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South Dakota Department of Transportation
Project Synopsis

Title: Analysis of MDSS Benefits and Costs
Project Researcher: Chris Strong,
Project Manager: Dave Huft
Research Period: -
Status: Approved
Cost: $125,000.00

Problem Statement:To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their winter maintenance activities, state transportation agencies are actively developing Maintenance Decision Support Systems (MDSS). An MDSS uses knowledge of existing road conditions, forecasts of impending weather, and principles of chemistry and physics of road surfaces, ice, and deicing chemicals to suggest maintenance treatments and timings that will most efficiently maintain the level of service specified by the agency.

Experiences gained through the development and deployment of the Federal Highway Administrations MDSS Functional Prototype and the subsequent MDSS Pooled Fund Study product suggest that significant benefits are possible, including improved safety, reduced material and equipment use, reduced environmental impact, and more efficient scheduling of maintenance workers. However, these experiences also suggest that significant investments-in hardware, information systems, and training-may be required. The magnitudes of the investments and the resulting benefits-both tangible and intangible-may depend on how completely and extensively a transportation department adopts the essential functions of MDSS. They may also depend on other factors such as agency size, institutional constraints, and geographic conditions.

Transportation departments deployment decisions will depend on the costs and benefits associated with the adoption of MDSS. The magnitude of required investments and expected tangible and intangible benefits will help determine whether a transportation department should commit to MDSS and, if so, at what rate it might budget and schedule deployment. Research is needed to characterize and quantify the benefits of MDSS deployment based upon a comparison between current winter maintenance practices and practices attainable through use of MDSS.


Research Objectives:
1  To describe the essential functions of a winter MDSS.
2  To describe the resources needed to supply the essential functions of an MDSS.
3  To characterize and estimate the costs of deploying MDSS in state transportation departments.
4  To characterize and estimate the benefits of deploying MDSS in state transportation departments.

Research Tasks:
1  Meet with the project's technical panel to review project scope and work plan.
2  Interview stakeholders involved in the MDSS Pooled Fund Study to identify objectives for MDSS deployment, the nature of potential costs and benefits associated with deployment, and specific sources of data to support a formal benefit/cost analysis.
3  Submit, for approval of the project's technical panel, a technical memorandum defining a detailed analysis methodology, including specification of analysis assumptions, definition of a current base case, and identification of practical MDSS alternati
4  Upon approval of the project's technical panel, estimate tangible benefits and costs of MDSS deployment alternatives relative to the current base case, and evaluate the risk associated with each estimate. Estimate how the costs and benefits might var
5  Characterize, in qualitative terms, intangible benefits and costs of MDSS deployment alternatives.
6  Report findings, conclusions, and recommendations concerning the benefits and costs of MDSS deployment to the project's technical panel.
7  Develop outreach materials suitable for distribution to elected officials and state DOT decision makers highlighting the salient findings of the analysis.
8  Prepare a final report summarizing the research methodology, findings, conclusions and recommendations.
9  Make an executive presentation to the project's technical panel and provide electronic copies of the presentation material to participating states.

Documents Available:

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