National Academies Press: OpenBook
Page 27
Suggested Citation:"VII. CONCLUSION." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Fix It, Sign It or Close It: State of Good Repair in an Era of Budget Constraints. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26266.
Page 27

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TCRP LRD 57 / NCHRP LRD 84 27 its older rail cars. With 13,000 fewer seats, the trains were able to carry only 35,000 to 40,000, one third, of their normal riders. Many commuters switched to buses or passenger vehicles. 8. Lessons Learned If closures or restrictions in service have been made, what lessons were learned by the agencies as they worked through the decision-making process? The following bullet points sum- marize the comments of the responding agencies: •   One of the agency spokespeople expressed their lessons learned/mission as follows: “[I]f we find a problem, we fix it. We hold our own feet to the fire.” •   Any decisions regarding long-term closures are vetted in- ternally and subjected to public outreach and citizen advi- sory committees. •   A ninety-day comment period can be utilized prior to mak- ing final decision on route or facility changes. •   Changes in resource use occur after independent planning studies, public comment periods, open forums, and local input. •   Use multiple languages in publications when seeking public input. •   Policy and procedures have evolved over the years as re- quired by practices and changing laws. Best practices change over time as individual and community needs change. •   Document the decision-making process. •   Use liability neutral language in correspondence, policy let- ters. and manuals. VII. CONCLUSION Public agencies have the authority and discretion to make deci sions that affect the safety of their employees and the travel- ing public. Balancing funding, budget, and safety needs re- quires the agency to carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of its spending choices. Many times, documentation of the well- reasoned decision-making process of the agency is the best de- fense the agency can make in a lawsuit involving allegations of discrimination or negligence. a. Authority for request to return funds to federal agencies Typically, the federal agency that is providing funds for a transportation project will enter into a funding agreement with the agency that is receiving funds. The agreement requires that the receiving agency comply with conditions such as comple- tion of the identified project on a schedule and repayment of the funds if the project is not completed on schedule. 7. Response to Conditions which Require Repair or Replacement The following issues were examined: when an agency has knowledge of a potential “dangerous condition” on a road or bridge, what measures are taken to address it; following the hierarchy of signing for it, fixing it, or closing, how the agency works through decision-making steps; whether the agency con- sidered the possibility of a civil rights complaint during the clo- sure evaluation process; what public outreach was done. One transit agency described a situation where a structural retaining wall in a rail corridor was damaged during a heavy rainstorm and the agency, upon recommendation of its engi- neering firm, closed the route while the wall was fixed. The agency supplemented rail service with extra bus service for the 88 days that the closure and repair required. Press releases and internet outreach was done. Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT): On- site MoDOT bridge inspection staff determines whether a fail- ure of rebar in concrete girders has occurred. In one instance, staff observed a propane truck cross a bridge and saw a bridge girder deflect approximately 3” under an estimated load of twenty tons. The bridge could not be repaired, so it was closed until it could be replaced. Detour routes were provided to the public. Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT): In 2019, CDOT staff closed Colorado State Highway 145 after a sig- nificant rock fall that contained an 8.5-million-pound boulder blocked the highway. The state rerouted the highway around the boulder, saving $200,000 over the cost to repair the road and keep it in the same location. The cost to reroute the portion of the road was $1.3 million, a savings to the organization. This deci sion resulted in the added benefit of opening the road earlier than it would have been opened if the rock had been removed. Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT): In 2018, Mississippi’s governor issued an emergency execu- tive order requiring the closure of more than 100 bridges in Mississippi after structural inspections were performed by fed- eral highway officials. The emergency declaration was issued after the governor received a letter from FHWA warning that MDOT was at risk of losing federal funds if the bridges re- mained open to traffic. Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA): In July 2016, SEPTA removed 120 cars from its fleet after inspections detected cracks on the beams of the rail cars. All 120 of the rail cars, about a third of SEPTA’s fleet, were taken out of service, and the regional rail system ran exclusively with

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The condition of the transportation infrastructure in the United States is an issue of national importance. State departments of transportation and transit agencies face tough choices as they make decisions about how and when to keep their assets safely open to the public.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program and National Cooperative Highway Research Program's TCRP Legal Research Digest 57/NCHRP Legal Research Digest 84: Fix It, Sign It or Close It: State of Good Repair in an Era of Budget Constraints addresses the legal ramifications to transportation agencies that have to decide whether to repair, improve, or rebuild assets that are in poor repair.


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