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Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Pilots

Solicitation for Pilot Projects: Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessments and Adaptation Options Analysis

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FHWA is soliciting descriptions of proposed pilot projects from State Departments of Transportation (State DOTs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Federal Lands Management Agencies (FLMAs), and Tribes addressing one of two areas related to climate change and extreme weather adaptation:

This pilot program is jointly sponsored by the Office of Environment, Planning and Realty, and the Office of Infrastructure.


In 2010-2011, FHWA sponsored five MPO and State DOT led pilots to conduct vulnerability and risk assessments of their transportation infrastructure. The pilot teams used a draft FHWA conceptual model for conducting systems-level vulnerability and risk assessments of infrastructure that would likely be impacted by climate change effects. FHWA has since restructured that conceptual model into an updated framework, incorporating lessons learned from the 2010-2011 pilots and other studies. FHWA plans to further build on the updated framework with experiences and lessons learned from the new pilot program announced via this memorandum.

A draft of the updated framework is appended to this memo. It is effectively a set of considerations, examples, and resource references for assessing climate change and extreme weather vulnerability of transportation infrastructure and for assessing adaptation options. The framework is intended to be applied to both existing and planned transportation assets.

The pilot projects funded as a part of this effort will use and build on the framework. The purpose of the pilot program is twofold: 1) to assist State DOTs, MPOs, FLMAs, and Tribes advance transportation adaptation assessment activities and 2) to assist FHWA in building on the framework.

Description of the Pilot Program

As pilot program participants work on their studies, they will have opportunities for peer-to-peer discussions with participants from other pilots both in person and via webinars.

FHWA will monitor progress of the pilots and will provide guidance as needed. In the event that technical assistance is needed, FHWA will attempt to provide it to the extent practicable. FHWA will establish a single point of contact within the agency to ensure consistency in direction and communication.

The pilots will be required to complete their assessments within 18 months from approval of the work plan (pilot projects taking less time will be acceptable).

Project Types Sought

Type I: Vulnerability Assessment Pilots:

The first category of projects is for assessments that analyze the vulnerability of transportation infrastructure to climate change effects and extreme weather such as heat waves, heavy precipitation, droughts, wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and sea level rise. This type of analysis provides valuable information to decision-makers on which transportation assets are vulnerable to impacts such as flooding or material degradation; the degree of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity; and the consequences of impact. It provides a foundation for then conducting in-depth analysis of options for reducing vulnerabilities and improving resilience. The five FHWA pilots sponsored in 2010-2011 mostly fell into this category. Types of analyses that could be funded include:

  1. Conducting a new systems-level vulnerability assessment of transportation infrastructure. This would be appropriate for a transportation agency that has not done previous work on this topic. FHWA encourages applications from agencies that are new to the topic area.
  2. Expanding the geographic scope of existing vulnerability assessments to enable more complete coverage of an agency's jurisdictional area.
  3. Conducting a more refined/detailed vulnerability assessment or analysis on sub-areas identified by a previous vulnerability assessment as at-risk.

Type II: Adaptation Options and Integration Pilots:

The second category of projects is for assessments of adaptation options for improving the resilience of transportation assets vulnerable to climate change effects and extreme weather. This analysis is appropriate for those transportation agencies that have already conducted a vulnerability assessment or where known vulnerabilities exist (for instance a transportation asset or group of assets that already frequently flood).

Types of analyses that could be funded include:

  1. Evaluating options to reduce risk to a specific individual asset (e.g. particular bridge, specific roadway section), or groups of assets (e.g. culverts, ITS infrastructure) previously identified as at-risk. Includes the development of various engineering-based adaptation options such as using different construction materials, widening culverts, installing flood controls, increasing maintenance, etc. Also includes detailed cost-benefit analysis and/or life-cycle cost analysis of adaptation alternatives.
  2. Converting information on potential vulnerabilities into information on costs of inaction relative to costs of risk reduction strategies.
  3. Incorporating climate change and extreme weather considerations into agency practices. Create guidelines/process for using/applying results of vulnerability assessments. Incorporate climate change vulnerability considerations into:
    1. asset management,
    2. emergency and risk management,
    3. transportation planning project selection criteria,
    4. environmental review, and/or
    5. operations and maintenance.

Final Product

Each pilot should result in a final report that details the work performed, parties involved, roles and responsibilities, issues encountered, lessons learned, recommendations for future action, and recommendations on improving the framework and adding to the state of the practice. The final report should be in a form that is sharable with other agencies, and may be posted to the FHWA website.

Number of Pilots and Funding

It is anticipated that 8 to 15 pilots will be made selected and funded at approximately $75,000 to $300,000 each. By Federal statute, a 100% non-Federal match is required for these funds to be awarded to the pilot areas. In-kind contributions such as staffing can be counted towards the match requirement. We anticipate funding approximately four to six vulnerability assessment pilots and four to ten adaptation options pilots.

Process for Selecting Pilots

The following process will be followed in the application, review, and award process for the pilot program:

  1. Solicitation Released
    (November 16, 2012)
  2. Completed project descriptions from applicants submitted to FHWA Division Office
    (Due: January 22, 2013)
  3. Division Office reviews, sends with endorsement/comments to FHWA HQ
    (Due: January 29, 2012)
  4. FHWA HQ announces selected pilot projects
    (February 19, 2012)
  5. FHWA HQ transfers funds to Division Office for distribution
    (February 26, 2010)

Total time: approximately 3 ½ months

Informational Webinar

FHWA will hold an optional, informational webinar for agencies interested in applying to the pilot program. FHWA staff will provide a brief overview of the framework and pilot program and answer questions from the audience. The webinar is tentatively scheduled for December 6, from 2:00-3:30 Eastern Time. More information will be posted at as it is finalized.

Required Contents for Proposed Pilot Project Descriptions

  1. Description of the Proposed Effort

    This section should include the purpose/goal and a detailed description of the effort to be funded. This section should also include the existing adaptation efforts and the geographic focus of the project (e.g. statewide, metropolitan area, DOT maintenance district, floodplain, etc), the types of climate change and/or extreme weather effect(s) and impacts to be addressed, and the agencies that will be involved. This section should clearly identify the lead agency for the pilot. Note that an MPO, State DOT, FLMA, or Tribe must be the lead for the project.

  2. Description of Dedicated Staffing/Resources

    Agencies should ensure that adequate funding, staffing and technical resources to successfully complete the pilot are identified and available. This should include the areas of transportation planning, asset management, engineering, environmental, and data and GIS, as appropriate. This section should fully describe the funding and assets that will be dedicated to the pilot, and demonstrate how the non-Federal match requirement will be met. This section should describe how the proposed effort fits within other climate change and extreme weather adaptation, vulnerability assessment, asset inventory or other related, on-going efforts, if applicable.

  3. Draft Work Plan

    Areas should provide a draft work plan to inform the selection process, which should explain how the applicant plans to conduct the assessment and apply or build on the framework. This would include the phases of work, budget, their sequencing, work products, and timing. If contractor assistance is planned to support the effort, that support and estimated level of effort should be included.

  4. Letters of support from partners, stakeholders

    While State DOTs, MPOs, FLMAs or Tribes must be the lead agency for the effort, we encourage partnerships and collaboration with other State DOTs, MPOs, FLMAs and/or Tribes, universities, public transportation agencies, airport authorities, local governments, and non-profits, among others. This section should include any letters of support from other agencies, partners or stakeholders critical to the success of the pilot project. Such letters strengthen the proposal by demonstrating collaboration and coordination with other agencies or entities in the pilot. Multimodal and multi-jurisdictional projects are encouraged.

Finalizing the Work Plan

After selection, the recipient will participate in a conference call with FHWA to discuss the pilot project. FHWA will provide feedback on the draft work plan, the goals of the project and any additional assistance/resources that FHWA may have available. A revised work plan should be submitted and approved by FHWA before commencing work.

Criteria for selection

The pilot areas will be selected to provide a mix of coastal and non-coastal environments, relevant climate change and extreme weather effects, geographic dispersal, and urban/rural issues. Projects from inland areas are particularly encouraged as the 2010-2011 pilots were focused in primarily coastal environments. In addition, the following criteria will be used (not in priority order):

  1. Project is application-oriented, not for theoretical research
  2. Well thought out project plan and technical approach
  3. Willingness to help improve framework and provide case studies and lessons learned to share with others
  4. Demonstrated funding/staff/resources
  5. 100% non-Federal match demonstrated
  6. Collaborative approaches and partnerships demonstrated


Becky Lupes, Office of Natural Environment, 202-366-7808
Tina Hodges, Office of Natural Environment, 202-366-4287
Michael Culp, Office of Natural Environment, 202-366-9229
Steve Gaj, Office of Asset Management, Pavement, and Construction, 202-366-1336
Joe Krolak, Office of Bridges and Structures, 202-366-4611


Updated: 12/28/2016
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