As of October 1, 2016, the SWUTC concluded its 28 years of operation and is no longer an active center of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The archived SWUTC website remains available here.


SWUTC Research Project Description

Develop a System to Support Preparation of Life-Cycle Budget Needs for Highways

University:  University of Texas at Austin

Principal Investigator:
Zhanmin Zhang
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
(512) 471-4534

Project Monitor:
Dr. Michael R. Murphy
Center for Transportation Research
The University of Texas at Austin

Funding Source:  USDOT and State of Texas General Revenue Funds

Total Project Cost: $79,285

Project Number:  600451-00075

Date Started: 5/1/12

Estimated Completion Date:  6/30/13

Project Summary

Project Abstract:
Budget planning is important to managing highways. Ideally, the budget planning process can be streamlined by a procedure that would facilitate life-cycle budget needs analysis for highway sections from fence to fence, where the total budget needs would be the summation of the needs for all highway sections under consideration. While some of the elements are maintained with a fixed maintenance schedule, others may require maintenance programming based on the desired level of performance during the life cycle. The latter is particularly true for highway pavements. In addition to considering risk-cost associated with life-cycle budget needs, highway agencies have to, more and more, cope with budget fluctuations. The objective of this project is to develop a practical methodology to support highway life-cycle budget needs over the planning horizon.

Project Objectives:
The objective of this proposed research is to develop practical algorithms and procedures that can be implemented and used by state DOTs in support of their decision making in budget planning and budget allocation by capitalizing on what has been accomplished in this area by researchers over the years. The focus of the research is to produce algorithms, procedures, and processes that can be implemented with a typical size of pavement network and practically used by a typical state DOT and related stakeholders.

Task Descriptions:
Under a previous SWUTC project, a computerized system framework has been developed and some preliminary models have been calibrated with real pavement data. This continuation project is intended to explore how additional algorithms can be added to the system to address financial analysis related to projects under Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). The project objective will be achieved through organized tasks that are described as follows.

Task 1. Review the State-of-the-Art of PPPs and Related Financial Analysis
The review is intended to provide the definition of public-private partnerships (PPPs) and the developing status of PPP projects around the world, especially in the U.S. For example, the concept of managed lanes is a widely accepted form of PPPs. Furthermore, the relationship among managed lanes, high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, and high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes will be clarified. Another importance concept is the relationship between toll levels and traffic demand, as it is a critical step for further analysis of the relationship between total revenue and toll levels. Based on the simulation of the relationship between traffic revenue and toll levels, desirable toll level and minimum toll level can be determined in order to provide agencies in making decisions to maximize the total revenue and secure the projects financing. This task will document the state-of-the-art of simulation models for the analysis of the relationship between toll levels and traffic demand. Comparisons and comments will be provided for these models as well.

Task 2. Develop a Methodological Framework
In order to illustrate the critical steps to achieve the objectives of this research, a comprehensive methodological framework will be developed under this task to depicting the main components of the analysis process and the relationships among them. Examples of the main components include: 1) data required; 2) financial analysis neglecting the impact of toll on traffic; 3) financial analysis including the impact of toll on traffic; 4) risk analysis. Data are split into several parts based on the input requirements of the financial model used in this research, where each part will be explicated and additional requirements on the quality of data will be discussed. For financial analysis the structure of financial analysis for managed lanes projects neglecting the impact of toll levels on traffic demand will be discussed, along with that for financial analysis considering the impact of toll levels on traffic demand.  The risk analysis in the form of numerical analysis will include two main parts, risk simulation and risk optimization. Risk simulation is a process where a model, specifically for a financial model in this research, is iterated and calculated many times with different input values. Risk optimization is to operate the financial model repeatedly until the outcome reaches its optimized value, based on the given data ranges for certain variables.

Task 3. Conduct a Numerical Case Study
The developed framework and models will be tested with numerical data for further improvement. Under this task, data collected from available data sources will be applied to the financial models to evaluate the financial condition of the case under study. There will be two categories of financial evaluations, the one neglecting the impact of toll levels on traffic demand, and the other one considering the impact of toll levels on traffic demand.

Task 4. Prepare Project Reports
The researcher will make every effort to document progress of the work throughout the project. A Research Report which completely documents the research performed, method used, and results achieved will be prepared at the end of the project.

Implementation of Research Outcomes:
The outcome of this research has a significant impact on how the future performance of the highway infrastructure can be predicted.  Developed under this project were models for quantifying project costs.  Information on these models were disseminated through:

TRB Conference Proceeding:  Gao, L. and Z. Zhang, “Pavement Maintenance Management through Network Partition,” Compendium of Papers, 92nd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, January 13-17, 2013

TRB Conference Proceeding:  Wu, H and Z. Zhang, “Study on Toll-Pricing Strategies for Managing Transportation Facilities in Design-Build-Finance-Operate Partnerships,”  Compendium of Papers, 92nd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, January 13-17, 2013

Master’s Thesis:  Yuwen, W., “Simulation of Investment Returns of Toll Projects,” Thesis, The University of Texas at Austin, December 2012.

Journal Article in Review:  Zhang, Z. and L. Gao, “Infrastructure Performance Modeling:  A Discrete Logit Model Approach,” submitted to the Journal of Infrastructure Systems, ASCE.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation:
The results of this project contribute significantly to the estimate of budget needs and scenario analyses of budget allocations for large-scale highway infrastructure networks.  Information obtained from budget needs analysis and budget allocations can assist state DOT decision makers at various levels make more informed decisions.  For example, some of the results based on the work of this project has helped develop information that was presented to the Texas Legislature for policy decisions on funding appropriations.  Specifically, it helped TxDOT with its implementation of a 4-year pavement management plan program.  Which resulted in TxDOT being selected to receive the 2011 Global Road Achievement Award (GRAA) by the International Road Federation (IRF) because of its efforts in implementing a 4-year pavement management plan program.

Web Links:
Final Technical Report