Transportation System Resilience to Extreme Weather and Climate Change - Technical Staff
Adaptation to Climate Change in Transportation Systems Management, Operations, and Maintenance
Printable Version [PDF, 2.9 MB]
Publication #: FHWA-HOP-15-025
The ability of transportation agencies' to effectively manage, operate, and maintain a safe, reliable transportation system is being threatened by a changing climate. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, and long-term climatological trends are slowly but inexorably changing how transportation systems need to be planned, designed, operated, and maintained. A "new normal" is evolving and State departments of transportation (DOTs) are turning their focus toward building resilience.
Climate change will necessitate adjustments by DOT transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) and maintenance managers to ensure the resilience of activities such as traffic monitoring and management, providing traveler information, traffic incident management, and maintenance management.
Take Action to Increase Resilience
TSMO and maintenance functions at DOTs are often responsive to conditions as they arise. There are nevertheless some activities that, if done in advance, can enhance the resilience of the transportation system overall and with greater efficiency to the public agency than if actions had not been taken. Adapting TSMO and maintenance programs is largely about improving capability rather than a major technology development and deployment initiative. Many of the technology elements used to support safety, congestion mitigation, and traveler information objectives are already in place. To adapt to climate change, agencies need to consider how these existing capabilities that already help to improve operations and reliability need to evolve to meet the new and emerging requirements of a changing climate.
The framework shown at right provides an overview of how TSMO and maintenance managers can begin to take action through steps to: define the scope of adaptation efforts; assess vulnerabilities to inform the development of adaptation strategies; and integrate climate change into decision-making. The checklist that follows provides further detail on these steps. Additional information, including additional steps, sub-steps, and details, are found in the FHWA Climate Change Adaptation Guide for Transportation Systems Management, Operations, and Maintenance.
✓ Checklist for Technical Staff
◻ Define TSMO or maintenance program goals and operations objectives that could be sensitive to climate change.
◻ Identify the extreme weather events or trends that could affect the agency's TSMO and maintenance programs.
◻ Document current capabilities (both technical and institutional).
◻ Review traffic incident reports, maintenance records, after-action reports, emergency reimbursement forms, and other sources to determine how extreme weather events have affected performance in the past.
◻ Interview staff across departments about extreme weather-related vulnerabilities (e.g., "what keeps you up at night?").
◻ Identify points and thresholds where extreme weather affects TSMO and maintenance decisions (e.g., establishing future workforce needs, weather response budgeting, setting operational objectives).
◻ Document how TSMO and maintenance practices relate to different weather thresholds (e.g., place sandbags when forecast calls for X amount of rain).
◻ Gather information on historic trends in relevant weather variables and/or how those variables may change in the future.
◻ Characterize extreme weather risks via data-driven or workshop-based qualitative or quantitative analysis.
Integrate into Decision Making
◻ Identify performance measures and targets (i.e., the acceptable level of operational performance if threat occurs).
◻ Identify potential adaptation strategies (selected examples provided below — see more in Tables 6 and 8 in the Climate Change Adaptation Guide for Transportation Systems Management, Operations, and Maintenance).
Monitor progress and revisit
◻ Establish a plan for monitoring and evaluating progress toward extreme weather resilience.
◻ Engage stakeholders needed to support monitoring and evaluation efforts.
◻ Monitor trends in extreme weather events and their impacts (e.g., frequency of particular events, weather-related costs and disruptions).
◻ Analyze data on weather trends and impacts to inform decision-making about future strategies.
◻ Continually revisit TSMO, maintenance, and emergency programs in light of extreme weather and climate trend
For More Information
Additional information, including more detailed checklists, strategies, and "getting started" resources are available in the FHWA Climate Change Adaptation Guide for Transportation Systems Management, Operations, and Maintenance at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop15026/index.htm.
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration