Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Paul Chinowsky

Second Advisor

Bernard Amadei

Third Advisor

Rita Klees

Abstract

Rural roads and transport infrastructure play a crucial role in the larger development picture. These physical assets have non-economic impacts including reaching goals such as reducing poverty, increasing access to health centers and schools, expansion of agricultural and non-farm economic activities, increasing political participation, access to information, and can play a role in reducing the traditional taboos that engender discrimination of women and minority groups.

However, there remains a disconnect between these potential benefits and their implementation in policy decisions. The inclusion of social benefits in rural road investment prioritization has not become a routine part of the decision making process of policy makers and infrastructure planners. Several reasons contribute to this, including a focus on economic justification and return on investment, as well as the difficult and often impossible task of fully isolating the impact of indirect and induced impact of road infrastructure on the larger development picture.

However, simply ignoring the larger impact of rural road infrastructure because of difficulty in quantifying the impacts fails to fully seize the opportunity to contribute to larger development goals in transport planning. The purpose of this thesis is to create a metric called the Social Impact Score (SIS). Building on three main pillars of research, the SIS seeks to fill the gap between well-established case study literature highlighting the importance of rural roads and the inclusion of these considerations at the national infrastructure policy level.

The metric was designed in conjunction with other analysis tools, including a life-cycle analysis on road maintenance and construction under current and future climate scenarios.

The information provided by the SIS will serve national level policy makers as an important step in expanding the criteria and justification used to allocate investments in rural road infrastructure, based upon a sustainable life-cycle perspective and more holistic development impact. The `further research' section discusses the use of the SIS as a tool that can highlight areas where further research may be needed or desired at a sub-national level.

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