Transportation Management Systems
The NPS Transportation Program uses four management systems as important decision support tools. These systems provide parks and regions with basic condition, performance, and cost information to help set priorities when setting budgets for park unit proposals. The four management systems are being jointly developed by the National Park Service and the Federal Lands Highway Office (FLH) program.
Pavement Management System-This system helps identify potential road resurfacing, rehabilitation, and reconstruction projects, and assists transportation managers in in making informed decisions when selecting projects. The pavement management system uses data from the Road Inventory Program (RIP), which includes condition and inventory information on park unit roads.
The Road Inventory Program collects data by use of an automated road analyzer, which:
provides an inventory of maintenance items (pavement type and quantities), point (culverts, etc.), and linear features (ditches, guardrails, etc.);
identifies pavement distress, and
evaluates the condition of existing park roads.
This collected information provides the NPS staff with the basic information for effective road system planning, management, operations, and maintenance. A true pavement management system (PMS) goes beyond collection and assessment of pavement condition data as is done with RIP. When these data are analyzed in combination with treatment cost information, a PMS can generate sophisticated modeling results.
Bridge Management System-The bridge management system is intended to improve decision making about the type and priority of bridge investments, based on inspection data now collected as part of the Bridge Inspection Program (BIP). For more than 20 years, NPS staff has collected condition data on all bridge structures greater than 20 feet in length. Under this inspection program, the following occurs:
Safety inspections are performed on public bridges and tunnels (vehicular) and nonpublic bridges (vehicular and trail), to ensure public safety.
Inspection reports are produced for each structure to summarize condition and corrective action needed.
In-depth field testing is performed as indicated by initial analysis to determine the bridge needs.
A fully developed bridge management system will provide a basis for recommendations for optimal expenditures of funds and will identify critical needs on a systemwide basis. The information collected also will provide input for the preparation of rehabilitation plans and specifications, and for construction support.
Transportation Safety Management System
Growing traffic, increased vehicle sizes, and the inevitable clashes between vehicles or wildlife and vehicles are just a few of the factors contributing to increased concerns for visitor, staff, and wildlife safety on park roads. Legislation in 1998 required the NPS to establish a safety management system as a PRPP decision-making tool.
This transportation safety management system is being developed with the Federal Lands Highway Office (FLH) to be compatible with, as well as part of, the DOI-wide Incident Management Analysis and Reporting System, or IMARS. With this system, NPS transportation staff can identify potential safety issues and needs, and better understand the effects of road condition and design on safety.
The collection and transmission of accident data to a national database by each park forms the basis of this system. Park rangers and US Park Police are key players in acquiring the accident data and understanding traffic conditions. Traffic counts are conducted as part of a national count program managed in the NPS Washington Office. As with other management systems, the safety system is being built in stages with input from NPS headquarters, regional and park stakeholders.
Congestion Management System
The 1998 legislation also required the development of a congestion management system, which an NPS/FLH team is implementing in stages. One important assumption of a congestion management system for national parks is that, for leisure travel in a park environment, congestion may involve other factors and user perceptions than those for a commuter whose primary concern is time lost in traffic.
In its initial stages, NPS and FLH staff are collecting basic traffic data and assessing traffic conditions, as well as visitor experience gauged from annual park surveys. At the same time, NPS Washington Office staff and Western FLH division staff are studying factors that might produce a special level of service standard for parks called the composite level of service.
When completed, the study should provide a method to identify priority congestion-related projects affecting NPS and other federal land management agencies. The composite measure should also help state transportation departments that are struggling to preserve scenic byways and make them accessible to a growing number of visitors.