In the Interstate era, building new infrastructure was the primary task for DOTs across the country. Large-scale construction of new highways was the norm, and their completion provided dramatically improved travel options for drivers, as well as photo opportunities for the public officials charged with funding those projects.
With the completion of the Interstate well in the past, now comes the challenge of maintaining both the quality of the pavement and the high-speed mobility that Interstates provide. Most DOTS are responsible for a large number of other roads as well, and with limited resources, one big challenge facing DOTs is how to maintain appropriate condition and service across the transportation network.
While DOTs continue to deliver capital projects, there is an increasing emphasis on operations and maintenance to make the most efficient use of existing capacity and maximize the life of physical infrastructure. New technology, as noted previously, strengthens the DOT’s ability to improve mobility and safety without expanding highway capacity. A growing public emphasis on the use and importance of other modes, whether within the right-of-way or outside of it, also challenges traditional thinking about road construction. Finally, the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events is prompting agencies to consider retrofitting their transportation system to improve resiliency, and to gather condition data on previously under-examined highway elements, such as culverts, that play an important role when storms or flooding occur.
The shift away from new construction and expansion projects will impact organizational structure in the years to come. The growing focus on systems management and operations, incorporation of other modes, and improving resiliency across modes requires new skills. These broader issues often cannot be addressed solely by the DOT, creating a need to build and maintain partnerships and improve communication and coordination with a wide variety of agencies.