FHWA INVEST Tool – Infrastructure Resiliency Criteria

The Federal Highway Administration’s INVEST Tool (Tool) provides a collection of voluntary best practices (“criteria”) and associated point values to help transportation agencies and practitioners evaluate and improve the sustainability and climate resilience of their projects and programs. The Tool allows transportation agencies to evaluate the sustainability of their agency practices and projects across the entire transportation lifecycle, by self-assigning points based on how well they have met requirements set out for each particular criterion. Criteria specific for infrastructure resiliency are incorporated into the Tool’s categories (called “modules”) for planning at the state and regional level, and for project development. These resiliency criteria help agencies plan and design for current and future hazards, including climate change. The Tool notes that planning and designing for infrastructure resiliency supports all of the triple bottom line principles of sustainability (environmental, social, and economic) as it provides energy savings, improves safety and security of the transportation system and users, and reduces future spending on infrastructure replacement.

The Tool is organized into four separate modules designed to cover the full transportation lifecycle: System Planning for States (SPS), System Planning for Regions (SPR), Project Development (PD), and Operations and Maintenance (OM). Three of these modules each contain a criterion related to infrastructure resiliency; specifically, the criteria are: Infrastructure Resiliency for States (SPS-16), Infrastructure Resiliency for Regions (SPR-16), and Infrastructure Resiliency Planning and Design (PD-31).

The three resiliency criteria have different scoring requirements and point values given that they address different stages of the transportation lifecycle: state planning, regional planning, and project development and design. For example, SPS-16 (which focuses on resiliency in state-level planning) emphasizes and awards points for:

  • Conducting a system-level hazard assessment of potential hazards, including relative sea level rise, precipitation events, and heat waves, among other hazards,
  • Conducting a vulnerability assessment to determine potential locations and impacts of current and future hazards on planned, programmed, and existing facilities,
  • Conducting a risk assessment to assess the likelihood and consequences of particular impacts from known hazards,
  • Developing and implementing adaptation and resilience strategies to respond to vulnerabilities and risks,
  • Coordinating with partner agencies within the state to reduce barriers and further implementation prospects, and
  • Prioritizing investments to implement adaptation strategies that mitigate high risks.

Similarly, SPR-16 (which focuses on resiliency in regional-level planning) also emphasizes coordinating with partner agencies and developing and implementing adaptation strategies. But in contrast to SPS-16, SPR-16 emphasizes incorporating resiliency into regional planning by including the following in regional planning documents such as  long-range transportation plans (LRTPs) and transportation improvement programs (TIPs):

  • Goals and objectives for infrastructure resiliency, which should be consistent with those of partner agencies (state DOT and other),
  • Vulnerability and risk assessment information, which regional agencies should coordinate with partners to collect, and
  • Resiliency performance measures.

Additionally, regional agencies can receive points for the SPR-16 criterion for monitoring progress of goals using the performance measures included in planning documents.

Finally, the PD-31 criterion, which focuses more on incorporating resiliency into project-level planning and design of infrastructure, emphasizes and awards points for:

  • Addressing climate change in project development and environmental reviews,
  • Incorporating future climate change effects in the design process or into actual project design (which garners more points than design process alone, and could include design changes such as raising roadways to address higher flood levels, designing pavements to withstand more intense heat waves, or designing bridge piers to withstand higher scour risk from more intense flooding events, among other examples), and
  • Mitigating climate change and extreme weather effects by using strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, vehicle-miles traveled, energy use, etc.

For each of these three resiliency criteria, the Tool provides links to resources that can help agencies complete the steps to receive points (such as FHWA’s Vulnerability Assessment Framework Website for help with vulnerability assessments, and FHWA’s 11-step engineering assessment process or tools developed from Phase II of the Gulf Coast Study for help with incorporating climate change effects into design).

To be awarded points in a particular criterion, agencies must substantiate completion of criterion requirements with documentation, such as transportation planning documents, hazard mitigation plans, vulnerability assessments, risk assessments, contract documents, or design documentation.

INVEST (Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool) was developed by FHWA to help agencies integrate sustainability best practices into transportation projects and programs. It recognizes efforts to promote sustainability ‘above and beyond’ minimum environmental compliance requirements mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, etc., but use of the Tool is voluntary and is not required for receipt of federal funding.

The original Beta Version of INVEST was released in the fall of 2010. Version 1.0 was launched in October 2012 following the development and stakeholder testing. After Version 1.0 was released, FHWA solicited feedback from transportation agencies around the country that used the tool to assess their projects and programs. Based on their feedback, FHWA revised the tool with Versions 1.1 and 1.2 in January and September 2015, respectively, and this case study has been updated to document changes to the Tool.

FHWA has reported that at least 27 projects nationwide have been evaluated using the Tool, and has helped highlight some of these experiences by hosting webinars featuring speakers from MPOs and DOTs that used INVEST in their planning processes.

 

This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on January 29, 2016.

Publication Date: October 2012

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