The City of Keene, New Hampshire’s Adaptation Planning Activities – Transportation Elements

This case study details efforts in Keene, New Hampshire to assess the vulnerability of transportation assets to future climate impacts and to recommend adaptive responses in city land-use and transportation plans. Keene’s 2007 Climate Adaptation Plan identified transportation infrastructure vulnerable to climate impacts and suggested strategies to improve its resiliency. In 2010, Keene incorporated recommendations from the Adaptation Plan into the city’s Comprehensive Master Plan, which provides the general template for future zoning and land-use regulations in the City, including decisions about the city road system.

Drawing on climate data from three separate reports, the Adaptation Plan warned that climate impacts could result in damage to transportation infrastructure such as roadways, bridges, and flood water control systems in Keene. The Plan references the climate change projections included in the 2007 report by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) entitled "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report, "Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast: a Report of Northeast Climate Impacts," and the third report by the Northeast Climate Impact Assessment team and UCS - "Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast: Science, Impacts, and Solutions." Based upon these reports, the Plan predicts that Keene could expect more frequent flooding, drought, and extreme weather in the next century. The Plan indicates that unpredictable freeze-thaw patterns, and increases in flooding, snow, and ice cover, all threaten to damage roadways and bridges and complicate maintenance efforts. The Plan notes that culverts in the region are unable to handle the projected runoff, which could expose roadways to flooding and structural damage.

The Adaptation Plan made several recommendations for responding to these projected impacts:

  • Change zoning regulations and site plans to encourage the development of a grid road system to provide alternative routes of travel in the event of flooding.
  • Increase infill development and redevelopment to avoid growth in high-risk areas.
  • Identify the 200-year floodplain to prevent development of roadways in zones susceptible to extreme flooding.
  • Update the City’s Infrastructure Standards to further public safety during flooding and extreme weather.
  • Adapt roadway building techniques to more efficiently disperse water from roadways, such as improving roads with variable surface pitches, improving the design of storm water systems, and adopting permeable building materials that absorb more water.
  • Build larger culverts and replace outdated storm water systems.
  • Ensure the greater availability of sustainable transportation (such as public transportation, biking and walking) through Transportation Demand Management (TDM), zoning changes, and multi-modal infrastructure.

The 2010 Master Plan for the City incorporates many of the strategies detailed in the Adaptation Plan. It promotes the development of grid-type transportation infrastructure as part of an initiative to focus future development in compact areas. The Master Plan’s vision of a “park and walk” community reduces the burden on roads by encouraging travel through means other than personal motor vehicles. This also means introducing a public transportation service and developing a regional rideshare program. The Master Plan endorses unconventional approaches to stormwater management in order to reduce the burden of flooding on transportation assets. These include considering the removal of bridges over streambeds that obstruct water flow and restoring wetland storm basins. The Master Plan also recommends the amendment of the land-use ordinance to require the adoption of impervious surface materials and stormwater recycling in new development projects. 

The Adaptation Plan was developed as part of the ICLEI’s Climate Resilient Communities (CRC) pilot program.  Keene created a CRC Committee comprised of the Mayor, City Manager, department heads, and City Council members - which worked to identify the most serious potential climate impacts, categorize a series of targets slated for adaptive improvements, and prioritize them for funding. Although the Adaptation Plan has no legal effect, adoption of the recommendations into the City’s Master Plan will help ensure implementation of the recommended measures.


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on October 30, 2015.


Publication Date: September 13, 2010

Related Organizations:

  • City of Keene, New Hampshire


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan
  • Case study
  • Plans (other)

States Affected:


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