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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Case Study: Developing Goals, Objectives, and Performance Measures

Case Study Highlights

  • Establishes a framework for developing goals, objectives, and performance measures.
  • Develops performance measurement selection criteria to keep performance measures concise and meaningful.
  • Incorporates expectations related to safety performance measures into department, work area, and individual level performance evaluations.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) developed goals, objectives, and performance measures to provide strategic direction to its state long-range transportation plan and to establish a framework for tracking and reporting system performance. The process followed four basic steps: conduct background research, develop new goals and objectives, develop new performance measures, and apply new performance measures to plan analysis.

The Michigan Transportation Plan Team established a Performance Measure Subteam to work through the first three steps of the process. The team researched the goals, objectives, and performance measures in the current long-range plan and identified their pros and cons. Through a peer state review the team identified additional goals, objectives, and performance measure approaches for consideration. Public involvement activities with the Economic Advisory Group, stakeholders, and citizens helped the team gain insight into how stakeholders and citizens view system performance. The team developed seven performance measurement selection criteria, including the following:

  1. Is the measure currently used by MDOT?
  2. Is the measure in the current state long-range plan?
  3. Does the measure indicate the level of achievement toward Michigan Transportation Plan goals?
  4. Does the measure focus on one or more of the plan's emphasis areas – integration, economic benefit, and quality of life?
  5. Do the measures adequately address a cross section of modes?
  6. Is high-quality data readily available to support the measure?
  7. Is the measure easily understood?

Following six performance workshops that identified the goals, objectives, and a short list of measures, changes in the goals and objectives were developed to reflect the current long-range plan goals, current and emerging agency priorities, the department mission, Federal planning factors, and the preferred public vision. To keep the strategic framework for the MI Transportation Plan simple and to establish a strong linkage between goals and objectives, the team identified four theme-based goal areas reflecting the Department's highest priorities: Stewardship, Safety and Security, System Improvement, and Efficient and Effective Operations. Objectives under each goal area were organized into three categories: 1) Integration; 2) Economic Benefit; and 3) Quality of Life. The team refined the list of recommended performance measures to 19 core measures and seven subordinate measures based on the selection criteria. The performance measures were presented and applied in a way that both reflects the plan's focus on integration and aligns with MDOT's program structure. Fatality rates and crash rates are two of the 19 core measures. Five subordinate measures are rail-roadway crossing crashes, local transit crashes, highway crashes, bicycle/pedestrian incidents/injuries, and deer-related incidents. The performance measures are used to support corridor-level analysis and development of statewide gap analysis.

The Michigan Transportation Plan goals and objectives link directly to MDOT's Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan provides high level visionary guidance and practical direction as the department plans, develops, and implements an enhanced and integrated transportation system. Seven goals, of which one is safety, are aligned with the MI Transportation Plan and integrated into the department's implementation process.

Implementation of the MDOT Strategic Plan occurs at the department, work area, and individual levels. Teams implement a specific process or plan at the department-level. Work area objectives are identified and communicated through action plans that fulfill the Strategic Plan. Individual Employee Performance Plans set individual goals and competencies for employees based on the Strategic Plan's seven goals.

One goal of the MDOT Strategic Plan is to enhance and continue to improve safety within the transportation systems and workplace. Employee Performance Plans include expectations related to safety such as ensuring timely crash reports, complying with and enforcing personal protection equipment policy, keeping work zones compliant, and setting priorities based on safety risks to public, direct force, and contract agency crews.


Performance measures established by MDOT provide a means for tracking performance with respect to stated goals and objectives, and support the development of investment scenarios and future decision-making. The measures also establish a basis for MDOT to measure progress in its long-range transportation plan implementation. Integrating safety-related performance objectives into department, work area, and individual-level performance plans provides specific actions for MDOT employees to take to improve safety. The MDOT Strategic Plan enhances the link between the MI Transportation Plan and department-level goals and objectives. Measuring performance helps the public understand how money is invested and why investment priorities are selected. MDOT is in the process of developing a web page to provide performance measures and progress to the public.