French Broad River MPO Long Range Transportation Plan – Climate Change Chapter

The French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which includes Asheville, North Carolina and the surrounding area, included a climate change chapter in its 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), adopted in 2010. The chapter identifies the impacts that climate change has already caused in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and concludes that the primary future impact in the region will be climate variability. The chapter considers the risks expected to increase with greater temperature and precipitation variability, and identifies steps the MPO can take to adapt its infrastructure. Finally, the chapter includes an impact analysis undertaken by the MPO, which examined the potential vulnerabilities of proposed LRTP projects.

Western North Carolina, where the French Broad River MPO is located, is a mountainous area with geographic, seasonal, and annual variations in temperature and precipitation. Climate change modeling indicates the region will likely not experience a great increase in average temperature; rather, the region’s climate variability is expected to become more extreme. The MPO’s future planning will need to accommodate more extreme droughts, heat waves, and storms, and more frequent wildfires, floods, landslides, and dam breaches.

The chapter lists the regional transportation network’s vulnerabilities to these climate impacts, including:

  • Increased flooding occurrence and intensity, which could impact bridges and key transportation arteries, 
  • Increased landslides due to severe storms and steep slope development, and
  • Dam breaches near transportation corridors.

The MPO identifies the steps that can be taken to adapt their transportation plans, existing and future infrastructure, and travel patterns to climate impacts, such as:

  • Implementing strategies to reduce flood risks, such as: reviewing roads and bridges in flood-prone areas; redesigning existing structures for improved resilience; and designing new, resilient roads based on new floodplain maps.
  • Developing the ability to manage greater climate variability and temperature extremes, and budget for necessary preparations.
  • Working with the region’s local governments to coordinate transportation and land use.
  • Employing a range of future scenarios in transportation and land-use planning to optimize systems for a variety of future conditions.
  • Mapping vulnerable “hotspots” where multiple impacts may cause major transportation disruptions.
  • Coordinating with local governments, emergency responders, and planners to minimize reliance on gasoline distribution sites outside the region.
  • Creating early warning systems in the event of dam breaches near transportation corridors.
  • Strategically placing staging areas for fuel supplies based on anticipated flooding and other hazards.

Finally, the MPO conducted an impact analysis by assessing the potential climate change impacts on proposed LRTP projects. Proposed projects were mapped against hazards such as the 500-year floodplain, wildfire risk areas, and steep landslide-prone slopes. The chapter includes the list of projects in hazard-prone areas, as well as maps of existing transportation assets located in the 500-year floodplain.

This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support  from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on March 31, 2016.


Publication Date: September 23, 2010

Related Organizations:

  • French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)


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Resource Types:

  • Plans (other)

States Affected:


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