Analytics helping transportation officials get the job done in tight financial times

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The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials recently released a top 10 list of transportation issues that will be “talked, written or tweeted and legislated about” in 2012.  

As expected, funding constraints and Congressional action on reauthorization appear on the list but the group also notes that natural disaster preparation, senior mobility, increasing intercity rail, traffic safety and meeting environmental regulations will be hot topics in 2012.

Number two on the list is getting the job done in a tight financial environment.  With reauthorization lagging at the federal level and many state budgets in bad shape, state Departments of Transportation have had to look for ways to conduct day-to-day operations and long-term planning efficiently.

In North Carolina, by using data analytics, the state DOT has been able to shave weeks—about 20 percent—off the overall planning timeline, translating into an estimated cost savings of $500,000. Working in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Water Quality, the NC DOT used LIDAR (a process using laser to chart topography) data to narrow the list of acceptable choices for new road construction from hundreds of options down to a handful.  This huge reduction allowed NC DOT to quickly determine the best possible options and focus planning efforts on those areas.  

Analysis showing predicted streams and wetlands within proposed road corridors

The pilot project earned an award from the Federal Highway Administration and NC DOT has been fielding requests for more information from the US Army Corp of Engineers, the US Environmental Protection Agency and state and local transportation agencies. As state DOTs continue to look for ways to do more with less, data analytics can yield significant time and money savings, keeping projects on time and under budget.

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About Author

Melissa Savage

Sr Industry Consultant, State and Local Government

Melissa Savage is a subject matter expert with SAS Institute, Inc. focusing on transportation issues facing state and local governments. Prior to her position with SAS Institute, Inc. Ms. Savage was a Program Director at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in the Energy, Environment & Transportation program. During her 13 years with NCSL, Ms. Savage authored several publications on transportation issues, testified before state legislative committees and represented NCSL and the interests of state legislatures before national transportation organizations and working groups on a variety of topics. Before working at NCSL, Melissa worked in the Office of Legislative Legal Services at the Colorado General Assembly. She received her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado and her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University.

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