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All Other Individual Project Results

Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation

Evaluation Overview

The evaluation team examined the effect of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) activities on the implementation of agent-based approaches to transportation-related projects and activities. Agent-based modeling and simulation (ABMS) uses individual “agents,” typically drivers and agencies, to model changes in transportation networks and systems. The evaluation assessed the role the FHWA Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program played in increasing ABMS usage and how EAR Program-funded research led to further developments and advancements.

Evaluation Results

Some of the main findings of the evaluation included:

  • The EAR Program and FHWA showed the viability of ABMS within the field of transportation.
  • The EAR Program and FHWA effectively brought agent-based modeling from other disciplines to transportation. Interest in ABMS has led to increased research within academia and government settings.
  • Practitioners from different backgrounds believe ABMS can improve the efficiency and reliability of traffic-planning models, eventually improving mobility and safety in practice.

Recommendations

One recommendation was to establish clear guidelines for project publications, research output, and accessibility to improve program awareness. During the evaluation, the evaluation team found it difficult to access some of the final products from the EAR Program-funded studies. It was therefore recommended that all publications be easily accessible under multiple formats.

Eco-Logical

Evaluation Overview

The evaluation sought to understand the effects of FHWA R&T activities on the implementation of the Eco-Logical approach to transportation project delivery by State transportation departments and MPOs. The Eco-Logical Program advances an infrastructure development process that mitigates eco-system challenges through integrating plans and data across agencies and professional disciplines. Eco-Logical and related products offer multi-step procedures to conduct integratd planning and avoid, minimize, and mitigate negative environmental impacts.

Evaluation Results

The evaluation found that:

  • FHWA funding allowed grant recipients to pursue previously planned activities sooner, more comprehensively, and with broader stakeholder buy-in.
  • Grant recipients reported improved relationships with partners and stakeholders as a result of their Eco-Logical projects.
  • The Eco-Logical approach has led to improved integrated planning between environment, transportation, and land use agencies and organizations.

Recommendations

A key recommendation was that State and local agencies should dedicate additional resources to the later project implementation stages of the Eco-Logical approach, as most Eco-Logical grant recipients had only completed the early stages of the approach at the time of the evaluation. The later steps are more focused on the implementation of transportation projects, and implementation of these steps could provide further benefits and a greater return on investment for the Eco-Logical Program.

Managing Risk in Rapid Renewal Projects

Evaluation Overview

The evaluation team assessed how FHWA’s Managing Risk in Rapid Renewal Projects (R09) changed risk-management practices and affected project delivery and costs for four lead-adopter State transportation departments. R09 is a product with multiple components that provides practical tools and techniques for minimizing risk (e.g., project-cost and schedule overruns) and exploiting opportunities on transportation projects that are to be implemented in an accelerated (i.e., rapid renewal) timeframe.

Evaluation Results

The evaluation found that:

  • Applying R09 processes can result in improved estimates, budgets, and project cost savings.
  • Applying R09 processes can result in enhanced project delivery and schedule savings.
  • R09 influenced lead adopters to incorporate risk management into their standard policies, processes, and procedures.

Recommendations

One recommendation was to engage local stakeholders in prioritizing risks and identifying risk mitigation strategies. Establishing a pattern of local engagement can facilitate risk identification and mitigation on future projects. A related recommendation was to customize risk-management tools to the specific needs of each State, as many lead adopters noted that R09 was a difficult tool to use at the beginning and needed to be customized to fit their needs. Since the completion of the evaluation, FHWA’s R09 team has been working to implement this recommendation.

National Household Travel Survey

Evaluation Overview

The evaluation team examined the outcomes and impacts of FHWA’s work on the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). NHTS is a yearlong survey that reaches 150,000 households and is conducted generally once every 6-8 years. The survey provides the only data in the country that link individual personal travel behavior, household demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, traveler attitudes, vehicle ownership, and vehicle attributes.

Evaluation Results

Some of the main findings of the evaluation included:

  • Over half of the publications in which NHTS is cited have a primary application in fields other than transportation, including energy, environment, and health.
  • At the federal level, NHTS informs the writing of USDOT reports and initiatives, the development of legislation, and the creation of Federal regulations.
  • NHTS data are integral to the calculation of the model year Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ).
  • NHTS trip data are used to develop, calibrate, or validate State and MPO travel demand models.

Recommendations

One recommendation was that FHWA should continue to support NHTS. The support should include institutionalizing adequate funding, increasing the level of staffing, and conducting the surveys on a more frequent and regular cycle. In particular, a more regular survey cycle would allow States and MPOs to participate as partners.

Public-Private Partnership Capacity Building Program

Evaluation Overview

The evaluation team examined FHWA’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) Capacity Building Program (P3 Program). The P3 Program is part of the Center for Innovative Finance Support, and the main component of the program is the P3 Toolkit. The P3 Toolkit is an educational resource consisting of analytical tools and guidance documents that assist those exploring, developing, and implementing P3s. The purpose of the evaluation was to understand how the program helps transportation practitioners build knowledge and technical expertise on P3s to inform decisions related to the consideration, development, and implementation of P3 projects.

Evaluation Results

Some of the main findings of the evaluation included:

  • There is not enough evidence in this evaluation to conclude that the P3 Program influences P3 consideration decisions, but evidence does indicate that program materials positively influence project approval decisions.
  • Less experienced practitioners value the combination of P3 Program materials and staff when making decisions throughout the P3 process; more experience practitioners only have limited use of the resources.

Recommendations

One recommendation was that marketing efforts should focus on target groups who are currently underusing P3 Program resources. The program should monitor resource use and seek to improve awareness among target groups not attending events, accessing webinars, or accessing guidance documents.

Roadside Revegetation

Evaluation Overview

The evaluation team examined the outcomes of FHWA’s report titled Roadside Revegetation: A Practical Guide to Working with Native Plants, a 2007 guide encouraging agencies to adopt improved roadside revegetation practices. The evaluation sought to understand whether end users of the guide changed their previous revegetation practices to adopt those forth put in the guide and how the establishment of native plants has been improved and resulted in other positive outcomes.

Evaluation Results

Some of the main findings of the evaluation included:

  • End users have adopted the Roadside Revegetation practices by using the guide as a reference tool to reinforce practices that agency policies already mandated.
  • Roadside Revegetation has experienced widespread distribution. Between 2009 and 2013, Western Federal Lands received requests for the guide—either via hard copy or electronic download—from all continents except Antarctica.
  • Roadside Revegetation has generally improved erosion, sustainability, environmental stewardship, and visitor experience outcomes.

Recommendations

One recommendation was to extend outreach to a wider audience, especially within the FHWA division offices. According to the evaluation results, there were FHWA division office and State transportation department staff who were not aware of Roadside Revegetation, especially in regions other than the northwest, who may benefit from the technical guide.

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2019