The Innovative DOT: A Handbook of Policy and Practice (Focus Area 7: Integrate Transportation and Land Use Decision-Making – Climate Change Resilience and Long-Range Planning Section)

“The Innovative DOT: A Handbook of Policy and Practice,” developed by the State Smart Transportation Initiative and Smart Growth America, contains a resiliency section that provides guidance for state departments of transportation (DOTs) on how to incorporate climate change adaptation into long-range transportation planning. It provides state DOTs with a comprehensive list of reforms that will address potential climate-related vulnerabilities and reduce the likelihood, magnitude, duration and cost of disruption associated with extreme weather. The resiliency section, entitled “Incorporate Climate Change Resilience into Long-Range Planning,” is included into the larger handbook, which provides general guidance to state DOTs on ways to improve their transportation systems.

The resiliency section summarizes the potential effects of climate change on a state’s transportation system, describes how climate change adaptation planning can help a state protect its transportation assets, and outlines steps state DOTs can take to assess vulnerability and identify and implement changes to improve the system’s resilience. 

The section reviews the effects of climate change and the impact extreme weather can have on a state’s transportation assets. For example, the increased intensity, variability, duration, and frequency of weather events could lead to shortened infrastructure lifespans, increased risk of catastrophic failures, and increased costs. It provides guidance for state DOTs on ways to implement resilience in transportation systems through operational and infrastructure changes. There are three key adaptation planning steps that state DOTs can take to assess system vulnerability and risks, and identify and implement changes to improve the system’s resilience. These steps include: (1) documenting  environmental changes and selecting the most appropriate climate models to predict future conditions; (2) identifying climate change-related stressors and their impacts on the transportation system, and inventorying transportation assets, focusing on characteristics that could help or hinder adaptation; and (3) developing and assessing alternative strategies for adapting infrastructure and operations.

The handbook also highlights FHWA-sponsored pilot projects for incorporating resilience into transportation planning. These pilots were intended to encourage state and regional agencies in the development of climate adaptation plans using FHWA’s Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework. Three of the states that conducted pilot projects (Washington, California, and Massachusetts) are featured in the handbook as case studies. Washington completed the vulnerability and risk assessment step by identifying at-risk transportation assets and planning to further develop a set of specific adaptation strategies for the assets. California has begun developing and selecting strategies for transportation infrastructure, and has developed guidance to assist MPOs and regional transportation planning agencies with assessing their vulnerability and incorporating climate adaptation into the development of their regional plans. Massachusetts committed funding to address climate impacts according to recommendations made in the state’s 2011 Climate Change Adaptation Report, which included recommendations for improving transportation facilities’ preparedness for extreme weather events.

The handbook was commissioned by the U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration to assist state DOTs with prioritizing reforms by offering strategies that can be undertaken to improve a state’s transportation system.


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on March 17, 2016.



Publication Date: January 2015

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