Washington State DOT - Guidance for Considering Impacts of Climate Change in WSDOT Plans

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) developed this guidance to assist the department's planners with integrating climate change considerations in planning processes in order to build greater resilience of the state's transportation system. The guidance helps implement Strategy 3.2 of the department's strategic plan, Results WSDOT, which states that "WSDOT’s plans and projects undergoing environmental review, will document how climate change and extreme weather vulnerability are considered, and propose ways to improve resilience." The guidance is intended for use across all modes and regions for all infrastructure that is owned and operated by WSDOT or in some cases, multimodal transportation partners as well.

WSDOT relies on climate information from the Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment conducted by the University of Washington in 2009 and updated in 2013.  Additionally, WSDOT conducted a statewide Climate Impacts Vulnerability Assessment (CIVA) of all of the agency’s infrastructure, which is intended to help planners consider the vulnerability of future projects to climate change impacts. In particular, the guidance directs planning staff to refer to CIVA findings in any planning processes controlled entirely by WSDOT, but also encourages staff to share these findings with partners in other planning efforts (such as local or regional plans). More specifically, the guidance must be applied for statewide policy plans (such as the state's long-range transportation plan), state asset management plans, state-interest and state-owned modal plans (e.g., for the ferry system), and various corridor and network plans.

The guidance briefly outlines five steps that planning teams should follow:

  1. Examining results from the CIVA for the appropriate study/planning area;
  2. Contacting the WSDOT Environmental Services Policy Branch for additional assistance with tailoring the CIVA results for a specific area or mode;
  3. Collaborating with planning partners, including relevant local, state, federal, and tribal agencies that may have additional planning documents to leverage (e.g., climate vulnerability assessments, hazard mitigation plans, etc.);
  4. Developing appropriate resilience strategies to include in the plan, considering the level of potential adverse impacts to infrastructure covered by the plan, and potential service disruptions to underserved populations, among other considerations; and
  5. Documenting potential risks and ways that the plan will promote climate resilience.

Additional planning steps are outlined for corridor, area, and network planning processes.

The guidance concludes with links to additional resources, examples, and definitions and terminology. It also identifies existing strategic executive and agency directives that support considering climate change in planning, including Results Washington, Results WSDOT (the department's strategic plan), Executive Order 14-04 (promoting clean energy and carbon pollution reduction), and Washington's Integrated Climate Response Strategy. This guidance supplements WSDOT's Guidance for Project-Level Climate Change Evaluations.

Publication Date: July 2017

Related Organizations:

  • Washington State Department of Transportation


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Planning guides

States Affected:

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