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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Improving the Long-term Viability of the U.S. Transportation System Under Climate Change

Two electronic cars charging at a charging station
U.S. DOT Volpe Center staff work to improve transportation resilience. (Dimitry/Adobe Stock)

U.S. transportation infrastructure is confronted with a variety of threats, including climate change and associated extreme and hazardous weather that can disrupt the flow of goods and people by affecting the condition and functionality of our transportation system.

In recent years, we have experienced an increase in record-breaking weather extremes (e.g., hurricanes, extreme heat events, heavy precipitation events, coastal and inland flooding) stressing the nation’s transportation system. The system needs to be able to prevent, withstand, respond to, or quickly recover from these impacts (i.e., be resilient).

The challenge of achieving transportation resiliency is further exacerbated by the aging of our transportation system. Additionally, the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States; minimizing the impacts of climate change in all sectors of society requires reducing transportation emissions.

In the U.S. DOT Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026, the U.S DOT has as one of six strategic goals to address Climate and Sustainability by “ensuring that transportation plays a central role in the solution.” This includes substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transportation-related pollution and building more resilient and sustainable transportation systems to benefit and protect communities. The U.S. DOT Volpe Center staff are well-positioned at the forefront of this work, innovating on resilience analysis and greenhouse gas mitigation to reach actionable solutions.

To address climate change, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center recognizes that solutions cannot not simply focus on infrastructure resilience but must include a more holistic approach. To understand the issue comprehensively, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center has become a leader in transportation emissions reduction in decision-making, developing sustainability initiatives, and bringing together relevant expertise in the design, engineering, environment, operations, planning, policy, and technology disciplines to develop innovative and resilient transportation solutions. U.S. DOT Volpe Center staff work across multiple modes, including private vehicles, public transit, aviation, rail, and maritime.

U.S. DOT Volpe Center subject matter experts provide thought leadership and expertise to the transportation community at both national and global scales. Below you will find some of our research and results relating to key issues in resilient and sustainable transportation for those are interested in working with us on these important issues.

U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s Climate Change and Resilience Work

Organizations Addressing Transportation Resilience with U.S. DOT Volpe Center Support

  • Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy/Department of Energy(ARPA-E/DOE)
  • FAA
  • FWHA
  • FRA
  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)
  • National Park Service
  • Office of International Trade and Transportation (OIT&T)
  • Office of the Secretary of Transportation – Research (OST-R)
  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Navy