USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

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

Planning for Climate Change in Cape Cod and New Mexico

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ask 10 people how to address climate change in their communities and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. But bring those 10 people together, help them think with a regional mindset, and unified solutions will emerge.

Volpe environmental planners supported the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and numerous other agencies to create models of collaboration in Cape Cod and Central New Mexico that address climate change through an integrated scenario planning process in transportation and land use plans.

The Challenge

Many local agencies account for climate change in their community or unit-level planning. But a disjointed climate change plan may develop when numerous local agencies in one region address climate change in different ways while trying to comply with regulations from federal agencies. When climate change strategies aren’t cohesive and regional, they rarely lead to the positive environmental impacts that planners envision.

The Solution

FHWA tapped Volpe experts in environmental, transportation, and community planning to facilitate and coordinate a climate change scenario planning process in Cape Cod and Central New Mexico. Volpe held bi-weekly talks with federal and local partners and agencies and organized technical committees to identify greenhouse gas reduction strategies and likely climate change impacts in both regions. FHWA and Volpe brought numerous agencies and public stakeholders to the table to develop solutions that are implementable, realistic, and collaborative.

Highlights from Cape Cod

  • The study area covered 15 towns and the Cape Cod National Seashore.
  • Volpe coordinated a two-day workshop with local, regional, and federal stakeholders.
  • The workshop allowed stakeholders to confront the tradeoffs between transportation improvements, new development, and climate change.
  • Volpe conducted a scenario planning process and numerous interviews with stakeholders in 2010 and 2011, which led to a preferred future for transportation and land use development that anticipates climate change impacts, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and reduces development in areas vulnerable to rising sea levels, erosion, and storms.

Highlights from Central New Mexico

  • After the success of the Cape Cod collaboration, Volpe and FHWA chose Central New Mexico out of 10 regions that were interested in conducting a similar planning project.
  • Volpe and community stakeholders tackle issues related to congestion, sprawl, energy use, natural resource protection, emissions, and water scarcity.
  • Volpe has identified greenhouse gas reduction strategies for transportation and land use planning via monthly calls with stakeholders and technical committees.
  • Volpe is developing five climate change futures that may occur over the coming decades and, through a scenario planning process, is working toward a single transportation and land use development strategy that can be resilient and sustainable under any of the five futures.
  • The Central New Mexico project will be completed by the beginning of 2015.

The Impact

The Cape Cod scenario planning project boiled down one refined development scenario that is now the basis for all planning agencies to try to implement over the next 20 years. A cohesive vision on climate change greatly increases the odds that transportation and land use planning in Cape Cod will lead to fewer negative impacts from climate change.

Analysis from the Central New Mexico project will influence how the Mid-Region Metropolitan Planning Organization in Albuquerque will develop its Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which guides federal, state, and local transportation investments. The project findings will be shared with local planning agencies and used in hazard-mitigation plans. Federal agencies that manage land in the region, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will use the results in their management plans.


The sea shore of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • National Park Service
  • Bureau of Land Management