March 14, 2016

Roadway Reviews

NC residents load into vans to participate in the “Roadway Reviews” study conducted by ITRE in November for the NC Department of Transportation. Residents were surveyed on NC roadway conditions across the state.

Researchers in the ITRE Highway Systems group conducted a unique study this November for the NC Department of Transportation to learn how state taxpayers rate and prioritize roadway asset features. During a three-week period, ITRE staff led focus groups and surveyed more than 360 residents across North Carolina on their opinions about state-maintained roadways. Unlike traditional survey methods where respondents may be separated from the survey subject by distance or time, this study polled residents about the roadways as they were driven along them in a caravan of vans.

Called “Roadway Reviews,” the study was administered at six diverse sites across the state including areas in and around Asheville, Burlington, Charlotte, Jonesville, Rocky Mount, and Wilmington. Each predetermined route was approximately 45 miles in length and included various roadway facilities from secondary and primary roads to interstates. Study participants were asked how the NC roadway conditions of the surveyed roads compared to their basic expectations, or what they find personally acceptable.

For smaller segments of each route, participants were also asked to provide feedback on conditions such as pavement smoothness, sign and pavement marking visibility, lighting, guardrail maintenance, and grass height. Expectation ratings provided by the survey respondents will be compared to the physical condition of individual features on each route as measured by NCDOT and federal standards. This research will enable ITRE to identify how public perceptions of roadways compare to the actual conditions of NC roadways.

This innovative study will also help researchers identify the road features users find most important. In addition to rating the conditions of roadway features, survey participants ranked how they prioritize the importance of the features for primary, secondary, and interstate roadway types, as well as for NC roads overall. Findings of the survey will be supplemented by feedback gained during focus group meetings, which will help researchers understand the reasoning behind the residents’ perceptions and expectations.

North Carolina is one of only a few U.S. states to undertake such a roadway study. NCDOT leadership and state legislators are expected to use this research to help inform how limited transportation funds are allocated in the future. For more information about the study, contact Chris Cunningham at