U.S. Department of Transportation Climate Adaptation Plan: Ensuring Transportation Infrastructure and System Resilience

On February 7th, 2013 35 federal agencies released their third annual Sustainability Plans, which for the first time included Climate Change Adaptation Plans to help federal agencies reach sustainability and climate change resilience goals.

President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on October 5, 2009, which requires each federal agency to issue an SSPP, set new sustainability standards for operations, and directs agencies to improve their environmental, energy and economic performance. Agencies are charged with evaluating their climate change risks and vulnerabilities to manage the effects on the agency's mission and operations in both the short- and long-term. Under this E.O. and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Implementing Instructions, agencies are required to submit a Climate Adaptation Plan for implementation in 2013. (More information on E.O. 13514 and the Implementing Instructions can be found in this clearinghouse.)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) began working on climate adaptation a number of years before this requirement because potential climate impacts influence DOT’s strategic goals of safety, state of good repair and environmental sustainability. This plan incorporates DOT’s earlier report on vulnerabilities to climate variability and change, and the their Policy Statement on Climate Adaptation.

This adaptation plan lays out the steps that DOT will take to move towards fully integrating considerations of climate change and variability in DOT policies, programs and operations. DOT identified three high-level priority actions for implementation in both Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013. Each of these actions support the agency’s mission and improve the transportation sector’s ability to assess and build resilience to risks posed by climate variability and change. DOT operating administrations committed to implementing the following priority actions:  

Planning. DOT will take actions to ensure that Federal transportation investment decisions address potential climate impacts in statewide and metropolitan transportation planning and project development processes as appropriate in order to protect federal investments. Through such actions transportation systems will gradually become better prepared for future climate shifts.

Asset Management. DOT will work to incorporate climate variability and change impact considerations in asset management. For example, modal administrations will work with grantees to assure that potential impacts are incorporated into existing grantee asset management systems. Agencies will assess the policy, guidance, practices, and performance measures of its asset management programs to incorporate such considerations.

Tools. DOT will provide tools, case studies, best practices, and outreach for incorporating climate considerations into transportation decision-making.

The Office of the Secretary and operating administrations are each playing a role in implementing this plan. The Office of Safety, Energy and Environment (OSEE) in the Office of the Secretary (OST) is coordinating DOT’s actions with support from the Research and Innovative Technologies Administration and DOT’s Climate Change Center.



Publication Date: May 2013

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