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Highways and Climate Change Newsletter

Fall 2014

Prepared by the Office of Planning, Environment and Realty
Federal Highway Administration
www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/climate_change/

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Recent Events and Reports

FHWA Issues Climate Change and Extreme Weather Resilience Order. FHWA Order 5520, Transportation System Preparedness and Resilience to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events, was signed on December 15, 2014 and states that it is FHWA policy to integrate consideration of climate and extreme weather risks into its planning, operations, policies and programs. Over the past decade FHWA has been a recognized leader in developing methods and tools to assist transportation agencies in assessing the vulnerabilities and risks of their transportation systems to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather. This new Order formalizes FHWA's commitment to this issue, guides the agencies' implementation of relevant MAP-21 provisions and recent Executive Orders, and identifies how the agency intends to continue to lead the transportation industry in making the nation's highways more resilient.

CEQ Issues NEPA Climate Guidance for Public Comment. The revised NEPA climate change guidance, updated from a draft version released in 2010, will be published in the Federal Register for a 60-day public comment period. The guidance addresses when and how climate change might be addressed in agency environmental reviews. It recommends a "reference point" of 25,000 tons per year of CO2 equivalent emissions as an indication of the proposed actions that would include a greenhouse gas analysis. It provides agency discretion to select the appropriate level of analysis, whether at the programmatic or landscape scale or at the project specific level. It also recommends agencies use the information developed during the NEPA review to consider alternatives that are more resilient to the effects of a changing climate. And noting that climate change can affect the vulnerability of a resource, ecosystem, human community, or structure, the guidance considers the affected environment of an action to include both the current and the expected future environment, for the life of the proposed project, based on available climate information. If finalized in its current form, the guidance would be applicable to all new agency actions and to on-going actions where practicable. [Update: the revised draft guidance was published in the December 24, 2014 Federal Register.  Comments are due February 23, 2015.]

USDOT Releases Agency Adaptation Plan. The 2014 DOT Adaptation Plan outlines the steps USDOT is taking to help improve the resilience of the Nation's transportation system. The plan was developed in accordance with the Council of Environmental Quality's Federal Agency Climate Change Adaptation Planning Implementing Instructions.

FHWA Engineering Circular Outlines Methods for Improving Coastal Highway Resilience. Hydraulic Engineering Circular 25, Vol. 2: Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events (October, 2014) provides technical guidance and methods for assessing the vulnerability of coastal transportation facilities to extreme events and climate change, focusing on sea level rise, storm surge, and waves. Approaches are based upon using risk-based, data driven concepts manifested by three different levels of effort ranging from use of available data to original numerical modeling. The manual also contains a method for computing relative sea level rise based on local tidal gages and likely impacts of climate change. The FHWA anticipates that there will be multiple uses for this guidance including risk and vulnerability assessments, coastal floodplain management, planning activities, and design procedure development. HEC-25 v2 aligns with current and anticipated FHWA policy and programmatic guidance in areas of extreme events, extreme weather events, climate change, adaptation, and resilience.

USDOT Releases Climate Change Resilience Engineering Case Studies. The latest release from USDOT's multiyear study of potential climate impacts in Mobile, Alabama,Engineering Assessments of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Measures, discusses a series of engineering assessments on specific transportation facilities in Mobile that evaluated whether those facilities might be vulnerable to projected changes in climate, and what specific adaptation measures could be effective in mitigating those vulnerabilities. It includes a description of the climate impact assessment process used, as well as findings that may apply more generally to engineering design practices, operations and maintenance practices, and other lessons learned. A roll-out webcast of the larger study, Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: The Gulf Coast Study, Phase 2, will be held in January (see announcement below.

FHWA Funds Greenhouse Gas Analysis Approaches. Four awards were made as a result of a July 2014 FHWA solicitation to assist State DOTs and MPOs in performing a greenhouse gas/energy analysis at the planning level. The following organizations were awarded funding:

USDOT Workshop Focuses on Connected Vehicles. The USDOT ITS Joint Program Office (JPO) held a connected vehicle environmental application workshop on October 22 in Washington D.C. The workshop provided an overview of USDOT's Connected Vehicle (CV) Pilots initiative, and solicited stakeholder feedback on potential CV applications that could lead to emissions and fuel use reductions and serve as candidates for near-term deployment. Also featured were presentations on real-world applications of CV technology, and estimates of potential emissions and fuel use reductions that were modeled through the JPO's Applications for the Environment: Real-Time Information Synthesis (AERIS) program. Additional information is available on the workshop and the AERIS program.

IPCC Releases Synthesis of Fifth Climate Assessment. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the final installment in its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which consists of three Working Group reports and the newly released Synthesis Report. AR5 provides an overview of the state of knowledge concerning the science of climate change, emphasizing new results since the publication of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report in 2007. The synthesis combines the main findings of reports on the Physical Science Basis; Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability; and Mitigation of Climate Change; plus two additional IPCC reports: Special Report on Renewable Energy and Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. The report includes discussion on the importance of understanding and mitigating risks and dealing with uncertainty.

State and Local News

Hillsborough County MPO Releases Climate Resilience Pilot Project Report. Hillsborough County MPO: Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Pilot Project details the project's analysis methods and conclusions. The Hillsborough County MPO, along with the Planning Commission, Hillsborough County Public Works-Hazard Mitigation Section, the University of South Florida, and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Commission, participated in an FHWA pilot project to assess the resiliency of the transportation system in Hillsborough County. The project included an inventory and assessment of critical transportation assets across the county; identification of those assets potentially at-risk from sea level rise, storm surge and inland flooding; and an estimation of potential mobility and economic losses associated with the disruption of critical assets. The study also included an analysis of potential adaptation strategies to manage the identified climate risks. For more information on the FHWA climate resilience pilot projects visit the Climate Resilience Pilot Project Website.

Announcements and Upcoming Events

Webcast to Roll-out Climate Change Risk Management Tools: January 22, 2:00-3:30 EST. Climate/Weather Risk Management Tools for Transportation Professionals - Learning from the Gulf Coast will be a live 1.5 hour webcast to introduce findings from the study and vulnerability assessment tools that will be freely available on FHWA's website. The webcast will be followed by a series of webinars with more detailed information about the tools and resources from the study. Register for the event here.

FHWA Seeking Transportation Assets for Engineering Case Studies.  FHWA is conducting a new project, called Transportation Engineering Approaches to Climate Resiliency (TEACR), that is focused on conducting engineering analyses on specific pieces of highway infrastructure around the country to examine how to assess their vulnerability to changing climactic conditions and how to develop adaptation options. The team needs your help in identifying specific transportation infrastructure assets that can be used as case studies in developing and/or testing new methodologies. If would like to volunteer some of your transportation assets for analysis, please contact Rob Hyman at Robert.Hyman@dot.gov.

Workshop on FHWA Climate Resilience Pilots at TRB Annual Meeting: Sunday, January 11, 9:00-12:00, Convention Center, 209C. One of several climate change related workshops and sessions at the upcoming meeting, this session presents the results from several of the FHWA-sponsored climate resilience pilot projects. A list of additional climate change and sustainability-related TRB sessions and workshops FHWA is involved in is available on FHWA's Sustainable Highways initiative website.

International Conference on Transportation System Resilience to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events-Call for Presentations due February 13, 2015. The Transportation Research Board is sponsoring the International Conference on Transportation System Resilience to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events on September 16-18, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The event is designed to provide transportation agencies with information, research results, and sample practices to assist in their ability to predict and adapt to the potential impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. The conference will also attempt to promote international dialogue on research, implementation and lessons learned. Submit abstracts for presentations and posters online by February 13, 2015.

If you have any suggestions for inclusion in future issues of Transportation and Climate Change News, please send your suggestions to Becky Lupes at Rebecca.Lupes@dot.gov. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you and you'd like to receive it directly in the future, please sign up for updates on FHWA's Climate Change and Sustainability homepage at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/climate_change/

FHWA HQ Climate Change Contacts in the Office of Planning, Environment & Realty:

Office of Natural Environment, Sustainable Transport & Climate Change Team

Office of Planning

Office of Project Development & Environmental Review

Updated: 2/4/2016
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