Transportation Benefit-Cost Analysis: Developing an Oregon-Specific Framework

1612 - Photo courtesy of Oregon DOT Flickr.jpg

Transportation decision-makers typically use benefit-cost analysis (BCA) to evaluate the tradeoffs of transportation projects. However, it is difficult to produce state-specific measures that are multimodal and can consistently evaluate the full range of public and private benefits and costs for Oregonians.

Supported by a $200,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Jenny Liu of Portland State University will lead a research effort to develop an Oregon-specific, multimodal framework for transportation benefit-cost analysis.

Having a framework specifically tailored to Oregon can help ODOT make informed decisions on infrastructure, policies and support programs based on information about the economic and societal impacts of each transportation mode.

Launched in May 2024, the project, "Mode-Based Benefit-Cost Analysis Calculator" aims to create an easy-to-update Oregon BCA framework to compare transportation benefits and costs for better policy, program, and investment assessments. The research will also develop a methodology that incorporates equity and distributional assessments into the multimodal BCA framework. This will contribute to ODOT’s Strategic Action Plan priority of equity and inclusion.

The primary outcome of this project will be an easy-to-use, quantified assessment tool for transportation costs. Knowing public and private costs based on locally-specific and well-sourced data will help ODOT make financially sustainable decisions, as well as apply for federal discretionary funding. 

Findings from this research will have broad application in ODOT, supporting the agency’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and incorporating equity and distributional considerations. 

For example, "VisionEval" is a version of Oregon's statewide GreenSTEP model, which was developed by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to conduct long- range strategic planning. VisionEval modeling has a social cost parameter that can be used to assess the cost of a scenario. The project team will collaborate with the ongoing research project Development Of A New Visioneval Land Use Model And Applications To Evaluation Of Climate Strategies In Oregon, in which PSU's Liming Wang is working to update the VisionEval land use models and applications, to identify how the BCA framework might best be integrated into future developments.

The new project will also support communication around tolling and road usage charges by providing an accessible assessment of the cost of subject modes, and guide efficient decision-making about transportation system development by demonstrating economically efficient modes. An interactive dashboard will be developed to help ODOT users further integrate the new BCA framework into ODOT practice.

Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation

Portland State University's Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) is home to the U.S. DOT funded National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI), PORTAL, BikePed Portal and other transportation grants and programs. We produce impactful research and tools for transportation decision makers, expand the diversity and capacity of the workforce, and engage students and professionals through education and participation in research. To get updates about what's going on at TREC, sign up for our monthly newsletter or follow us at the links below.

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