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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

Assessing Infrastructure Climate Change Vulnerability and Impacts and Promoting Resilience

A road closed sign in front of a flooded roadway
Extreme weather: road closed due to flooding (jayfish/123rf photo)

Much of the U.S. transportation network is aging and unable to handle current weather and climatic conditions effectively. Within the next 15 years, the U.S. is projected to experience increases in average temperatures, heat waves, and extreme weather events, such as heavy precipitation. These changes are already impacting transportation infrastructure across the country: tunnels, culverts, roads, and transit stations have been rendered inoperable and are being damaged during flooding events and pavement and rails are buckling from rising temperatures.

Fortunately, there are steps that agencies and communities can take to prevent and prepare for these projected issues. The U.S. DOT Volpe Center has a long-standing interest in vulnerability /risk assessments for transportation assets and in the development and evaluation of resilient transportation systems. For example, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center is currently assessing the economic impacts and risk consequences of system-wide transportation disruptions due to coastal flooding in Hampton Roads, Virginia, to help local stakeholders consider and prioritize possible resilience strategies.

Research and Reports

  • Airport Resiliency
    Climate tools and frameworks that will assist FAA and airport operators as they incorporate resilience analysis and prioritization into airport project planning and funding  
  • Beyond Bouncing Back: A Roundtable on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Resilience
    Summary report documenting experts’ discussions on resiliency in the context of challenges facing the nation’s transportation system 
  • Climate Change Adaptation Support for Transportation Practitioners
    Study analyzing current federal resources on climate change adaptation and resilience, identifying gaps in existing resources, and exploring the option for an “expert system” to aid transportation practitioners in navigating to the right resources for adaptation analyses  
  • FAA Sustainable and Resilient Remediation (SRR)  
    The U.S. DOT Volpe Center is finalizing Sustainable and Resilient Remediation Guidance for FAA’s Environmental Cleanup Program.  The guidance leverages tools for identifying vulnerabilities to climate change and for evaluating the environmental footprint of response actions at cleanup sites nationwide. The guidance includes best management practices that can be implemented throughout the cleanup process to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limit the generation of waste, and minimize land disturbance. The guidance also incorporates recommended design elements and strategies that are resilient to the impacts of climate change    
  • FHWA Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Framework, 3rd Edition
    Resource helps transportation agencies and their partners assess the vulnerability of transportation infrastructure and systems to extreme weather and climate effects, and integrate adaptation considerations into transportation decision-making
  • Freight and fuel Transportation Optimization Tool (FTOT) 
    Analyzes the transportation needs and constraints associated with fuel and raw material collection, processing, and distribution in the continental United States  
  • Hampton Roads Climate Impact Quantification Initiative  
    Assesses baseline transportation assets in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia and analyzing economic analysis useful in quantifying impacts
  • OST EREP Climate Hazard Exposure and Risk (CHER) Tool   
    Decision-support tool for DOT to assess risk of climate hazards to facilities and assets at any location in the country and compare among locations. Integrates high-quality, publicly available natural hazard and climate projection data layers with vulnerability assessments from site managers to present a climate risk score for each facility or asset 
  • PROTECT Discretionary Grant Program  
    Support to FHWA on implementing the PROTECT discretionary grant program, which will help make surface transportation more resilient to natural hazards, including climate change, sea level rise, flooding, extreme weather events, and other natural disasters through support of planning activities, resilience improvements, community resilience and evacuation routes, and at-risk costal infrastructure
  • Resilience and Disaster Recovery (RDR) Tool Suite  
    Transportation network analysis tool to evaluate return on infrastructure resilience investments 
  • Scenario Planning for Resiliency and Emissions Reduction in Massachusetts and New Mexico  
    Developed a refined development scenario for Cape Cod, MA, that serves as the basis for all planning agencies to try to implement and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Analyzed data that will influence development of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan in Albuquerque, NM, which will guide federal, state, and local transportation investments 
  • Trails and Resilience: Review of the Role of Trails in Climate Resilience and Emergency Response  
    FHWA published the research white paper, “Trails and Resilience: Review of the Role of Trails in Climate Resilience and Emergency Response.” Trails are often overlooked as elements of essential infrastructure for a resilient transportation system. At the same time, many trails are particularly vulnerable to impacts from climate change and extreme weather. This whitepaper explores existing research, highlights project examples, and identifies research gaps for trails in connection to climate resilience, emergency response, and public health emergencies 
  • Transportation Energy Resilience Toolkit  
    Development of a transportation energy resilience toolkit capable of analyzing all hazards for the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Energy Assurance Resilient Energy Demonstration Initiative (REDI) 
  • U.S. Forest Service Transportation Resiliency Guidebook: Addressing Climate Change Impacts on U.S. Forest Service Transportation Assets  
    This guidebook provides Forest Service field staff with a process to assess and address climate change impacts on Forest Service transportation assets at the local and regional levels. The guidebook provides two major frameworks for staff to use: one to identify climate change vulnerabilities within the Forest Service transportation network and the other to reduce transportation vulnerability to climate change 
  • U.S.-Netherlands Infrastructure Resilience Collaboration 
    Research and facilitation support for a multilateral collaboration between FHWA, State DOTs, and the transportation and infrastructure agency in the Netherlands to share information on the topics of vulnerability assessment tools and nature-based resilience strategies     
  • Vulnerability Assessment of the Transportation Infrastructure Relying on the Global Positioning System
    Study analyzing civilian aviation, maritime, and surface uses of GPS, assessing the ways in which users might be impacted by a short- or long-term GPS outage, and recommending steps that the U.S. government and user community might take to minimize the impacts of such outages