States look at ITD methodology for determining health of rural highways

ITD Director Brian Ness has issued a challenge – his vision is for the department to become the best in the nation and a model for other state agencies.

What does that mean? District 6 Engineer Blake Rindlisbacher offers national attention over a district research project as an example that ITD is moving the right direction. He explained the research and subsequent interest when Director Ness and the transportation board met last week in Rigby.

Anyone with similar success stories that demonstrate ITD’s progress on the road to being the best is encouraged to contact Jeff Stratten or Mel Coulter in the Office of Communications.

“Bill Shaw, in conjunction with DKS Associates has developed a methodology for evaluating the ‘health’ of transportation corridors,” Rindlisbacher explains. “The corridor health evaluation takes several roadway characteristics and factors into account and weighs them based on agency priorities. “

That approach led to a professional paper and publication in the Transportation Research Bulletin (TRB No. 2119). Shaw made a formal presentation at the September 2008 TRB Tools of the Trade Conference in Portland and at the annual TRB meeting in Washington, D.C. the following January.

Being published in TRB is a great start, Rindlisbacher said. But he also points to other outside interest as example of how ITD is emerging as a national leader.

“As part of the corridor health evaluation process, Bill and DKS took a different approach to travel demand forecasting. South Dakota surveyed other states, looking for examples of travel demand forecasting on rural routes and reported in its “2008 South Dakota Travel Forecast Study” that ITD’s methodology offers a plausible option.

The District 6 engineer also said it was “gratifying to hear the FHWA’s (Federal Highway Administration) director of asset management refer to “asset health” during a presentation at the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials earlier this month in North Dakota.

Project Abstract
This paper describes a system developed by the Idaho Transportation Department and DKS Associates to produce visual displays of how growth in the key rural corridors in Eastern Idaho will affect the future health of the state facilities and how investments can reduce the long-term impacts of the growth. The system includes a Geographic Information System (GIS) as the base platform where a variety of data on roadway characteristics, land use, population and employment forecasts, and traffic counts are stored and organized. The system also includes a module for producing travel forecasts from population and employment growth forecasts and from historical trends in growth in traffic volumes to reflect growth in the corridor and growth in recreational travel to the region. For a future scenario, the GIS program generates a graphic display of the level-of-service for different times of day, days of the week and seasons of the year. It also can generate a graphic display of the “health” of the corridor where health is defined by a set of factors and criteria that describe how the corridor would be perceived by travelers that use it and how the roadway facility affects the economic health of the corridor. The Visualization Tool has been successfully used by ITD to aid the counties in Eastern Idaho develop plans that anticipate and acknowledge the growth and other changes in the critical state route corridors.

Eastern Idaho is one of the premier destinations for recreational travel in the western United States. The region attracts millions of visitors each year for fishing, hunting, boating, skiing, snowmobiling, camping, backpacking, hiking and visiting the national parks in neighboring Montana and Wyoming. The state roads that provide access to these recreational areas are also the only routes of access to the rich farmlands that produce a variety of crops including the potatoes for which Idaho is famous. An unprecedented growth in Idaho in the past twenty years has raised concerns that urbanization of segments along the state routes that serve the recreational and agricultural areas and ever-increasing vehicle miles traveled are resulting in conflicts that are degrading both the level of service and the safety on the roads. This paper describes a “Visualization Tool” developed by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and DKS Associates to produce a computerized data management system and visual displays of how growth in the key corridors will affect the future “health” of the state highway system and how investments can reduce the long-term impacts of the growth. The tool was initially developed for use in updating corridor plans for U.S .20, U.S. 26 and SH 33 in District 6 …

The Visualization Tool is now being used in district-wide planning and may ultimately be used in developing the next Statewide Transportation Plan. The tool will help ITD address new federal guidance in SAFETEA-LU for use of visualization techniques in transportation planning. The guidance states that “to the maximum extent possible, use visualization techniques to describe the proposed long-range statewide transportation plan and supporting services.”

Published 7-30-2010