details the steps of the performance-based planning process including goals and objectives, performance measures, target setting, resource allocation, and measurement and recording of results. The performance measures in Georgia’s plan “reflect a discrete set of evaluation criteria used to evaluate performance tradeoff of potential investment scenarios in context of long-range goals.” The plan defines specific tangible measures to evaluate various investment needs. For example, discussion of each element of the highway program (pavement, bridges, roadway capacity, roadway operations, and safety) details specific performance measures:

  • Pavement: ratings using the International Roughness Index (IRI)
  • Bridge: percent of bridge deck area rated as Structurally Deficient (SD) or Functionally Obsolete (FO)
  • Capacity: roadway Level of Service (LOS) ratings
  • Operations: monetary user benefits resulting from reduced user delay through traffic signal coordination, incident response, and ramp metering
  • Safety: number and rate of fatalities as well as property damage crashes and injuries of varying levels

Each element of the highway program includes a performance curve demonstrating performance impacts in the projected year 2040 at various funding levels.

This SLRTP includes a performance framework (Figure 2) that links plan goals to objectives to performance measures and provides recommendations on funding allocations based on performance measures and targets. The performance management dashboard included in this SLRTP (Figure 3) provides the user with an easy-to-understand guide to the performance measures considered, targets, and monitoring status.

Title: Figure 2: Performance Framework for Georgia's SLRTP - Description: Graphic from Georgia's SLRTP that shows the flow of progress. Goals are listed first, including improve safety, reliability, reduce congestion, maintain and preserve, improve freight/economic growth, and improve environment. This leads to objectives, which more specifically target statewide freight and logistics, people mobility in metro atlanta, and people mobility outside metro Atlanta. This leads to specific Performance Measures, including fatality reduction, percent pavement fair or better condition, percent bridge deck area on non-SD bridges, delay and user cost savings, and percent population served by transit. The flow leads the reader to a different colored box, called "Execution Framework", which discusses funding allocation by investment program and implementation of projects; these actions would happen in conjunction with the use of goals, objectives, and performance measures. Finally, the work flow comes to the last box where performance targets will be monitored to see progress. Each performance measure is assigned a target for Georgia.
Figure 2: Performance Framework from Georgia’s SLRTP (Source: Georgia DOT)

Title: Figure 3: Performance Management Dashboard from Georgia's SLRTP - Description: Graphic shows a table from Georgia's SLRTP with column headings: Performance measures, values, targets, and status. The Safety goal contains performance measures reduction in annual highway fatalities with 19 fewer fatalities, target of greater than or equal to 41 fewer fatalities, and the status is some progress made. The Safety goal contains performance measures average emergency service response time with 13 minutes currently, target of less than 10 minutes, and the status is some progress made. The maintenance goal contains a performance measure of percent of state-owned bridges meeting GDOT standards, with a value at 92%, a target of more than 85%, and status of a lot of progress made. The maintenance goal contains a performance measure of percent of interstates meeting maintenance standards, with a value at 74%, a target of 90%, and status no progress made. The maintenance goal contains a performance measure of percent of percent of state-owned non-interstate roads meeting, with a value at 73%, a target of 90%, and status of no progress made. The planning and construction goal contains a performance measure of % of right-of-way authorized on time, value of 56%, target of 75%, and status of no progress made. The planning and construction goal contains a performance measure of % of construction authorized on time, value of 69%, target of 80%, and status of little progress made. The planning and construction goal contains a performance measure of % of rprojects construction on time, value of 76%, target of 80%, and status of little progress made. The planning and construction goal contains a performance measure of % of projects constructed on budget, value of 93.9%, target of 90%, and status of progress made. The planning and construction goal contains a performance measure of annual congestion cost per peak auto commuter, value of $1130, target of 10% reduction, and status of some progress made. The planning and construction goal contains a performance measure of morning peak-hour speeds on general lanes, value of over 37 mph, target of 40+ mph, and status of some progress made. The planning and construction goal contains a performance measure of evening peak-hour speeds on general lanes, value of 38 mph, target of 40+ mph, and status of some progress made.
Figure 3: Performance Management Dashboard from Georgia’s SLRTP (Source: Georgia DOT)

SLRTPs Incorporating a Policy Approach

Policy-based SLRTPs provide overarching strategies for future directions and discussion of options for how to proceed. Policy-based SLRTPs might provide official public policies and priorities for solving problems or meeting projected demands related to future provision of the statewide transportation system. Policies could range from improving mobility or accessibility to enhancing safety or addressing environmental protection. In many cases, the SLRTP might describe investments, strategies, or programs to accomplish these policies.

Thirty-nine percent of plans (20 plans) were strongly oriented towards a policy-based approach; but overall, 52 percent of SLRTPs (27 plans) incorporated some elements of a policy-based approach. Most SLRTPs developed policies related to the planning factors in the FAST Act.[4] Some, however, developed policies focused on other topics, including social equity, energy conservation and climate change, public health, and partnerships and coordination.

California’s SLRTP offers an example for incorporating a policy-based approach. The SLRTP aims to better serve the population of California through effective communication efforts and identification of shared stakeholder interests. Focused around the broader contexts of economy, environment, and quality of life, the policy framework focuses on six core goals:

  • Improve multimodal mobility and accessibility for all people;
  • Preserve the multimodal transportation system;
  • Support a vibrant economy;
  • Improve public safety and security;
  • Foster livable and healthy communities and promote social equity; and
  • Practice environmental stewardship.

The plan details each goal further, including policies and recommendations aimed at achieving the transportation vision, and has strong considerations for the future direction of California’s transportation systems (Figure 4). California’s SLRTP has a large focus on sustainable growth, highlighting efforts and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce congestion to better serve the population.

Title: Figure 4: Policy Frameork from California's SLRTP - Description: Graphic from California's SLRTP that discusses the goals and related policies for California's transportation system. The 1st goal is to improve multimodal mobility and accessibility for all people and has policies for managing, investing, and mode choice. The 2nd goal is to preserve the multimodal transportation system, and contains goals for preventative maintenance, evaluation of life cycle costs, and reducing impacts of climate change. The 3rd goal is to support vibrant economy, and policies are to support choice for economic activity, enhance freight, mobility and reliability, and seek sustainable and flexible funding for the system. The 4th goal is to improve public safety and security, and contains policies for reducing crashes, and providing emergency security and response. The 5th goal is to foster livable and healthy communities and promote social equity; the related policies are to expand engagement for planning and decision making, integrate multimodal development, and integrate health and social equity in decision making. The 6th goal is to practice environmental stewardship with policies of integrate environmental considerations in all stages of planning, conserve and enhance natural resources, reduce green house gas emissions, and transform to the transportation system to clean and energy efficient.
Figure 4: Policy Framework from California’s SLRTP (Source: California DOT)

SLRTPs Incorporating a Corridor Approach

Corridor-based SLRTPs are organized around specific transportation corridors within the State. In some cases, this could be a compilation of major corridors from regional or district plans incorporated in the SLRTP. Typically, corridors presented in SLRTPs are multimodal and provide a statewide synthesis of major corridors and their condition, projected use, and financing. Corridor-based SLRTPs might also describe analysis methods and results to assign priorities for corridor improvements or expansion based on factors such as unmet or projected future demand.

Four percent of plans (2 plans) were strongly oriented towards a corridor approach. Overall, 21 percent of plans (11 plans) incorporated some elements of a corridor approach. Of all 11 plans, most focused on multimodal/intermodal transportation corridors.

Puerto Rico’s SLRTP offers an example for incorporating a corridor-based approach. This plan highlights the importance of the multiple transportation modes in Puerto Rico to the island’s economy. The plan discusses each mode for trade and travel in detail, including highway systems, public transportation, bicycle and non-motorized pedestrian facilities, seaports, airports, and freight. The plan discusses the interdependency of the modes and the importance of transportation systems on the future of the island and its residents.

The SLRTP elaborates several transportation corridors, especially for highway systems and public transportation. For example, the SLRTP discusses the importance of the PR-2/PR-22 Northwest Corridor and considerations for upgrading the system to increase capacity and operational safety. This corridor serves as a vital connection for trucking freight between San Juan and the western half of the island, though improvements are necessary to upgrade expressway standards. Puerto Rico’s SLRTP addresses intermodal connectivity and discusses necessary improvements to accommodate the growth of Rafael Hernández International Airport to support increased tourism and economic development in the west coast.

SLRTPs Incorporating a Needs-Based Approach

Needs-based SLRTPs analyze the transportation needs forecast for the State by considering demographic trends and available facilities to select policies, strategies, and investments to meet those needs. A needs-based SLRTP might assess the travel needs of the State by measuring current travel patterns for all modes, anticipating future needs based on demographic forecasts, and projecting future travel patterns. Current and future performance of the multi-modal system can be specified in terms of levels of service or other measures. SLRTPs may also include cost projections and considerations of available or alternative revenue sources.

Twenty-seven percent of plans (14 plans) are strongly oriented towards a needs-based approach. Overall 37 percent of plans (19 plans) include elements of a needs-based approach. In most cases, these SLRTPs use financial scenario analysis to identify how different investment levels might impact State DOTs’ abilities to address transportation needs.

North Carolina’s SLRTP offers an example for incorporating a needs-based approach. The 2040 Plan identifies long-term needs for each mode on a statewide, regional, and sub-regional basis. The plan details each mode of transportation to include projected future growth and economic conditions. The plan discusses the level of service (LOS) for each mode extensively, providing definitions for each LOS within modes and each mode’s target LOS. The 2040 Plan incorporates elements of a financially realistic approach by detailing funding necessary to maintain the current LOS for each mode and to achieve the target LOS, as well as outlining various potential investment scenarios and revenue sources. Additionally, this plan discusses three recommendations to achieve the described improvements and changes: embrace ongoing major policy and process initiatives; pursue focused, strategic investment priorities; and pursue policy, process, and program changes to implement the SLRTP.

SLRTPs Incorporating a Vision Approach

Vision-based SLRTPs identify an ideal or preferred future State transportation system, considering such questions as: “what should the State’s future be and what transportation system is required to support this vision?” SLRTPs incorporating this type of approach might offer visions for economic development, land use, quality of life, environmental protection, or other concerns. These types of plans might also involve active stakeholder and public participation to identify and select alternative scenarios, perhaps contrasting system performance with costs or identifying new revenue sources. One scenario can be selected as an agreed-upon “vision.” Vision-based plans can function to secure public and political support for the selected vision. A vision-based plan might also include needs-based or financially realistic approaches to contrast choices, costs, and performance results of alternatives.

Twelve percent of SLRTPs (6 plans) are strongly oriented towards a vision approach. Overall, 40 percent of SLRTPs (21 plans) include elements of a vision-based plan type. Many of these SLRTPs include vision statements that frame subsequent policies, guidelines, or action steps. Others summarized citizens’ preferences for paths forward. Many of the vision plans rely on extensive public involvement to articulate elements of the vision, including strategies to obtain public feedback such as scenario planning exercises, focus groups, workshops, and surveys.

Louisiana’s SLRTP offers an example for incorporating a vision-based approach. Louisiana DOT engaged stakeholders throughout the development of the SLRTP and utilized a variety of methods to understand the State’s transportation needs. These included a legislative questionnaire, public telephone surveys, the plan website, policy committee meetings and advisory council meetings, executive staff interviews, visioning sessions and workshops, and tribal consultation. These outreach activities solicited feedback from a variety of transportation stakeholders at state, regional, and local levels, and ensured that the developed SLRTP would incorporate the needs of individuals living, working, doing business, and visiting the state. Louisiana DOT then held a visioning workshop with a range of stakeholders to “discuss future demographic trends, challenges, and possible growth scenarios, and to assess what the transportation system should look like to realize those possible futures.” Feedback received from the various public engagement activities aided in the development of the SLRTP vision, goals, objectives, and performance measures. This SLRTP also incorporated needs-based approaches in addition to the vision-based approach, identifying many needs of the State as well as four different funding scenarios detailing how the needs can be met.

SLRTPs Incorporating a Financially Realistic Approach

SLRTPs incorporating a financially realistic approach set long-term directions for the State’s transportation system based on policies, goals, investments, and strategies, and match them to projections of associated capital and operating costs. These costs are then typically adapted to reasonably available revenues. Often, a financially realistic plan discusses risks and probabilities of projected costs and revenues, attempting to balance both.

Four percent of SLRTPs (2 plans) are strongly oriented towards a financially realistic approach. Overall, 15 percent of SLRTPs (8 plans) incorporate elements of this approach. Many of these types of SLRTPs use revenue scenarios as methods to compare and contrast financial alternatives. Other SLRTPs include extensive discussions on funding, financing, or revenue alternatives. A few States incorporate a financial focus throughout the plan, using financial alternatives as a framework for developing guidelines, policies, or action steps.

Iowa’s SLRTP offers an example for incorporating a financially realistic approach, as a large portion of the plan discusses the anticipated shortfalls between future costs and revenues, and implications to the future of the state. The plan estimates costs and revenues for each mode, including aviation, bicycle and pedestrian, highway, public transit, and rail, with figures highlighting the funding shortfalls for each mode. The plan also discusses the various consequences for the shortfall for each mode, conveying potential negative or disruptive impacts to the future transportation system in the state.

Since “current revenues are not adequate to maintain and improve Iowa’s multimodal transportation system now and into the future,” the SLRTP identifies potential options for moving forward. In the SLRTP’s implementation plan, Iowa DOT includes three steps to address the funding shortfall:

  • finding additional financial revenue sources, with recommendations and suggestions included;
  • programming future investments by developing Iowa’s Five-Year Transportation Improvement Plan; and
  • continuous performance monitoring to determine how the transportation system is performing compared to stated expectations and goals for measurements of safety, efficiency, and quality of life for each mode.

SLRTPs Incorporating a Project Approach

Project-based SLRTPs develop and select specific projects to be undertaken over a long-term planning horizon to meet the SLRTP’s transportation policies or goals. Projects might be grouped by mode or category (e.g., bicycle/pedestrian, freight, port access).

Four percent of SLRTPs (two plans) are strongly oriented towards a project approach. Overall, 14 percent of SLRTPs (seven plans) incorporate a project approach. Most SLRTPs closely tie their project focus to financially realistic elements. Most project-based SLRTPs also focus on highway needs and projects rather than multimodal projects.

Rhode Island’s SLRTP offers an example for incorporating a project-based approach. Part Three of the plan, Transportation Financing, covers several projects and funding sources available over the long term. For example, the plan discusses five large highway program projects, including the I-195 Relocation, Route 403 Extension, Freight Rail (FRIP), Sakonnet Bridge, and Washington Bridge projects, and the approval for funding through Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds, which “enabled the State to implement five projects critical to rebuilding the infrastructure of Rhode Island, fostering economic development and improving our quality of life.” The plan also discusses several transit projects, including bus and bus related transit, fixed guideways for streetcars and rail, and future rail projects needed to meet future commuter rail service demands for Pawtucket, Kingston, Westerly, Cranston, East Greenwich, and West Davisville.

6.1 Challenges

In their SLRTPs, State DOTs often discuss long-term or emerging challenges, their implications for the transportation system, and potential strategies for addressing them. Five prominent challenges discussed in the SLRTPs include:

  • Revenue shortfalls for transportation;
  • Inflation (increasing the price of construction and operations);
  • Aging infrastructure;
  • Aging populations; and
  • Climate change.

The majority of SLRTPs discuss the challenge of revenue shortfalls (85 percent, or 44 plans), revealing that most States recognize similar problems of funding their transportation systems to reach their SLRTPs’ goals. Nearly half of the SLRTPs (48 percent) discuss the need to provide new transportation options for aging populations. Figure 16 shows the distribution of challenges mentioned in SLRTPs. Ninety-two percent (48 plans) discussed at least one of these challenges in their SLRTPs, with a majority of the plans discussing more than one.

Bar chart that discusses the number of plans and their mention of challenges: 85% discuss revenue shortfall, 48% discuss aging population, 40% discuss aging infrastructure, 33% discuss climate change, and 10% discuss inflation.
Figure 16: frequency of specific challenges mentioned in SLRTPs (Source: FHWA)

Florida’s SLRTP identifies and discusses several examples of challenges, including revenue shortfall, an aging population, aging infrastructure, and climate change. The plan mentions previous trends of reduced revenues; State transportation revenues reduced significantly during the recession, and Florida DOT expects revenues to decline in the future due to improved fuel efficiency, new technologies, and increasing use of transit and non-motorized modes, which reduce gas tax revenues. The SLRTP suggests that gas tax revenues may not be viable “as the primary state and federal revenue source for transportation improvements.” Florida DOT plans to address the challenge of revenue shortfalls through various methods such as identifying alternative revenue and funding sources, using updated, accurate financial forecasting, and prioritizing future transportation investments. Florida’s SLRTP also addresses the challenges associated with an aging population, stating that “by 2030, 26 percent of Floridians will be over the age of 65, compared with about 20 percent nationally.” The plan recognizes the need to “provide reliable transportation options to meet the unique mobility needs of…older adults.” Florida plans to engage citizens to ensure the transportation systems in communities are appropriate for its residents and accommodate users’ mobility needs to address this challenge.

Florida’s SLRTP addresses the challenge of aging infrastructure, stating “the excellent condition of state transportation facilities will be increasingly difficult to maintain over the next 50 years due to increased travel, rising costs, funding constraints, and aging infrastructure.” The plan notes the importance of continually monitoring the condition of the State’s transportation systems, prioritizing infrastructure maintenance needs, and minimizing damage to existing systems through enforceable regulations to address this challenge. Lastly, Florida’s SLRTP recognizes the need to “reduce the vulnerability and increase the resilience of critical infrastructure to the impacts of climate trends and events” given that “a changing global climate may impact Florida more than any other state due to its many miles of coastline and its low elevation.”

6.2 Trends

SLRTPs also discuss a variety of trends, including:

  • Technology: the use of engineering or applied sciences for practical purposes in transportation;
  • Congestion management: managing congestion through a systematic approach that provides up-to-date, accurate information on transportation system performance and assesses alternative management strategies that satisfy local and state needs;[11]
  • Demand management: improving travel reliability by maximizing effective choices provided to travelers;[12]
  • Freight: transportation of goods and cargo by truck, train, aircraft, or ship;
  • Asset management: resource allocations and programming decisions aimed at providing increased satisfaction for end users and greater system value by improving system performance and program effectiveness;[13]
  • Emerging mobility: new uses of the current transportation system, such as car-sharing and transportation network companies, that allow users to travel in faster or more cost-efficient ways; and
  • Megaregions: a collection of areas and/or geographic locations grouped based on mutual interests and similar characteristics.[14]

Half of the plans (26 SLRTPs) mention technology as an emerging trend, which illustrates States DOTs’ attention to developing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and other emerging technologies in the long term horizons of the plans. While technology the most commonly referenced trend, several SLRTPs focused on congestion management and demand management. Ten SLRTPs (19 percent) discussed congestion management, and 9 SLRTPs (17 percent) discussed demand management. This analysis revealed that 21 SLRTPs (40 percent) discuss one of these emerging trends, and 17 plans (33 percent) discuss two or more of these emerging trends in transportation (Figure 17).

Bar chart that discusses the number of plans mentioning emerging trends: 50% discuss technology, 19% discuss congestion management, 17% discuss demand management, 12% discuss freight, 10% discuss asset management, 4% discuss emerging mobility, and 2% discuss megaregions.
Figure 17: Emerging trends mentioned in SLRTPs (Source: FHWA)

Washington D.C.’s SLRTP identifies and discusses several emerging trends, including technology, demand management, freight, and asset management. This SLRTP includes recommendations for transportation technology integration policies. One such recommendation is to “encourage open data to stimulate public and private collaboration in data exchange and creation of valuable information for operators and consumers” since “getting data out of systems and having it available for use in analytical and operational purposes can have tremendous benefits in terms of delivering more effective and efficient transportation solutions.” The other technology recommendation is to “support autonomous vehicle implementation and connected vehicle research, using D.C. as a test bed for the nation.” This SLRTP addresses freight, emphasizing the importance of designated, strategic freight routes. The plan also details its approach to transportation demand management (TDM) throughout, stressing that “the entire transportation network operates best when supply and demand are managed… TDM seeks to maximize travel opportunities within the transportation system through strategic programs, policies, and services.”

[11] “Congestion Management Process.” Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Accessed 13 July 2017.

[12] “Transportation Demand Management.” Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Accessed 13 July 2017.

[13] “Asset Management Overview.” Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Accessed 13 July 2017.

[14] “Megaregions.” Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Accessed 13 July 2017.