An Enhanced Framework to Compute Road User Costs

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The construction and maintenance of essential transportation facilities such as bridges and roadways cause inconvenience to the road users. Such inconveniences were traditionally not considered while making project management decisions, such as selecting the best contractor for the project. However, state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have started to consider such road user inconveniences by quantifying the monetary impact as the Road User Costs (RUCs). While the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has provided a detailed methodology for computing the RUCs, implementing the methodology requires a significant amount of time, effort, and data. Many state DOTs representatives may not have sufficient resources to compute such detailed RUCs. As such, some state DOTs have developed oversimplified state-specific methodologies to compute RUCs that may result in inaccurate accounting of the RUCs. Thus, there is a need to develop an enhanced framework to compute RUCs that balances the effort required and the accuracy of the result. This study conducted an extensive review of existing literature, conducted a nationwide survey to identify the current practices of computing RUCs, and developed an enhanced framework to compute RUCs that balances the effort required and the accuracy of the results. The study found that 34 out of 37 state DOTs that responded to the survey are computing and utilizing the RUCs. The major components of the RUCs are Delay Cost (DC), Vehicle Operating Cost (VOC), Crash Cost (CC), Emission Cost (EC), and Local and Business Impact Cost (LBIC). The DC and VOC are two components that are most widely accounted for in various state DOT methodologies. In comparison, the enhanced methodology accounts for four components - DC, VOC, CC, and EC. The major enhancements of the proposed framework include a) accounting for the spatial variation of the RUCs using location indexes, b) accounting for the temporal variation of the RUCs using an inflation index, and c) requiring minimal time, effort, and data to compute RUCs while accounting for most of the impacts. A case study was conducted to demonstrate the use of the enhanced framework, and a spreadsheet-based tool was developed to ease RUC computation. Using the enhanced framework and the spreadsheet-based tool will enable state DOTs to easily and accurately compute RUCs to make better project-management decisions such as selecting the best contractor for a construction project and developing traffic management plans to reduce impacts on the road users


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