Answering the toughest transportation questions

Research helps public agencies plan and prioritize road maintenance projects

The nation’s social and economic lifeblood rumbles along on 2.6 million miles of paved roads.1 Yet the economic importance of any given highway is difficult to quantify. If a snowstorm socks the region, does it cost more to keep a highway clear or shut it down for a day? Is a damaged road really worth repairing?

Kenneth Casavant, professor of economics at WSU Pullman, knows how to find the answers.

His current research aims to put these answers right at the fingertips of the decision-makers who need them.

Dr. Casavant is the director of the federally funded Freight Policy Transportation Institute (FPTI) and the University’s transportation research group. With a team of co-researchers, he is developing a web-based tool that will quantify and visualize such transportation factors as day-to-day vehicle volumes, loading trends, bottlenecks, total cargo value, and even truck reliability.

Using that information, planners and public agencies can estimate the economic impact of improvement on a given roadway and provide for future growth.

Strategically planning and prioritizing repairs, upgrades, and maintenance can pay big dividends. For example, the FPTI’s recent study of 2 weather-caused temporary highway closures in Washington state revealed losses of economic output, employment, state tax revenue, and personal income totaling millions of dollars.

Dr. Casavant’s work could turn those lost millions into dollars saved.


1. American Road and Transportation Builders Association