The purpose of this report is to provide a summary of five workshops on addressing climate change in the State and metropolitan transportation planning processes that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sponsored in 2010. This report also provides an assessment of the workshop results and suggestions for further FHWA activity related to supporting consideration of climate change in transportation planning.
1. Overall Project
Transportation accounts for about 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions and is the fastest growing end-use sector of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most commonly emitted greenhouse gas, accounting for 95 percent of U.S. transportation emissions in 2006. As transportation both contributes to, and is affected by, climate change, research in recent years has focused both on mitigation of transportation's contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to potential impacts on infrastructure. Additional research, however, is needed to better understand and evaluate how various strategies, such as land use changes, policy initiatives and infrastructure construction and management approaches, may affect the transportation sector's emissions of GHGs. In addition, as our fiscal resources continue to be constrained and calls for greater accountability and transparency in public spending grow, it is important to determine how new energy and greenhouse gas performance goals may affect fundamental transportation system performance and inform the development of measures for slowing VMT growth and reducing emissions.
Thus, in late 2009, FHWA initiated a research project on strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from surface transportation and develop scenario planning approaches, through the use of alternatives, which take into consideration greenhouse gas reductions in transportation planning. This project is intended to support the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment and Realty (HEP) and will be used to inform actions of the FHWA, State DOTs, MPOs, and other transportation stakeholders across the Nation. The project includes development of a guidebook on strategies for GHG emissions from transportation sources and a web-based tool to help transportation planners analyze GHG reduction scenarios and alternatives for use in the transportation planning process, climate action plans, scenario planning exercises, and meeting State GHG reduction targets and goals. In addition, the project includes a series of workshops for selected DOTs and MPOs on integrating climate change considerations into transportation and comprehensive planning.
The workshops allowed for five State departments of transportation (DOT) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) to receive expert technical assistance focused on integrating climate change considerations (both GHG mitigation and adaptation to climate change impacts) into their planning process. FHWA originally had planned to focus the workshops on approaches to addressing climate change within transportation scenario planning. However, as development of the workshops proceeded, FHWA determined that the workshop participants in all locations, even those with a strong history of employing advanced planning methods, had not yet determined how to effectively analyze the transportation-climate change connection. Thus, FHWA decided that the workshops would be refined to focus mainly on GHG reduction tools, techniques, quantification and methodologies, with scenario planning approaches deemphasized.
FHWA initiated this project in late 2009 and conducted the five workshops during October and November 2010. The overall project, including the Guide to Mitigating Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Transportation Sources and the web-based tool, will be completed in the spring of 2011.