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Version 1.3

Advance Better Business Practices

Make a Business Case for Sustainability

Agencies who consider sustainability intangible and difficult to measure will likely appreciate the concise and results-driven approaches to sustainable transportation planning, design, and operations and maintenance provided within INVEST. INVEST has proven to provide measureable and quantifiable results and summarizes the primary and secondary environmental, social, and economic benefits of each criterion.

Many INVEST criteria have potential cost savings associated with their implementation, some of which are highlighted in the INVEST Cost Savings Report. Analyses of INVEST criteria that agencies have used have shown quantifiable economic benefits.

There are six criteria for which FHWA conducted a formal analysis to determine the potential cost savings of the criterion. These are called INVEST Cost Saving Narratives. The following criteria (based on INVEST Version 1.0/1.1) have a narrative and are summarized in Figure 2 below: SP-06, SP-09, PD-14, PD-20, OM-08, and OM-12. These narratives quantifiably show how implementation of each of the criterion can save money and reduce costs.

Figure 2

The tool also illustrates economic, social, and environmental benefits of sustainability through best practices, helping to make a business case to senior-level management and other stakeholders. This can help agencies identify which criteria are important for their particular agency to pursue, given their agency's goals and context.

Case studies show quantifiable economic benefits in accomplishing criteria requirements and can therefore help agencies make an economic business case for sustainability.

Utah DOT Example

Using INVEST, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) developed specific recommendations for sustainability improvements to its operations and maintenance program. One high priority recommendation resulting from the evaluation of OM-07 Pavement Management System was to implement collected LIDAR data into UDOT’s Pavement Management System (PMS). The recommendation also supplemented an effort at the time to switch from manual pavement condition assessment to automated data collection. UDOT calculated substantial cost savings from implementing this recommendation. The identified annual savings from automating the data collection and incorporating the LIDAR data are $39M. Adding up the total savings and dividing by the costs yields a benefit cost ratio of 3.5, meaning that the monetary benefits to UDOT of implementing the recommendation outweigh the costs by three and a half times.

UDOT also realized annual cost savings from establishing and implementing corridor performance measures for traffic signal operations (OM-13 Transportation Management and Operations). Another recommendation that came out of the INVEST self-assessment was to implement a “World Class” signal timing program with multiple ITS solutions and performance measures for traffic signal operations. The Department committed $3M annually to accomplish this target. They implemented real time performance measurement of traffic signals, installed dynamic dilemma zone detection on higher speed corridors, improved traffic signal operations support for regional impact events, installed corridor responsive ramp metering, and installed a traffic adaptive signal system. With these signal improvements, goods and service providers are able to move more efficiently to meet their schedules thanks to reduced traffic delays. Individuals spend less time on the road – allowing them more productive time each day. The traffic signal operations enhancements reduce congestion and crashes along with the resulting property damage, injuries, and associated traffic delays. Conservative annual savings for the signal timing program are estimated at over $5M for a Benefit/Cost ratio = 1.73.

Monitor Performance and Benchmark with INVEST

INVEST is a valuable long term tool when used by an agency to monitor performance and quantify sustainability changes made over time. Rather than using INVEST as a one-time static assessment of a project or program, agencies across the U.S. are using INVEST to evaluate past performance, current performance, and identify goals for future performance. Some agencies have adopted INVEST to be used on a regular basis. For example, using INVEST yearly for the System Planning (SP) and Operations and Maintenance (OM) modules can help to benchmark the programs evaluated and document year-over-year achievement (performance monitoring) of sustainability goals. For an agency, the use of the Project Development (PD) module on every project can ensure a high standard of achievement across all projects and identify process improvements and standard specification modifications necessary to facilitate higher achievement on future projects. Using INVEST multiple times throughout the lifetime of a single project helps to identify potential sustainable solutions early in design, and then ensures those solutions are carried forward during design and construction.

Illinois Tollway Example

The Illinois Tollway is an example of an agency that used INVEST to benchmark and track planning programs and operations and maintenance programs, over time. First, the agency used both the SP and OM modules to score Illinois Tollway funding programs in four baseline years, as well as over thirty-five projects constructed between 1998 and 2014, ranging in cost from $400,000 to $134 million. Projects were evenly distributed amongst bridge, asphalt, and cement project types. The comprehensive scoring was done to set baselines for future work and identify potential barriers to implementing sustainable practices. The Illinois Tollway then determined in which areas their projects tended to score well and areas for improvement. They found steady sustainability progress on both the planning side and the operations and maintenance side. Now that the Illinois Tollway has established baseline performance, the agency will be evaluating and improving the sustainability of in-progress projects that are part of the $12 billion capital program. The agency will be using INVEST in a program-wide analysis to develop target scores, score projects during several stages of design, and then again after substantial completion. Each year they will look at the previous year’s scores and evaluate areas that need to change to improve overall sustainability. INVEST will allow them to identify institutional and other barriers that may be preventing implementation of sustainable practices. It also will be used to consistently report sustainability performance to stakeholders. The benchmarking done by the Illinois Tollway is one of the benefits of using INVEST over time.

Related to benchmarking and performance monitoring, INVEST can inform ongoing sustainability efforts when future plans, practices, and policies incorporate lessons learned from the agency’s self-evaluation. Many agencies across the country are realizing the quantifiable economic benefits of using INVEST over time. Measuring improvements before and after implementing recommendations stemming from INVEST evaluations is a strong business practice for agencies and creates a compelling case for continually improving upon sustainability goals. INVEST can also be used to evaluate and build upon existing sustainability efforts such as a strategic plan, like California Department of Transportations’ sustainability plan, or Minnesota DOT’s Sustainability Initiative.

Caltrans Example

California DOT’s (Caltrans) groundbreaking report, Smart Mobility 2010: A Call to Action for the New Decade, laid out a vision for developing a new approach to transportation that is multimodal, sustainable, and integrated with land use. As part of its continuing preparation for implementing the Smart Mobility Framework, Caltrans identified the sustainability tools, research, guidance, and best practices that have been developed or initiated since the publication of Smart Mobility 2010. After completing that investigation Caltrans chose to test the use of INVEST statewide to see how the tool could benefit the planning, programming, and maintenance of the California state highway system. This included an INVEST evaluation of their Operations & Maintenance Programs, System Planning, and Project Development for four specific projects. Caltrans found that the sustainability measures from INVEST could help them define their priorities and that the collaborative discussions spurred by the INVEST evaluations were invaluable. They also found the System Planning exercise to be useful during plan and guidance development.

Minnesota DOT Example

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) use of INVEST highlights the tool’s potential to improve an agency’s broad and ongoing sustainability efforts. In 2010, MnDOT established their Sustainability Initiative to create a broad focus on both internal and external sustainability for the agency, expanding the concept of sustainability beyond environmental issues to social and economic ones. Initial objectives for the Sustainability Initiative included gaining an understanding of what MnDOT was already doing well and establishing an agency-wide baseline. To aid with moving this initiative forward, MnDOT undertook a “stem-to-stern” self-evaluation, becoming the first state DOT to do so. MnDOT used INVEST to intensively investigate agency practices and policy and shape future improvements. Their project had three objectives: better understand and document the agency’s current practices; identify gaps and high-value opportunities; and establish priorities and next steps to further increase sustainability. The main outcome of using INVEST was that MnDOT developed a sustainability plan to provide policy direction, develop and track performance measures, and serve as a catalyst for increasing sustainability awareness and engagement throughout the agency and across all phases of the project life cycle (planning, project development and delivery, and maintenance and operations).