Synthesis of Climate Change and Transportation Research Efforts at the State DOT, State University, and Federal Levels.

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process




Under $99k


Under 1 year

Research Idea Scope

There is a wealth of research on climate change and transportation that has been completed or is currently underway. In order to properly identify research gaps and needs, there needs to be a better understanding of the research that already exists. In October 2009 TRB completed a report, Special Report 299: A Transportation Research Program for Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change and Conserving Energy, to look at national research efforts (and associated gaps) in the field of climate change and transportation. The report first conducted a synthesis of existing federal research programs and efforts, and from this identified gaps and needs for future research. Although the results of this report are significant, a similar synthesis of state-level and university-led research efforts is needed to fully understand research needs at the federal, state, and local level. Such a synthesis is necessary to identify research needs with regard to policies and strategies for both the mitigation and adaptation side of climate change.
In FY 2011, AASHTO’s Center for Environmental Excellence, with support from AASHTO’s Climate Change Technical Assistance Program, is planning to host a Climate Change Research Summit in early summer 2011. The Summit will convene a group of experts, including state DOTs, FHWA, TRB/NCHRP and other practitioners to develop a coordinated climate change research strategy.  Invitees will include a broad range of disciplines from the state DOTs, including expert staff in planning, environment, design, construction, maintenance, operations, and climate change. The summit participants will develop high level strategic needs for climate change research for the transportation industry, including mitigation and adaptation needs. The group will then determine what specific research should be conducted to meet the established high level, strategic needs. Through discussions of climate change and transportation research that has been completed or is being conducted, the group will identify research gaps and develop a general prioritized list of research topics.  The group will also develop a strategic research plan, with priorities for future research needs identified. AASHTO wishes to have more information about the research being conducted by state DOTs and state universities, and an update to federal research initiatives, prior to hosting the Climate Change Research Summit. Results from such the synthesis outlined here would feed directly into discussions at the Summit and serve as the platform for identifying research gaps and needs. 
Research Objectives
The purpose of this research is to (1) synthesize existing climate change and transportation research being conducted by state DOTs and state universities, (2) synthesize any new federal-level research programs that have been added since the publication of TRB SR 299 in October 2009, and (3) identify research gaps and needs based on the synthesis of existing research.

Conduct a literature search to determine what climate change and transportation research has been completed by state DOTs and state universities over the last several years.
Conduct a comprehensive survey of the state DOTs. In order to gain an understanding of the current and developing research initiatives at the state DOT level, an online screener survey will be conducted to identify DOTs that have such initiatives at their agency. The survey will also ask the state DOT to identify any universities in their state that are working on climate change and transportation research initiatives.
Synthesize the research being conducted at the state level by following up with the most active state DOTs and universities identified in the online survey. The goal should be to determine what research programs exist and where the gaps in knowledge remain.
Review and synthesize any new federal research programs/initiatives related to climate change and transportation that have been added since the release of the TRB SR 299 in October 2009.
Identify research gaps and needs based on the findings in Tasks #1 through #4. All research needs and gaps should be relevant to state DOTs and transportation practitioners.
Develop a white paper based on the results of Tasks #1 through #5. The paper should have two clear components: (1) Existing research at the state DOT, state university, and federal level and (2) Research needs for the future. The paper should be written in a way that maximizes its effectiveness to AASHTO’s future Climate Change Research Summit.

Suggested By

Paula Hammond, Secretary of Washington State DOT & Chair of AASHTO Climate Change Steering Committee