South Florida Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Pilot Project: Final Report

From 2013 to 2015, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sponsored climate resilience pilot studies by partnering with State Departments of Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). The FHWA’s Climate Change Resilience Pilots were designed to conduct climate change and extreme weather vulnerability assessments of transportation infrastructure and to analyze options for adapting and improving resiliency. This report presents the results of the FHWA pilot study in the southeast Florida region of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties.

The South Florida team, led by the Broward MPO, conducted a detailed geospatial analysis to calculate vulnerability scores for "regionally significant" road and passenger rail infrastructure. The project also developed recommended strategies for partner agencies to incorporate the vulnerability results into their normal decision-making processes. The study examined three climate change-related impacts including: sea level rise (SLR) inundation, storm surge flooding, and heavy precipitation induced flooding. The pilot also developed an approach for analyzing climate change-related risks to the regionally significant transportation system that can be replicated and updated over time.

South Florida’s project began with a vulnerability assessment based on the FHWA’s Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework. A scoring system was used to rate each road and rail link in the region for their vulnerability to permanent sea level rise inundation and periodic inundation from storm surge and heavy rainfall. The level of vulnerability for each asset was defined as a product of three factors, following the guidance in the FHWA Vulnerability Framework, including: Exposure, Sensitivity, and Adaptive capacity. 

From the assessment results, regional facilities in Monroe County were found most vulnerable due to low elevations and lack of redundancies/alternative routes. Causeways and regional facilities on barrier islands were highly vulnerable due to long detour lengths and low elevations. Regional roadways through the Everglades were highly vulnerable due to high flood exposure, low elevations and long detour lengths.

The sea level rise analysis conducted for this study was based on work conducted by the GeoPlan Center at the University of Florida for the Florida Department of Transportation. The GeoPlan Center developed the Sea Level Scenario Sketch Planning Tool for determining projections of local relative sea level for different climate emission scenarios and estimates of glacial melt rates. This study used this information to understand the implications of 1-, 2- and 3-foot increments of SLR inundation; scenarios that may be reached by the middle to end of this century in South Florida.

The study identified four major actions that can provide a stronger linkage between climate change concerns and transportation decision-making:

  • Develop a goal statement relating to climate change that can be used as part of the transportation planning process.
  • Identify climate change-related prioritization criteria that can be used as part of the project priority/programming process.
  • Identify and apply performance measures to promote transportation system resiliency.
  • Apply tools to identify and assess continuing climate change-related impacts.


Publication Date: April 10, 2015

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  • Assessment
  • Plans (other)

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