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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Climate Change Adaptation Guide for Transportation Systems Management, Operations, and Maintenance

Appendix A. Matrix of Climate-Sensitive Decisions

The following table lists the potential decisions that are often encountered by transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) and maintenance groups that are sensitive to changes in climate and extreme weather. Generated by the research team using their knowledge of State and local DOT practices, these decisions will provide the basis for developing adaptation strategies that mitigate the risk associated with the decision due to climate change.

Table 10. Climate-Sensitive Decisions
Climate-Sensitive Decision Areas Specific Decisions Description Description of how climate stressors affect this decision (i.e., climate sensitivity of decision). Decision Time Frame Single Decision Point? Sensitivity to Climate Change Stressors
Increase in Average Temperature Increase in Annual Precipitation Sea Level Rise Change in Freeze/ Thaw cycles Changing Snowpack Extreme Temps (Heat) Extreme Temps (Cold) Extreme Precip (Amount/Intensity Storm Surge Wildfires Dust Storms Wind Ecological Effects
1. Planning for future workforce needs Determine the right level of workforce requirements and capabilities Operating and emergency management agencies make a variety of workforce-related decisions, including the number of staff required, their locations, and the abilities necessary to monitor, control, report, and maintain the roadway system. Increased frequency of extreme events requires additional personnel to monitor, control, report, and respond to events. Changes in long-term climate trends may also change seasonal work requirements (e.g., changes in winter weather seasons, construction timing, or landscaping timing) and additional or unique staff expertise to monitor and respond to new types of climate events (e.g., snow storm in Atlanta). Long-term No X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2. Planning for Operations and Maintenance investments Determine criteria to prioritize operational resource investments (including capital improvements) Resource investments may include new capital improvements for operations and maintenance such as control systems, field equipment, vehicles, communications, and power. They may also include investments for annual maintenance Capital improvements should be designed to withstand the climate changes anticipated over their useful life. For this reason, all climate stressors should be considered to ensure investments will make it to the end of their useful life. Whether features of a project reduce its climate risk or reduce the climate risk of the community (e.g., reduce flooding) would need to be factored into decisions around which investments to make. Additionally, capital investment needs may be changing and therefore may require new identification processes (e.g., increased flood monitors). Long-term   X X X X X X X X X X X X X
3. Budgeting for Operations, Maintenance, and Emergency Management Determine the appropriate funding needs and levels on annual and multi-year basis Operating and emergency management agencies are typically funded on an annual basis. Funding levels are a driving factor in overall program capabilities and functions. Extreme events and long-term changes in climate can affect resource requirements. For example, increases in temperature can increase annual pavement maintenance costs, or changes in freeze/thaw cycles can increase potholes. Changes in winter weather and increasing weather uncertainty could also affect budgets. The future climate may require different resource allocations and budget planning formulas than today's climate. Annual Yes X X   X X X X X X X X X X
4. Establishing realistic objectives Set regional operational and emergency management objectives for the program Effective planning for operations and emergency management requires a clear articulation of regional operating objectives. These objectives define the response strategies and the performance-based management required. Objectives and performance relating to emergency response or return to level of service may be affected by the frequency and severity of extreme events. Additional measures on resilience might be required to monitor and manage performance. Additionally, changes in weather patterns may make select past performance measures unrealistic. The setting of realistic targets will need to be grounded in an understanding of future weather conditions Annual Yes X X X X X X X X X X X X X
5. Assessing future technology and system requirements Determine the type of monitoring equipment and sources, communication needs, siting criteria and suitability to conditions Monitoring field conditions is vital to effective operations and emergency management. The type of monitoring equipment and the available sources of data greatly determine the capability to respond. Sensitive to cost, these decisions provide the required situational awareness to agencies. Monitoring equipment (e.g., cameras, loop detectors) is sensitive to weather extremes and flooding. They can over heat, freeze, or be corroded by water infiltration. Climate change may also require agencies to monitor additional stressors/conditions in order to understand how they may affect the agency in the future. Early monitoring of climate change stressors could improve agency abilities to make decisions in the long-term. Near-term/Midterm/ Long-term Yes X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Closely related to the type of equipment is the correct "siting" of the equipment to ensure the right extent of coverage on the system. While some pressure of the decision is alleviated through newly available sources of data such as probes and private sector data, other monitoring systems such as Environmental Sensing Stations are greatly affected by the siting criteria. Siting equipment in areas that will be impacted by sea level rise, ecological damage, flooding, snowfall, or other climatic events may damage the infrastructure. Climate change could also affect where agencies choose to site new equipment. Flood risk over the lifetime of the asset could be a criteria used to choose sites for future equipment. Additionally, agencies cannot afford to monitor all areas and assets that will be impacted by climate change. Prioritization methods and flexible mobile data sources (e.g., citizen reporters, snow patrol reporting, mobile probes) will need to be developed. Long-term Yes     X   X X X X X X X X X
Establishing adequate communications and power, especially redundancy in the system, is critical to prevent outages of the field and control systems. The susceptibility of communications and power infrastructure to conditions can limit the capability of operational response. Communication and power lines are sensitive to icing, flooding, and extreme temperatures (e.g., rolling blackouts during heat waves). Flooding can also damage back-up power systems. Storms can bring down tree lines which damage power and communication lines. Agencies will need to consider whether their existing communication and power requirements are resilient to climate change. Snow can cover or block communications (e.g., stop lights and cameras). Long-term No         X X X X X X   X  
6. Determining future maintenance needs Determine the required level and precision of inspection protocols Inspection protocols are a vital part of asset management. For operating agencies, these include the full range of transportation assets from structures to communication networks. Due to resource constraints, agencies need to develop a protocol designed to prioritize the key assets being managed. Climate stressors can lead to increased asset deterioration, requiring more frequent inspections. However, inspections are very expensive and time consuming. Knowledge of climatic trends may allow for focused scoping of the level of precision and frequency of various types of inspections.   No X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Determine pavement rehabilitation needs and methods A variety of pavement rehabilitation decisions are made on a seasonal basis ranging from full-depth replacement, to levelling and coating. Decisions pertaining to life-cycle cost of such treatments, the timing of these treatments, and the mate Pavements are designed to withstand particular temperature thresholds. High temperatures may lead to rutting, while cold (and freezing) conditions increase potholes. This may necessitate changing the pavement mix or rehabbing roads earlier Long-term Yes   X X X X X X X   X     X
Determine bridge maintenance needs and methods Bridges are natural chokepoints and potential points of failure. Agencies justifiably invest in bridge management programs involving preventative maintenance and rehabilitation. Bridges with joints and moveable parts are more susceptible to damage due to their sensitivity to temperature and water infiltration. Increased rainfall and flooding can also increase bridge scour or lead to washouts and debris deposits. Changes in climate may necessitate earlier or different maintenance approaches. Long-term Maintenance No: Monitoring     X X X X X X X X   X X
7. Modifying Maintenance Practices and Approaches Determine construction and maintenance work timelines and timeframes Construction and maintenance work is usually conducted under very specific weather conditions. The number and length of these windows of opportunity to conduct work may be shortened or lengthened depending on regional climate trends. This would also impact construction contracts and crew contracts. Increased frequency of precipitation (especially extreme precipitation), and increased high heat days may decrease worker safety and result in delays in construction. Decreases in these events could accelerate construction periods. Certain elements of construction (e.g., laying concrete, painting roads) can only be accomplished during a narrow range of weather conditions. Changes in weather will impact the length of the construction season and the contracts with construction companies. Mid-range No X     X   X X X   X X X  
Develop approach for overall right of way maintenance including vegetation control Decisions involving overall right-of-way maintenance such as vegetation control, drainage, and culvert management are included in this area. Often deferred due to resource constraints, effective decisions in this area may in fact be more critical to operational capability than anticipated. Vegetation control: Increased rain (in some parts of the country) paired with increased temperatures can lead to additional vegetation growth and death. This dry fuel poses wildfire hazards. Some areas may begin to experience drought and need to plant more drought-tolerant vegetation. Drainage and culverts: Following wildfires, rainstorms can increase debris flow and block or flood culverts and drainage systems. Heavy rainstorms can blow out undersized drainage. In coastal settings, sea level rise may surcharge the drainage systems. Annual No X X   X X X X X X X X X X
Determine the amount, cost, timing of material procurement Agencies spent a significant portion of their budget on materials. Procurement decisions ranging from timing, type of material, and the length of the contract duration greatly affect the overall cost as well as the actual season. If supplies are under-purchased during particularly bad seasons, it may be difficult to obtain the necessary materials for response. Frequently, after an extreme weather event (e.g., ice storm or hurricane), supplies can run short and distribution lines can be disrupted. Likewise, if response contracts are too short then agencies may not be prepared to respond to late season extreme weather events (e.g., flooding, extreme heat, snow). Seasonal Yes       X X X X X X X      
8. Protecting facilities and assets Develop criteria for determining facility locations and asset protection strategy Decisions and techniques for reducing flood damage to essential utility systems and equipment. When siting new facilities, agencies should consider the impacts of climate change on the location (e.g., sea level rise, flooding). Long-term Yes   X X X X     X X X   X X
9. Maintaining mobility and safety Plan for maintenance of traffic Maintenance of traffic involves developing an approach to maintain and restore mobility and accessibility in a region. These may involve posted detours, communications, lane management, etc. Flooding or other extreme weather may cause long-term disruptions to traffic. A plan for maintenance of traffic needs to be developed. In some cases, this may require significant detours and wide area communications to support adequate traveler information. Seasonal No     X   X     X X X X X X
Determine the mix of operational strategies to deal with surge demand Operating agencies are geared towards dealing with reliability issues and generally have a good idea of demand-supply relationships on their systems. In cases of emergencies and adverse weather, the shift from reliability to resiliency is required to manage surges in demand. This requires revisiting the approach to implement the operational strategies. Changes in the frequency of short-term weather events influence traffic demand (e.g., rainfall events, additional driving on high heat days) and thus require varied operational responses. Immediate No         X X X X X X X X  

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