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

This guide from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides a primer to help transportation agencies understand risks posed by climate change and consider how to adapt their transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) and maintenance programs. The guide is intended to be used by TSMO and maintenance program managers, emergency managers, planners, and supervisors involved in operations at transportation agencies, in order to help increase the resilience of transportation systems.

TSMO and maintenance involve day-to-day activities that aim to maintain and maximize use of transportation infrastructure; for example, TSMO includes activities such as traffic and incident management, traffic signal coordination, road weather management, and active transportation and demand management, while maintenance activities include pavement and vegetation management, bridge inspection, and other activities to limit degradation and preserve infrastructure. As identified in the guide, climate change could affect transportation operations and maintenance in a variety of ways, including reducing roadway capacity and alternative routes, causing power and communications outages that reduce situational awareness, limiting the ability to evacuate, and causing infrastructure to deteriorate faster and lessen service life, among other impacts.

The guide is organized into three main sections, plus several appendices:

  1. Introduction: this section identifies who should use the guide and what it does and does not cover;
  2. Context and Rationale for Adapting to Climate Change: this section identifies how climate change and extreme weather events will affect TSMO and maintenance, why agencies need to adapt, and what has already been done;
  3. Steps to Adapt Transportation Systems Management and Operations and Maintenance Programs to Climate Change: this section provides an overview of how TSMO and maintenance work together, and describes the steps involved in FHWA's Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework, as applied in an operations and maintenance context.

Section 3 of the guide includes sample adaptation strategies and associated time frames for operations and maintenance that agencies may wish to implement. For example, to address the need for more frequent inspections associated with increased asset deterioration from climate stressors, the guide suggests tracking and identifying "hot spots" that may require more frequent inspections, and in the longer-term, dedicating increased resources to those areas. 

Appendix A includes a matrix of specific climate-sensitive decisions, describing which climate stressors will affect each decision, and how. For example, determining future bridge maintenance needs will require consideration of how increased rainfall and flooding might increase bridge scour, among other considerations relating to other climate stressors such as increases in temperature. Appendix B identifies additional resources useful to agencies beginning the adaptation planning process, including benefit-cost assessment tools; and Appendix C identifies research gaps relating to climate change adaptation in TSMO and maintenance to help inform future research. Other appendices define terms used in the guide and include sample checklists and handouts for workshops on climate change risk to help guide TSMO and maintenance staff.

Throughout the guide, specific resources such as decision-making checklists are identified that can help transportation agencies with getting started on specific steps involved in the adaptation process. The report also identifies examples from around the country that provide lessons and best practices related to particular adaptation approaches.




Publication Date: November 2015

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