Paths to a Sustainable Region - Boston Region Long-Range Transportation Plan

The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), “Paths to a Sustainable Region,” outlines policies, programs, and projects of regional significance or major infrastructure projects that have been identified as priorities for the region between now and 2035. The Boston LRTP adds climate change as an area of emphasis, and acknowledges the importance of adaptation measures to lessen or avoid potential impacts from climate change.

Specifically,  the LRTP:

  1. identifies the impacts of climate change that are expected to affect the Boston MPO region;
  2. highlights areas where critical infrastructure will be affected by those impacts;
  3. outlines a vision for adapting to the effects of climate change;
  4. highlights policies that the MPO can take to achieve that vision;
  5. identifies possible performance measures that could be adopted to measure the MPO’s progress towards achieving their climate change vision; and
  6. identifies priority projects as candidates for funding.

In Chapter 5, ‘Livability and the Environment,’ the LRTP includes an infrastructure assessment to identify assets that may be vulnerable to extreme weather and other natural disasters, including flooding, storm surges, earthquakes, and potential sea-level rise. Through the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), the MPO created a GIS-mapping program. The mapping program documents the location of critical evacuation routes and emergency support locations for which access must be maintained. The LRTP explores the three major impacts of climate change that are likely to affect the Boston region: sea-level rise, flooding and hurricane impacts. Maps identify transportation assets that are susceptible to damage. The LRTP uses IPCC data and semi-empirical estimates of sea-level rise with ice sheet melt and FEMA maps to show high-risk areas for 100-year and 500-year flood events.

The LRTP sets a vision for identifying and protecting the critical elements of the region’s transportation infrastructure that may be vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. With respect to increasing the resiliency of the system to climate change and extreme weather events, the MPO recommends the following policies: stronger land-use and smart-growth strategies; increased transit, bicycle and pedestrian options; and investments in adaptation measures that protect critical infrastructure from effects resulting from climate change. The LRTP also recommends that the MPO implement actions stemming from all-hazards planning.

The LRTP climate change vision will help in selecting projects that improve the ability of the transportation system to withstand extreme conditions. Projects that improve an evacuation route or an access route to an emergency support location receive higher ratings in the project evaluation process. The evaluation process also rewards projects that address sea-level rise and flooding, meet current seismic design standards, or protect at-risk infrastructure.

The LRTP lists projects and programs that were selected for funding based on the informed judgment of MPO members. To prioritize investments the MPO members reviewed a matrix rating each individual highway and transit project for conformity with the MPO’s transportation policies and recommendations - including policies and recommendations related to climate change. Seven projects were recommended in the LRTP that conform with the MPO’s environmental and climate change policies, one of which is an adaptation measure: a second culvert will be built at Beaver Brook to alleviate flooding on Trapelo Road.

The LRTP also outlines possible performance measures that the MPO could adopt to measure progress towards achieving climate change goals. To achieve the goal of “protecting transportation infrastructure,” the LRTP suggests that Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) project selection criteria advance the goals of climate change, environment and livability articulated in the LRTP. TIP projects should improve response to extreme conditions. Other performance measures suggested in the LRTP could ensure the resilience of the system, including increasing roadways with fair or better pavement conditions and decreasing the number of structurally deficient bridges.

In July 2015, the MPO adopted its next LRTP update, Charting Progress to 2040 (“Charting Progress”). Charting Progress also incorporates climate change adaptation, identifying climate change as one of the key issues addressed by the Recommended Plan (a major component of the LRTP that identifies major, regionally-significant investments over the life of the LRTP). For example, the region’s Complete Streets Program will receive major funding over the plan years and will help preserve and adapt transportation infrastructure vulnerable to climate change and other hazards. Charting Progress also notes that development of a climate adaptation strategy is one of the projects in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s 2016 Capital Investment Program. Adapting the transportation system to climate change impacts is a component of the MPO’s system preservation goals and part of the MPO’s overall performance-based planning approach. Long-range transportation plans are updated every four to five years.


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on May 8, 2020.

Publication Date: September 22, 2011

Related Organizations:

  • Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Plans (other)

States Affected:


Go To Resource