As federal lawmakers debate about funding for the nation's transportation infrastructure, a new report reveals the challenges of measuring state DOT performance. The Pew Center on the States and the Rockefeller Foundation released Measuring Transportation Investments: The Road to Results,which compares the ways transportation spending is evaluated and tracked in the 50 states and District of Columbia.
The study measures each state's ability to meet six specific goals: safety, jobs and commerce, mobility, access, environmental stewardship, and infrastructure preservation. States were rated based on more than 800 performance, planning, and budget documents.
Only 13 states are “leading the way” in setting goals and performance measurements, and tracking data related to transportation initiatives: California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Nineteen lack the tools to account for return on investment in their transportation infrastructure. The remaining 18 states and Washington, D.C., have “mixed results.” An interactive results map and state fact sheets are on the report's Web site or at http://go.hw.net/PWresults.
“Unless states have clear goals, performance measures, and data to generate that information, it's difficult for policymakers to prioritize transportation investments effectively, target scarce resources, and help foster economic growth,” says Robert Zahradnik, director of research at Pew Center.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) defends DOT efforts to measure performance. “While some of the measures the report analyzed aren't currently the ones being employed by state DOTs, systematic measurement of the results being achieved through highway and transit improvements have been a practice that states have used for many years,” says John Horsley, AASHTO executive director. He cites reduced traffic fatalities over the past four years, from 42,000 to 32,000, and a 20% reduction in “several categories of air pollution from motor vehicles” since the 1970s.
However, Horsley says state DOTs support the idea of federal legislation that would help track goals.
To read the full report, visit www.pewcenteronthestates.org.