A new study calls for transportation agencies to expand the use of life-cycle cost analyses for highway and other projects, saying the process can save money over the projects' long life spans.
The American Society of Civil Engineers-Eno Center for Transportation report, released on Sept. 30, says many states have used life-cycle cost analyses, or LCCAs, for highway pavement work, but such evaluations haven't taken off for other transportation projects.
LCCAs go beyond design and construction cost calculations to include long-term expenses, such as maintenance and operations.
The report's recommendations to spur more LCCA use include having Congress allow the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to link its discretionary funding decisions to projects' performance and cost-effectiveness.
Under the 2012 MAP-21 law, state DOTs must use LCCAs as part of mandatory asset- management plans. But LCCAs aren't required to be used in project selection, notes Beth Osborne, vice president with advocacy group Transportation for America.
The report also calls for a new federal discretionary grant program to reward states and localities for successful transportation asset-management plans, which could prompt a rise in LCCAs.
The study says that non-federal agencies should set up pilot life-cycle cost projects and back legislation to strengthen such analyses.
The report cites some successes. It says a Port Authority of New York & New Jersey LCCA is projected to save $100 million over 20 years on a George Washington Bridge repair program.
Gregory Nadeau, acting Federal Highway Administration chief, calls the report "a great piece of work." Given state DOTs' tight budgets, he says it will be difficult to get officials "to think long term if they're looking at short-term commitments of resources."
However, Nadeau notes that asset management, LCCAs and performance-based programs "are all tools that policymakers are going to have to have in their tool kit."