Oregon DOT preparing new tool to align investments with state transportation goals

By Chris McCahill
Transportation agencies are broadening their mission statements and long-range plans to focus on issues such as livability, sustainability, equity, and economic vitality in addition to their historical focuses on mobility. Yet many of those agencies are still working out ways of ensuring that their investments align to meet those new objectives. Oregon DOT included seven wide-ranging goals in its 2006 state transportation plan and recently developed Mosaic, a least-cost planning tool that accounts for each of those goals.
Like the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s performance-driven investment tool, featured in an SSTI webinar earlier this year, Mosaic produces monetary assessments of potential investments along with value-oriented assessments based on a flexible, weighted scoring system. Whereas MTC’s tool is used to evaluate individual projects, Mosaic is designed to compare specific bundles of investments, such as highway capacity improvements, transit enhancements, active transportation projects, and a variety of transportation demand management programs. The tool shows how each bundle compares to others in terms of total investment costs, benefit/cost ratio, monetized benefits, and non-monetary benefits outlined in the Oregon Transportation Plan or those identified by stakeholders.

Figure 1. Sample output from Mosaic model. Source: Oregon DOT.
Figure 1. Sample output from Mosaic model. Source: Oregon DOT.

Figure 1 shows one type of output from Mosaic, comparing the weighted non-monetary benefits (characterized as MODA scores) and the benefit/cost ratios for different project bundles. The tool can also separate the associated costs and benefits of each bundle, such as those related to emissions, crashes, and travel time savings, or break each bundle down into general system performance categories such as mobility, accessibility, or quality of life. It is up to stakeholders and users of the tool to identify specific bundles and weight the various MODA indicators in advance. The Excel-based tool—which is meant to be used throughout the project evaluation process—relies on existing demographic, land use, transportation facility, environmental, economic, and cultural resource data from GIS. It also depends on outputs from fairly robust travel models and forecasts, though it can be run using more basic assumptions about travel patterns.
Erik Havig, ODOT’s Planning Section Manager, and Sam Seskin of CH2MHILL will join SSTI on Tuesday, September 30 for a free webinar explaining Mosaic’s development and implementation.
Chris McCahill is a Senior Associate at SSTI.