Application of the Climate Change Adaptation Tool for Transportation to the Mid-Atlantic Region

Using the Mid-Atlantic region as a case study, a University of Delaware team tested the real-world applicability of the Climate Change Adaptation Tool for Transportation (CCATT), a Microsoft Excel-based tool to help transportation agencies and MPOs assess climate impacts and evaluate adaptation options for transportation projects. The team applied the methodology behind the tool to evaluate the impacts of temperature, sea-level rise, and precipitation to the transportation infrastructure in New Castle County, DE, the focus area of the Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO). This allowed the team to use data and information from the WILMAPCO region to evaluate the accuracy and adequacy of the tool for helping MPOs plan for region-specific impacts.

The tool allows MPOs to incorporate data from their region, and develops scenario flow charts to support agency decision-making.  Based on possible climate change scenarios, the tool produces potential outcomes and likelihoods of impactful events. Through a 12-step process, the tool collects information specific to the agency and region, and organizes a series of inputs (i.e. an inventory of proposed strategies) and outputs (i.e. statistical correlations and scenario analysis decision trees). Ultimately the tool incorporates several important aspects of adaptation planning: an impact assessment and evaluation of the adaptive capacity of infrastructure; identification of infrastructure at risk in existing systems; analysis of the ability of proposed projects to reduce risk; and evaluation of adaptation strategies to support current efforts to mitigate climate change.

One component of the tool involves a regional impact and vulnerability assessment. In testing this component, the team identified three significant impacts of climate change affecting the WILMAPCO region: heat waves, sea-level rise, and precipitation events. Using an inventory of facilities in New Castle County, DE, the team identified vulnerabilities of existing infrastructure and future planned projects to these climate impacts. For example, using the tool the team determined that 74.3% of pavement material in the region was particularly susceptible to deterioration from increased temperatures, and concluded that pavement material should be further evaluated to prevent deterioration in the future.

To study the impacts of sea-level rise, the research team used GIS projections from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), along with the CCATT tool, to identify which roads, bridges, rail track sections, rail stations, and tolls would be inundated under various sea-level rise scenarios (e.g. 0.5, 1.0, and 1.5 meters). The results of this analysis, which complemented a vulnerability assessment already underway by WILMAPCO, confirmed the need for WILMAPCO to evaluate vulnerabilities in its transportation infrastructure and implement adaptation strategies to improve infrastructure resiliency.

To evaluate the impacts of storm surge from intense precipitation events, the research team used a method similar to the sea-level rise projections to create layers of different levels of storm surge.  The Saffir-Simpson scale, a classification for extreme precipitation events, was used to correlate high precipitation with storm surge.  Once these storm surge layers were developed, the team used GIS data to identify vulnerable infrastructure at various storm surge levels (e.g. 1.5, 2.5, 3.5, 5.5 meters).


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on October 28, 2015.


Publication Date: December 2011

Author or Affiliated User:

  • Michelle Renee Oswald

Related Organizations:

  • University of Delaware


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Case study
  • Tool (general)

States Affected:


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