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Project Identification


Note: The topic of Project Identification appears in two Knowledge Books.

For a time management perspective, access the Project Time Management Knowledge Book.

To learn more about the project management process, access the Project Management Guidebook. 

Project Identification Project Classification
Capital Improvement Projects Safety Projects Asset Management Projects Maintenance Projects
1.0 Overview x x x x
2.0 Project or Program? x x x x
3.0 Capital Improvement Projects x
4.0 Safety Projects x
5.0 Asset Management Projects x
6.0 Maintenance Projects x
x = Information from the topic may be applicable for the project classification.

1. Overview

Understanding how highway projects are identified helps the Project Manager (PM) to better establish the scope, schedule and budget of the project.  The type of project usually determines if it is identified individually in the Highway Plan or as part of a program.  This article discusses the difference between project and program management and the identification of four types of highway projects:  capital improvement, safety, asset management, and maintenance.  For more information on the Highway Plan process, see the PM Guidebook article Understanding the Budget and the Highway Plan Process

Also of importance to the PM is the funding sources of their projects.  The funding source may be identified in the Highway Plan or it may be determined from the program that identified the project. For a list of budget programs and their codes (e.g., Federal Aid – FD52) see the bottom scroll-down list under Highway Project Info Center SYP Project Info in the PM Toolbox.  

2. Project or Program?

A project manager manages projects with unique scopes.  These projects (e.g., capital improvement projects and asset management projects) are usually identified individually in the Highway Plan and include a budget and funding source. 

Other projects are identified through a separate process (e.g., network screening, an emergency need) and receive funds from a program such as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) or the funds allocated for maintenance activities.  Program managers manage a group of projects that focus on the overall vision of the program.  They may also manage projects within their program.  Table 1 compares project and program management.

Table 1: Project and Program Management Comparison
Area Project Management Program Management
Focus Straightforward objective Business strategy
Scope Narrow Wide-ranging, cross-functional
Deliverables Few, clearly defined Many, from many projects contributing to the whole
Timescale Clearly defined Loosely defined, continuous
Change To be avoided Regarded as inevitable
Success Factors Time, budget, scope Mission, cash-flow, ROI
Plan Specific, detailed, bounded High-level and evolving

The key difference for managers is where they focus their efforts.  Project managers focus on delivering a project as efficiently as possible.  Program managers focus on maximizing the overall benefits to the Cabinet.

3. Capital Improvement Projects

Capital improvement projects usually involve new road or bridge construction or major improvements to higher-traffic routes and have larger budgets than other types of projects.  They are included in the Highway Improvement Projects Listing in the current Highway Plan.

Capital improvement project needs and conceptual scopes of work most often emerge through KYTC’s Statewide Transportation Planning Process. Federal law requires each state to carry out a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive statewide multimodal transportation planning process to identify its most important transportation needs. Kentucky’s process is described in Chapters 7 and 8 of the KYTC Division of Planning’s Annual Work Program. Through this process, the Division of Planning coordinates with entities across the state, including Area Development Districts (ADDs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and Highway District Offices (HDOs), to continually identify and prioritize Kentucky’s most important needs. Through coordination and data-driven tools (e.g., Continuous Highway Analysis Framework (CHAF) project database, Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow (SHIFT) project selection methodology), the process provides meaningful input used to develop Kentucky’s biennial highway spending plan.

Projects may first be proposed by highway officials, members of the public, legislators, or local governments (e.g., Long-Range Plans, Regional MPO Plans, ADD plans). Since implementation of the SHIFT process, the CHAF project database has been used to house project data for unscheduled and scheduled project needs. Division of Planning staff prioritize unfunded and funded projects separately by examining projects in coordination with state highway officials, ADDs, MPOs, elected officials, and others.

A project usually originates with a roadway need. Project ideas are submitted to either an ADD, MPO, or HDO for inclusion in the CHAF project database. A project description consisting of the purpose, location and limits is entered into the database.  For more information, see Preparing a Project Description for the Highway Plan. 

Data may be entered into CHAF by the ADD, MPO, or HDO. HDO personnel later verify all project data. Cost estimates are normally developed by HDO personnel. Once data is entered and verified, projects are scored through the SHIFT process.  SHIFT scoring informs the Recommended Highway Plan development.  Table 2 includes the typical SHIFT schedule of activities.  Visit the SHIFT website for more information on SHIFT scoring.

Table 2: SHIFT Schedule
SHIFT Kentucky Ahead
Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow
Timeline (odd Years) Action Acting Party
Sponsorship Mid Feb.- Late April Projects are sponsored for consideration in SHIFT. Area Development District (ADD), Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Highway District Office (HDO)
Project Data Review and Updates Early May- Late June Data is verified, travel time and economic modeling is conducted, project costs and schedules are updated. Central Office, HDO, ADD, MPO
Statewide Priorities Late June- Late July Statewide projects (generally, interstate and parkway projects) are scored in the SHIFT model. Statewide priorities are established through a balance of SHIFT scores, project schedules, and available funding. Central Office and HDO
Local Boosting Late July- Mid Sept. Statewide projects that did not make the Statewide Priority List are scored in the SHIFT model for Local Priorities. ADDS, MPOs, and KYTC Districts determine which projects in their areas to boost. Central Office, ADD, MPO, and HDO
Local Priorities Mid Sept. - Mid Oct. District/ Local (ADD/MPO) Priority Plans are submitted outlining how boosting determinations were made. ADD, MPO, HDO
Recommended Highway Plan Mid Oct.- Late Dec. KYTC develops Recommended Highway Plan (includes SHIFT and non-SHIFT elements). Central Office

Some projects added by the legislature receive Highway Plan funding without going through the CHAF/SHIFT selection process. These are incorporated into the Highway Plan during the late stages of the approval process in the biennial budget legislative session. Often, these projects are later added to the CHAF database to compete for future Highway Plan funding.

Capital projects may receive funding from several sources.  Usually, they are funded through federal aid (FD52) and state construction (FD04) programs.  For projects using federal funds, see PM & NEPA (coming soon) for environmental requirements. 

4. Safety Projects 

The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) is a Federal-aid highway program, established in 2005 focused on reducing fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads through the implementation of infrastructure-related highway safety improvements. The HSIP is a Federally-funded, state-administered program that is legislated under 23 United States Code (U.S.C.) 148, 23 U.S.C. 150, and 23 U.S.C. 130 and regulated by 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 924 and 490. The HSIP regulations under 23 CFR Part 924 require HSIP projects (1) to be identified and prioritized through a data-driven process, (2) to be aligned with Kentucky’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), and (3) to improve safety.

Guided by the SHSP, HSIP’s initiatives encompass several types of projects, including:

  • Roadway Departure Corridors
  • Intersection Improvements
  • Friction Treatment
  • Enhanced Delineation

The HSIP uses the most current Highway Safety Manual (HSM) methodologies to identify, prioritize, and analyze safety projects. This includes:

  • Screening Kentucky’s network of roads, called Network Screening, to identify locations that are experiencing more crashes than expected, and
  • Prioritizing the corridors, intersections, and sites to study further by using the magnitude of excessive crashes

HSIP project teams include staff from the Traffic Safety Branch within the Division of Traffic Operations, and HDO staff with expertise in traffic, design, and planning. While Network Screening identifies and prioritizes the “need” for a project using historic crash data, the local knowledge of district staff is critical to correlating this information with roadway characteristics and features contributing to the historical crashes, and determining potential improvement options that can be implemented to mitigate the identified safety challenges.

KYTC’s HSIP receives approximately $50 to $60 million annually and allocates the funds according to the major crash types and patterns occurring in Kentucky. For example, Roadway Departure crashes account for 65% of roadway fatalities. Accordingly, approximately 70% of the HSIP funding is allocated to Roadway Departure (RD) initiatives such as RD Corridor Projects and Cable Barriers. Furthermore, each KYTC district is allocated HSIP funds proportional to the fatalities and serious injuries occurring within each district. HSIP projects typically focus on low-cost safety improvements such as:

  • Roadway and roadside improvements, including improving roadway superelevation, extending culverts and widening shoulders, adding rumble strips, removing and/or relocating roadside obstructions, and updating guardrail.
  • Intersection improvements, including installing retroreflective backplates, improving signal timing and phasing, constructing offset left turn lanes, and improving pedestrian accommodations.
  • Enhanced delineation, including signing and striping.
  • Friction improvement treatments.

5. Asset Management Projects 

The primary purpose of these projects is to address the condition of existing highway assets through replacement or repair.  They do not typically involve the addition of new capacity or roadway functionality, although minor improvements may sometimes be included.  The Central Office and HDOs perform the condition assessments that underpin the identification of highway asset management needs.

Bridge needs are identified through the National Bridge Inspection System (NBIS), which contains data collected during routine inspections by KYTC and contract staff. Bridges may be prioritized through the Enhanced Bridge Prioritization Index described in the Bridge Project Prioritization research report. 

Projects slated for inclusion in KYTC’s annual pavement preservation program are identified through a two-step process that includes visual evaluations performed by pavement management engineers and analysis of automated distress data captured using KYTC’s pavement data collection vehicles. Pavements are prioritized based on a composite score — the pavement distress index (PDI). Each year, Pavement Management staff prepare a prioritized list for each District based on anticipated funding levels. They share this list with District Project Delivery and Preservation (PD&P) staff to obtain input on local concerns (e.g., conflicting highway plan projects, anticipated changes in traffic generators, safety issues, the impacts of upcoming project). Projects may be delayed, advanced, or modified based on this feedback.

The CB06 pavement resurfacing program for Rural Secondary Road Aid relies primarily on visual assessments performed by District staff who coordinate with local officials to prioritize projects for Rural Secondary routes. And once the annual CB06 resurfacing program is determined, as a courtesy the District staff presents it to the Fiscal Court of corresponding county.  CB06 funds can also be used for Maintenance projects.

6. Maintenance Projects 

Maintenance projects are smaller scale projects that address the condition of existing highway assets, and do not involve the addition of new capacity or roadway functionality.  District staff are primarily responsible for identifying and prioritizing daily maintenance needs and assigning in-house labor to carry out day-to-day activities. Central Office Division of Maintenance staff help establish defined bid contracts and master agreements for maintenance work.

Regardless of the mechanism used to perform the work, prioritization of maintenance activities is based on how an issue will impact highway network operations. Issues causing an immediate closure (e.g., crash, roadway collapse) must take priority over those that may cause a closure in the near future. Similarly, potential future problems must be prioritized based on their level of impact and likelihood of occurrence.

The Maintenance Rating Program (MRP) uses annual highway infrastructure performance data to inform maintenance planning and budget allocation for twelve highway districts. It helps assess past decisions, identifies resource needs, supports consistent customer service, guides budget requests, informs policymakers, and facilitates sharing of best practices among districts to improve performance.

Funding sources for maintenance projects include FE01 Maintenance, FE02 Bridge Maintenance, FE03 Maintenance Revolving, FE04 Traffic, FE06 Maintenance Capital Improvements, and FE07 Rest Area Maintenance.

7. Associated Articles

Project Manager’s Guidebook – Introduction and Overview

Understanding the Budget and the Highway Plan Process

Project Initiation

Project Management and NEPA (coming soon)

Preparing a Project Description for the Highway Plan

8. Reference Documentation

PM Toolbox

KYTC Division of Planning’s Annual Work Program

Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow (SHIFT)

US Code

Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP)

Gibson, B., Van Dyke, C., Palle, S., Griffith, R., & Kreis, D. (2022) Bridge Project Prioritization.  Kentucky Transportation Center. https://uknowledge.uky.edu/ktc_researchreports/1748/

Maintenance Rating Program

Project Management Institute. (2017). A Guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide) (6th ed.).

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