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Infrastructure Resilience

Recent Developments

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This section describes recent developments related to transportation-related sustainability. If you would like to suggest a recent development on this topic, please submit a short description to AASHTO (including any pertinent links) on the  Share Info with AASHTO form.

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EPA Issues Guide on Green Infrastructure, Local Hazard Planning

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a guide on how local communities can integrate green infrastructure into their Local Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Storm Smart Cities Guide uses a case study of green infrastructure integration efforts in the City of Huntington, W.V., and the West Virginia Region 2 Planning and Development Area as a basis for best practices. Huntington suffers from intermittent flooding in low-lying areas. The guide recommends that communities establish a coalition of stakeholders that includes hazard mitigation planners, stormwater utilities, academic institutions, and flood management districts. It also recommends having a local champion that can keep stakeholders engaged and to build on successful interagency relationships. Additionally, it recommends that communities to evaluate their capacity to implement and fund green infrastructure. For more information, link to the guide. (March 2018)

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Mississippi Pilot Project Explores Green Infrastructure to Endure Hurricanes

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is weighing use of green infrastructure to better protect a bridge along the Gulf Coast that was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The pilot project, Henderson Point Connector (US HWY 90): Green Infrastructure Techniques for Coastal Highway Resilience, evaluated the use of conventional gray infrastructure as well as vegetated berms on either side of a segment of the Henderson Point connector on U.S. 90. The bridge spans were directly damaged by Hurricane Katrina when high water eroded the approach embankment and displaced the westbound span. The berms are designed to mitigate water flow velocities near the bridge abutment by redirecting flood flows. The report said that MDOT learned that the damage may be the first known example of a bridge that failed due to the drag forces of strong water current. For more information, link to the report. (4-5-18)

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Tests of NGA’s Resilience Assessment Tool Announced

The National Governors Association, supported by Department of Energy’s Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration Division, has announced test projects for the State Resilience Assessment and Planning (SRAP) Tool. The SRAP Tool is a self-assessment to help governors to understand their states’ resilience by identifying gaps in planning and preparedness. The NGA will work with Idaho, Maryland, and Oregon on the test projects and to identify best practices in adapting to, withstanding, and recovering from disasters. Based on the results of this round of tests, the NGA will host policy retreats. Governors increasingly face human and natural disasters that can negatively impact the viability of energy, water, transportation, and other critical infrastructure. In 2017 alone, there were 16 weather- and climate-related disasters with losses including a total estimated cost of more than $300 billion and 362 deaths. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-11-18)

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Report Quantifies Reliability of California Transportation System

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a report on methods to quantify the reliability of highway transportation networks in California. The report includes results using the UCINET simulation tool to estimate reliability and identify critical paths in the state’s highway transportation network. The report analyzes the transportation network in northern and southern California to illustrate results in 47 cities. The report demonstrates ways to identify how the failure of certain paths reduces the reliability of the network, and how a focus on routes that serve as critical paths can avoid serious impacts. For more information, link to the report. (January 2018)

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California County Evaluates Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise

The County of San Mateo, California, has issued a sea level rise vulnerability assessment. The report says that the highly vulnerable county has over $1 billion worth of buildings and infrastructure at risk to near-term flooding. Long-term exposure to erosion and flooding could affect real estate worth $39.1 billion, including 30,000 residential and 3,000 commercial properties. The report also addresses the indirect risk to critical systems and services, such as hospitals, wastewater treatment plants, airports, highways and transit, and recreational facilities on both the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay sides of the county. The report will be used to inform the county’s response efforts, including mapping vulnerable assets, preparing asset-level vulnerability assessments, developing solutions, building awareness, and facilitating collaboration. For more information, link to the report. (March 2018)

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Principles Provide Framework For Resilient Cities

The Urban Land Institute has issued 10 principles to serve as a framework for cities to be more resilient to climate change and other threats. The report provides several resilience resources and recommends that decision makers understand their vulnerability to immediate shocks and long-term stresses to better plan for recovery from future events. The report recommends that resilience efforts strengthen job and housing opportunities and enhance equity. The report also addresses the importance of leveraging existing assets, identifying the best place to invest, pricing the cost of inaction, and maximizing co-benefits. The principles were developed from a 2017 workshop on resiliency findings from 10 science advisory panels. For more information, link to the report. (3-23-18)

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AASHTO Meeting to Discuss Resilience in Transportation Systems

The American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials is hosting the Transportation Resilience Innovations Summit and Exchange to discuss best practices for including resilience in transportation systems. The meeting will include discussion of stakeholder engagement approaches and cooperation initiatives from states such as California and Louisiana and perspectives from the Federal Highway Administration related to resiliency policies and guidance. The meeting also will address risk-based approaches to incorporating resilience at the project level and into asset management. The meeting is scheduled for Oct. 9-10, 2018, in Denver. For more information link to the announcement and meeting agenda.

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Listening Sessions to Address Resilient Transportation in Northeast, Mid-Atlantic Region

The Transportation and Climate Initiative has announced a series of listening sessions regarding policy approaches to creating a resilient transportation future in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The first event, hosted by the state of New York, will include discussion of how and why residents and businesses make certain transportation choices; how to improve environmental quality and public health benefits while increasing mobility; and what an innovative, low-carbon transportation future might look like. The first session is scheduled for April 9, 2018, in Albany. For more information, link to the announcement.

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FHWA Develops Mobile App for Natural Disaster Damage Assessment

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has created a mobile application for agencies to quickly assess damages from natural disasters. The “Mobile Solution for Assessment and Reporting” app integrates online forms, dashboard reporting, geospatial tracking, map viewing, and corporate workflow to allow state departments of transportation and federal agencies to make damage assessments in real-time. The app was used during Hurricane Harvey and allowed Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials to complete damage assessments for more than 500 sites within three weeks. The app saved FHWA and TxDOT an estimated 17,000 hours of staff time. For more information, link to the U.S. DOT blog post and the MSAR website. (3-14-18)

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FHWA Provides Overview of Nature-Based Features for Coastal Resilience

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a white paper on the current state of practice for nature-based solutions for coastal highway resiliency. Nature-based infrastructure—solutions that mimic characteristics of natural features—can be used alone or in combination with conventional engineering to protect coastal highways. The white paper gives an overview of the concepts and examples of successful application in Delaware and Virginia. The white paper also provides information on lessons learned, performance and reliability, and key knowledge gaps. For more information, link to the paper. (3-1-18)

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California Plan Illustrates Current Climate Change Actions

The California Natural Resources Agency has issued the Safeguarding California Plan to illustrate how the state is taking action against climate change. The report provides an overview of state-sponsored climate change research and current policies and initiatives such as the development of the fourth climate change assessment and the global climate action summit scheduled for September. Several principles, including the prioritization of natural infrastructure solutions and identification of funding sources, are provided to display how the state can adapt to climate change. The state plans to track progress of changing climate conditions and enhancement of resiliency based on a certain metrics. For more information, link to the report. (2-20-18)

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TRB Webinar Focuses on Resilience for Transit Agencies

The Transportation Research Board will hold a webinar March 12 regarding resilience in transit systems. The webinar will feature research published by the Transit Cooperative Research Program, Improving the Resilience of Transit Systems Threatened by Natural Disasters (TCRP Web-Only Document 70). The research provides "how to" steps to help transit agencies and others improve their resilience. The webinar will include presentations by transit agencies in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Southeast Pennsylvania and describe lessons learned as they implemented resilience strategies and projects. For more information, register for the free webinar.

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Updated Vulnerability Assessment Framework Published by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has released the new edition of its framework for assessing the vulnerability of transportation infrastructure to climate change and extreme weather impacts. The Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Framework, Third Edition, provides more detail on the various steps in the framework, an expanded section on analyzing adaptation options, and more information on incorporating results into decision making. Overall, the basic structure is the same as the prior version. Under the framework, transportation agencies are encouraged to set objectives and define scope, compile data, assess vulnerability, analyze adaptation options, and incorporate the results into decision making. The new edition was announced previously in a Dec. 14 FHWA webinar. Link to the revised edition of the framework. (1-24-18)

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Report Finds Gaps in FHWA Guidance on Resilience Improvements

The Federal Highway Administration lacks guidance and a process for incorporating resilience into emergency relief projects, according to a new report issued by the Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General. The report assesses the FHWA’s Emergency Relief Fund Program guidance and processes for incorporating resilience to rebuild damaged highway infrastructure and found that the guidance does not define resilience improvement, inform states how to include resilience improvements, or share related best practices. The report also found that there is no process for tracking state efforts in resilience. Revisions to the Emergency Relief Manual are planned. For more information, link to the report. (1-10-18)

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TRB Research Record Illustrates Climate Change Resilience

Sixteen research papers concerning systems resilience and climate change are included in the Transportation Research Record Journal, Volume No. 2604. The journal addresses risk and resilience analysis for highway assets, sociotechnical approaches, and security resiliency. The journal also concerns community-based planning, use of rapid damage and response strategies, impact of group walking patterns on pedestrian evacuation, post-flooding roadway operations, and the effects of tsunami damage on passenger and forestry transportation. For more information, link to the report. (1-3-18)

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Caltrans Issues First Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has released its first climate change vulnerability assessment, focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area in District 4. The assessment, which is the first of 12 studies that will cover each Caltrans region of the state, identifies locations that may be impacted by changing conditions such as rising sea levels and storm surge, more frequent wildfires, changing precipitation patterns, and increasing temperatures. It includes a summary report as well as a technical report, and it is supported by a GIS database and interactive mapping application. Caltrans recommends use of the Federal Highway Administration’s adaptation decision-making assessment process and updating design approaches to include data from state resource agencies. For more information, link to the announcement and to the assessment. (12-27-17)

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FHWA Announces Extreme Weather Resilience Pilot Program

The Federal Highway Administration has launched a new round of extreme weather resilience pilot projects and is seeking applications from state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, federal lands management agencies, and tribes to participate in the program. The pilot will address integration of resilience and durability into agency practices; use of tools to assess vulnerability and risks; and deployment of solutions that achieve resilience and monitor performance. Letters of interest are due Feb. 9, 2018, and a webinar is scheduled for Jan. 4, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (12-19-17)

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California Issues Climate Resiliency Guidance for State Agencies

A set of resiliency decision-making principles for state agencies in California is provided under a guidance released by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The report addresses how to plan differently for resiliency and analyzes the state’s changing climate conditions. The report also provides a four-step process to guide agencies through a risk management process, which includes identifying how climate change could affect a project, conducting an analysis of climate risks, making informed decisions, and monitoring progress. In addition, the report addresses the importance of integration of climate change into infrastructure investments and provides a list of ongoing processes between several agencies. For more information, link to the report. (11-15-17)

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GAO Issues Report on Reducing Economic Effects of Climate Change

The Government Accountability Office has released a report on how to reduce fiscal exposure to climate change. According to the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, the United States has incurred more than $350 billion in direct costs due to extreme weather events. The report addresses the methods used to estimate economic effects and highlights additional efforts made by other federal agencies. The report indicates that current information on the economic effects of climate change is still evolving but is helpful in understanding what sectors are most vulnerable. The report also indicates that climate change effects could be unevenly distributed across sectors and regions. The agency recommends that the White House establish a strategy to identify and prioritize investments to increase resiliency. For more information, link to the report. (11-21-17)

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AASHTO Hosts Resiliency Peer Exchange on Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Materials from the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO's November peer exchange on climate resilience are now available. The event assembled key DOT stakeholders for an important dialogue on resiliency. State-level professionals discussed both strategies and challenges for building more resilient transportation systems. For more information and materials from the event, link here. (11-28-17)

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Webinar Will Address Sea Level Rise Monitoring at Local, Regional Scale

UC Davis will hold a webinar on Nov. 29 to discuss methods for measuring and recording shoreline change over large areas at a fine resolution. UC Davis is working with local and regional agencies in California’s Bay Area and coastal islands in Georgia to pilot the use of time-lapse, ground-based cameras that capture fine-resolution images and satellite imagery of changing shoreline conditions for storm events, seasons, and across multiple years. The Nov. 29 webinar will discuss the results and lessons learned from two shoreline studies and next steps. For more information, link to the webinar summary. (11/29/17)

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TRB Issues Circular on Resilient Transportation Systems

The Transportation Research Board has released Transportation Research Circular E-226, including articles related to resilient transportation systems. The issue includes articles on a whole-system approach to resilience, advances in weather forecasting, and an integrated approach to cyber-physical security for transportation. It also includes articles discussing resilient road infrastructure research from Europe, training and recruiting employees to assist during adverse events, and research on improving resilience of transit systems. For more information, link to the report. (November 2017)

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Report Evaluates Adequacy of Tools for Climate Adaptation Planning

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a report to evaluate best practices and the adequacy of technical tools for climate resiliency and adaptation planning that were illustrated in a 2015 climate adaptation planning survey. The report provides an overview of the survey which included the identification of state and local agencies that are actively preparing for climate change and addressed the need for planners and transportation officials for climate education. The survey indicated a high percentage of agencies undertaking procedural and infrastructure adaptations. The survey also indicated that staff time is a barrier to efforts and that local agencies are lacking necessary tools and resources. The report is a companion to the Network Requirements for Assessing Criticality for Climate Adaptation Planning. For more information, link to the report. (October 2017)

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FHWA Assesses Resilience of NY, NJ, CT Following Hurricane Sandy

The Federal Highway Administration has published a study of the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region’s resilience to climate change, sea level rise, and extreme weather in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events. The study identifies strategies to reduce extreme weather vulnerabilities of transportation systems using lessons learned from recent events and future climate projections. It provides assessments of vulnerability and risk at the regional, subarea, and facility level. The study is intended to help agencies in the study area evaluate adaptation strategies that could be applied to similar facilities in the region. For more information, link to the study. (10-26-17)

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Caltrans Seeks Applicants for Adaptation Planning Grants

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is seeking applications for $20 million in climate change adaptation planning grants to local and regional agencies. The funding, which is available for three fiscal year cycles from 2017 to 2020, can be used to advance adaptation planning related to the state’s roads, railways, bikeways, trails, bridges, ports, and airports. Applications are due Oct. 20. For more information, link to the grant application guide. (September 2017)

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TxDOT Uses AquaDam Technology to Hold Back Flood Water

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) used a new technique to taper off flood water on roadways due to Hurricane Harvey. The equipment, called AquaDam, is a mobile dam that is filled using existing floodwater to act as a barrier for up to 30 inches of water. The technology can be applied to rising water or already flooded roads and takes four to eight hours for installation. AquaDam has been used in three locations in Houston and in the Beaumont area on Interstate 10. For information, link to the announcement. (10-11-17)

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Oregon DOT Pilot Explores Natural Protection for Coastal Highway

The Oregon Department of Transportation evaluated nature-based infrastructure to protect against storm surge and sea level rise along three stretches of coastal highway under a pilot project funded by the Federal Highway Administration. The pilot is documented in a report, Green Infrastructure Techniques for Resilience of the Oregon Coast Highway. ODOT learned that the segment in most critical need of reinforcement may not be the right place to apply nature-based options such as cobble beaches, and that traditional “hard” engineering may still have benefits in some situations depending on the characteristics of the location. ODOT's designs showed promise for other locations with less wave energy and slower erosion. For more information, link to the report. (9-26-17)

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Featured Case Study

  • Case Study Photo

    Minnesota DOT's climate vulnerability assessment is helping the agency address threats such as this flooded culvert in District 6.

    Read Case Study >Photo: Minnesota DOT

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