Savannah, Georgia Region's Total Mobility Plan: 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan

The Coastal Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (CORE MPO) adopted the Total Mobility Plan: 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (“plan”) to help guide officials responsible for planning and preparing Chatham County-Savannah infrastructure for changes the region will see in the upcoming decades, including the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. Required by federal law to be updated every five years, the plan updates the region’s 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan and puts a greater emphasis on sustainability, complete streets, context-sensitive design and non-motorized transportation options. The plan specifically cites environmental and quality of life considerations such as protection of wetlands and historic resources, and implementing green infrastructure adaptation strategies among its priorities for transportation planning in the coming years.

In developing the plan, the CORE MPO put a special emphasis on citizen and stakeholder engagement. In addition to hosting public workshops throughout the planning process, they hosted several stakeholder-specific workshops to solicit more targeted input, including a climate change workshop in April 2013. Attendees included representatives from the MPO, the City of Savannah, and Chatham County, as well as educational institutions, private firms, the military, local transit agencies, news media, advisory boards, and other interested parties. The workshop included educational materials, breakout discussions on adaptation, and the development of specific strategies the region can use going forward, which were then in turn incorporated into the final Total Mobility Plan.

The workshop featured presentations describing the difference between mitigation and adaptation strategies, and presented the impacts of climate change on both a broad, national scale and at the local level. In particular, the presentations used data from the National Climatic Data Center, the National Weather Service and the USGS to highlight impacts on local tides; increased frequency and severity of disasters like wildfires, heat events, and hurricanes; sea-level rise; storm surges; and increased pressure on infrastructure from more frequent and intense precipitation and flooding. The region could face as much as a five-degree increase in average summer temperatures by 2069. Further, Highway 80 (currently the only access point to the region’s Tybee Island) could flood as many as 180 days per year by 2060, up from roughly 5 now. Finally, as the region is home to the nation’s second largest export facility – the Port of Savannah – which moved almost three million 20-foot container units in 2013, sea-level rise and increased frequency and intensity of precipitation and hurricanes pose a huge economic risk to the area as well.

To combat these potential impacts, the CORE MPO’s plan incorporates a number of the adaptation strategies and suggestions collected at their climate change workshop. For short-term strategies, the plan specifically points to reestablishing oyster beds, better stormwater retention during high tides, assessing infrastructure and potential disinvestments, and retrofitting bridge footing for greater stability and resilience. Long-term strategies highlighted include “eco-arming” (e.g. using berms with natural vegetation to protect infrastructure), elevating critical infrastructure (such as Highway 80), and transitioning to renewable energy sources. Other suggestions from the climate change and adaptation workshop included conducting a GIS hazard assessment of potential infrastructure vulnerabilities, changing zoning and building codes, preparing emergency evacuation routes at various levels of sea-level rise, relocating facilities including bus shelters, and researching new materials to address increased heat events and severe precipitation events, such as heat-resistant and permeable materials.

The CORE MPO’s plan represents a strong effort at incorporating local expertise and public feedback into transportation and infrastructure plans. This not only increases public awareness of potential climate change impacts, but also public investment in future adaptation efforts as well.

 

This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated January 27, 2016.

 

Publication Date: August 2014

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