NCDOT uses a transparent, systematic, and data-driven process for prioritizing the major transportation in the state and making investment decisions. This process, developed in collaboration with key partners, evaluates based on their merit through an analysis of the existing and future conditions, the benefits the project is expected to provide, the project’s multi-modal characteristics and how the project fits in with local priorities. NCDOT’s first strategic prioritization process (known as Prioritization 1.0 or P1.0) was implemented in 2009 and was subsequently codified into law in 2012.
The strategic prioritization process categorizes similar projects together into “prioritization buckets” where they are compared against each other using a data-driven methodology. While the focus of the prioritization process is on the highway-mobility, highway-modernization, bicycle and pedestrian, and public transportation buckets, projects in other buckets (such as bridges) are evaluated by NCDOT’s subject-matter experts. The process aligns with the Department’s emphasis on improving system performance based on the three primary goals of Safety, Mobility, and Infrastructure Health.
Highway mobility and modernization projects are scored based on a combination of quantitative data, local input, and multimodal characteristics. Quantitative data includes an analysis of current congestion, safety, and pavement conditions, while also evaluating the project benefits compared to its cost and the expected economic impact. Local input comes from the priorities of the local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs), and NCDOT Divisions. Multimodal characteristics address how the project benefits more than one mode of transportation. Similarly, bicycle and pedestrian projects are scored using a combination of quantitative data, such as density of the area in which the project is located, and the priorities of the MPOs and RPOs.
After projects are prioritized within each bucket, the Department holds a series of investment summits where public and partner participants provide their input on how funds should be allocated for capital improvement projects within each bucket. To support these deliberations and tie future investment to expected performance, NCDOT uses a concept called Performance Level of Service (LOS) for each bucket. LOS is simply defined as the quality of service provided to the user of the transportation system and is evaluated using an A-F grade scale. LOS grades are directly tied to quantifiable measures (such as pavement condition) as well the amount of funding needed to maintain and improve the asset over the next ten years. As participants assign money to each bucket, projects are shown in ranked order to show the positive impact on LOS. The outcome of the summits is an investment strategy for funding transportation projects.
The final step of the prioritization process is to apply financial and scheduling constraints to the recommended investment strategy. These constraints include complying with Federal and State regulations such as funding source use and geographic funding distribution, as well as taking into consideration the project development process and construction sequencing. The result of this final step is the draft STIP, which is included in the Policy to Projects document
NCDOT is currently working on the third generation of the Strategic Prioritization Process, known as P3.0. Similar to P1.0 and P2.0, a workgroup of key partners is guiding the enhancement and implementation of the next generation of the process. The Prioritization Workgroup includes representatives from Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs), Metro Mayors Coalition, League of Municipalities, Association of County Commissioners, Regional Council of Governments, NCDOT Divisions, and other internal business units. P3.0 is currently scheduled to “go-live” in April 2014.