A Better Way to Choose Highway Projects

Oct 22, 2013

A Better Way to Choose Highway Projects

Selected Case Studies

The states profiled below are leaders in performance-based programming. Their approaches are transparent and clear, they invite the participation of stakeholders, and they use evaluation criteria that go beyond traditional engineering factors. Illinois should build on these best practices established in Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio.


  • In developing its most recent capital program, T-WORKS, KDOT developed three programmatic areas -- preservation, modernization, and expansion -- and applied a tiered evaluation process to select projects within each category.
    • Preservation projects were scored using only existing engineering criteria.
    • Modernization projects were mostly scored using engineering criteria, but also considered more qualitative regional priorities determined through extensive outreach to stakeholders.
    • Expansion projects considered engineering criteria, regional priorities, and estimates of economic impacts.
  • Reference website: http://www.ksdot.org/t-works/


  • Performance goals are set in a high-level policy plan, which informs the Highway Investment Plan.
  • MnDOT has a strong history of performance monitoring and reporting, for example through regular "scorecard" publications.
  • MnDOT maintains a performance-based target funding formula, which it updates periodically. The current formula was determined after a technical working group evaluated over 120 variables and reached out to stakeholders.
  • Reference website: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/measures/


  • MoDOT is active in performance measurement through the Tracker program.
  • MoDOT uses publicly available scoring formulas and weights to evaluate various types of projects. These criteria also consider a project's consistency with regional or local transportation plans.
  • Funding levels are determined by the Highways and Transportation Commission, with some programmatic areas receiving fixed allocations and others receiving flexible allocations each year.
  • Reference website: http://www.modot.org/plansandprojects/index.htm

North Carolina

  • Three-step strategic prioritization process:
    • Score. Projects are scored according to explicit performance criteria; these criteria are tailored to different types of projects (e.g., highway modernization projects versus highway epansion projects). Project scores are publicly available.
    • Strategize. Funding is allocated to broad programmatic "buckets" based in part on qualitative input from the public and elected officials. NCDOT illustrates the changes to quality of service for each programmatic area resulting from different investment scenarios.
    • Schedule. Project scores are reconciled against available funds for each category, as well as practical constraints such as project sequencing and funding restrictions.
  • DOT-initated process codified as law in 2012.
  • Reference website: http://www.ncdot.gov/performance/reform/prioritization/


  • The Transportation Review Advisory Council uses a performance-based approach to evaluate larger capital projects, defined as those exceeding $12 million in cost.
  • TRAC employs publicly available evaluation criteria tailored to different project types. These criteria transcend traditional engineering factors to embrace issues of economic development and quality of life.
  • Reference website: http://www.dot.state.oh.us/trac/Pages/Default.aspx
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