Full Lifecycle Benefit-Cost Analysis Factors for Effective Infrastructure Investing

In collaboration with industry experts and academic advisors, OnTrackNorthAmerica has taken the first step towards development of a new, comprehensive list of costs and benefits. Note that this broader set of factors address stakeholder concerns that otherwise result in costly delays during project development. This list of factors establishes a framework for project conception and design—to be utilized by relevant stakeholders and experts, who together weigh and compare each factor.

Initial Construction Factors

Factors affecting the capital costs of building transportation infrastructure.

Labor Costs.  The cost of labor needed to build the project.

Materials Costs. Costs of construction materials, not including land acquisition.

Materials Lifecycle Impacts. Impacts of sourcing and transporting construction materials.

Contractor. Costs of the entities or companies that plan, engineer, finance, and build new infrastructure. This may include the labor and materials.

Existing rights-of-way. Are there existing or legacy rights of way for building the new transportation infrastructure?

Right-of-way. If there are not existing rights-of-way, then the land and rights-of-way needed for new transportation infrastructure must be purchased.

Operating Factors

Factors affecting the operating costs and impacts for the use of and maintenance of transportation infrastructure.

Energy. Cost of fuel or energy used to transport goods and people (diesel, gasoline, electricity, natural gas, etc).

Energy Lifecycle Impacts. Impacts of sourcing and distributing the energy used to transport goods and people.

Maintenance. Cost of maintenance required to keep freight and passenger transportation viable and safe.

Transport Equipment. The cost of acquisition of trucks, locomotives, containers, rail cars, etc.

Useful Life of Transport Equipment. Estimated life of transportation equipment, ie., trucks, railcars, locomotives, containers.

Useful Life of the Transportation Asset.

End of Life Asset Value or Cost of Disposal.

Environmental Factors

Environmental footprint of transportation system, including metrics for air quality, climate change, water quality, noise, and light pollution.

Criteria Pollutants.  A set of air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, and other health hazards.

Greenhouse Gases. Emissions from the operation and maintenance of transport infrastructure that contribute to global warming.

Noise. The impact of noise on quality of life for areas abutting infrastructure including engine, rolling stock, and aerodynamics.

Water Quality. Impact of vehicle and fuel contamination on adjacent wildlife and natural environment.

Light Pollution. Impact of light for transportation on a community or on wildlife and the natural environment.

Toxic releases. Accidental and non-accidental releases of transported hazardous materials.

Land Use Factors

The spatial impacts of moving freight.

Land Used for Transport.

Land Use and Spatial Efficiency.

Social Factors

Social costs affecting people’s quality of life.

Safety.  Fatalities and injuries per ton-mile of freight.

Safety to the Transportation Providers. On-the-job fatalities and injury rate.

Travel Congestion. Both “non-recurring,” which are delays caused by accidents, and “recurring” travel congestion, which is the effect of lost time due to congestion or capacity limits.

Economic Benefits

Factors used to estimate the infrastructure’s projected contribution to the region’s economic vitality.

Short-Term Economic Impact. Local economic impact from job creation and other benefits due to construction of transport infrastructure.

Property Tax Impact. Added or lost property tax due to transport construction.

Local and Regional Development. Multiplier effect of transport infrastructure capacity on area economic and industrial development.

Impacts of Shipping Costs and Methods on the Local Economy. How each mode and the overall cost of shipping impact local economy.

Freight Performance Factors

How well does each proposed infrastructure solution move freight in and out of the region?

Overall capacity and speed of freight system (mobility) The system’s overall volume and velocity of freight movement.

Connectivity Does the project connect to intermodal options or encourage future intermodal possibilities, and therefore access to a wider competitive network?

Accessibility Is the mode usable to shippers of all business sizes? Can a shipment be made easily, such as a single contact and intermodal collaboration providing door-to-door service?

Circuitry Will the total menu of shipping options be plentiful or restricted? Is the proposed project likely to add more layers of redundant services? Will it fortify the region’s freight movement resiliency?

Reliability How capable is the mode of hitting delivery schedule targets? What is the track record of each mode’s ability to offer shipment secure from pilferage and damage.

Full Lifecycle Benefit-Cost Analysis Factors for Effective Infrastructure Investing

In collaboration with industry experts and academic advisors, OnTrackNorthAmerica has taken the first step towards development of a new, comprehensive list of costs and benefits. Note that this broader set of factors address stakeholder concerns that otherwise result in costly delays during project development.

This list of factors establishes a framework for project conception and design—to be utilized by relevant stakeholders and experts, who together weigh and compare each factor.

OnTrackNorthAmerica is building the next generation of transportation lifecycle benefit/cost analysis. The purpose of this project is to develop clear, functional measures for future planning and investing in transportation infrastructure. The extended lifetime and profound societal impacts of transportation projects now compel us to fully consider their economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Achieving value, rather than just increasing budgets, requires metrics so that baselines and targets can be set and action plans can be implemented.

Project Leader

Michael Sussman
Chairman, OnTrackNorthAmerica

Project Advisors

Dr. Mingzhou Jin
Associate Head, Industrial and Systems Engineering
University of Tennessee

Dr. Pasi Lautala
Director, Rail Transportation Program, Michigan Tech Transportation Institute

Principal Investigator

Mike Koontz
Transportation Planner, former Director
USDOT’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

As our Project Advisor Dr. Jin relates in his support letter, there is a yawning gap between the volumes of thoughtful research and its pragmatic application in the field. This project bridges that gap. It provides the framework for applying the fine work of researchers that study transportation costs, benefits, and performance measures.

Research alone is not enough… The metrics have to be embraced by a large swath of stakeholders. More than new research… this project forges new ground in convening national dialogues that matter. You are invited to contribute.

Project Outline


PHASE 1: Convening and consensus


  • Prepare a draft list of costs and benefits to seed the large group engagement [complete]
  • Prepare and submit project grant proposals for foundation funding
  • Convene stakeholders in facilitated process to complete and agree on a comprehensive list of costs and benefits metrics

PHASE 2: Data Assessment


  • Develop and document methods of calculating agreed metrics
  • Identify data required for the calculation methods
  • Investigate available data sources
  • Pinpoint the metrics where data is missing or not maintained
  • Determine proxy measures for approximating missing data in lieu of primary research
  • Determine the data that is ongoingly tracked by others versus the data that will need to be measured by us or others in future years

PHASE 3: DataSet Building


  • OTNA or affiliated entities conduct primary research for those metrics data that have not been pinpointed and can not be approximated effectively
  • Establish resources and methods for data formatting, alignment, and housing of data from the variety of providers
  • Establish the relations and the process for collaborating entities to provide their data ongoingly into our dataset
  • Establish resources and methods for data publication and dissemination
  • Develop the guidance on how to evaluate and analyze transportation systems with the developed metrics and dataset
  • Build in-house capability or a collaborative relationship for building the data and systems analysis tool/software application
Convening and Consensus

PHASE 1: Convening and consensus


  • Prepare a draft list of costs and benefits to seed the large group engagement [complete]
  • Prepare and submit project grant proposals for foundation funding
  • Convene stakeholders in facilitated process to complete and agree on a comprehensive list of costs and benefits metrics
Data Assessment

PHASE 2: Data Assessment


  • Develop and document methods of calculating agreed metrics
  • Identify data required for the calculation methods
  • Investigate available data sources
  • Pinpoint the metrics where data is missing or not maintained
  • Determine proxy measures for approximating missing data in lieu of primary research
  • Determine the data that is ongoingly tracked by others versus the data that will need to be measured by us or others in future years
DataSet Building

PHASE 3: DataSet Building


  • OTNA or affiliated entities conduct primary research for those metrics data that have not been pinpointed and can not be approximated effectively
  • Establish resources and methods for data formatting, alignment, and housing of data from the variety of providers
  • Establish the relations and the process for collaborating entities to provide their data ongoingly into our dataset
  • Establish resources and methods for data publication and dissemination
  • Develop the guidance on how to evaluate and analyze transportation systems with the developed metrics and dataset
  • Build in-house capability or a collaborative relationship for building the data and systems analysis tool/software application

Relevant Papers by Dr. Mingzhou Jin, Project Advisor


Wang and M. Jin, “Transportation Performance Measurement System with a Case Study in Mississippi,” The Journal of the Transportation Research Forum, 45 (3), pp. 19-37, 2006. You can find the full text at https://collaboration.fhwa.dot.gov/dot/fhwa/pm/Lists/aReferences/DispForm.aspx?ID=79 or http://journals.oregondigital.org/trforum/article/view/606/511

P. Kelle and M. Jin, “Development of Performance Measurement for Freight Transportation,” Final Report 522, NCITEC and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, 2014. You can access it at https://www.ltrc.lsu.edu/pdf/2014/fr_522.pdf

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