Assessment of the Body of Knowledge on Incorporating Climate Change Adaptation Measures into Transportation Projects

Prepared for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), this report presents climate change adaptation actions from transportation agencies across the country, and best practices for implementing adaptive solutions. The report also discusses strategies and provides examples for evaluating the costs and benefits of adaptation.

The report reviews existing research and literature on infrastructure adaptation - highlighting nine studies that have contributed significantly to the transportation adaptation field. Some of the resources discussed here focus on identifying and evaluating specific adaptation strategies, whereas others focus on organizational processes and how to mainstream adaptation within existing institutional structures.

The report identifies specific, local adaptation activities that are underway across the U.S. Common adaptation actions are described that are already occurring in transportation asset management, long range transportation planning, design and construction, operations and maintenance, and emergency management. For a summary of the adaptation actions and further information about them, see Table 5 and Table 6 in Appendix A.

In response to the perception that adaptation will require large, expensive projects that transportation agencies must fund in addition to their normal services  - the report finds that actually most adaptation activities currently underway are incremental shifts in decision making and “tweaks” to best management practices. Mainstreaming consideration of weather and climate data into day-to-day management, for example, is a highly successful and low cost way to begin increasing resilience.

The report details relevant methods of evaluating costs and benefits of adaptation options, including: (1) an overview of how costs and benefits are defined; (2) a discussion of traditional methods for estimating costs and benefits; (3) example “real-life” efforts to estimate costs and benefits of climate change adaptation in the transportation sector; and (4) best practices moving forward.

The final sections of the report describe common barriers to adaptation, methods of overcoming those barriers, and ongoing research in the field.


Publication Date: December 2013

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  • Case study
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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