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Assessment of the Body of Knowledge on Incorporating Climate Change Adaptation Measures into Transportation Projects

7 Adaptation Research Underway

The state of the practice in transportation adaptation is continuously advancing. At the time of this report, additional research is underway, the products of which can inform how transportation decision makers plan to increase resilience.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) is funding adaptation pilot projects to help advance the state of adaptation practice. These pilots are important on several fronts. First, they are helping to increase the number of state and local agencies that are implementing on-the-ground adaptation measures. Second, they help mobilize resources for resource-constrained state and local agencies that otherwise would not have received support for adaptation projects. Finally, they offer important information-sharing opportunities among peer agencies, allowing them to share and build upon each other's lessons learned.

FHWA is funding a series of highway adaptation pilots (for which this report is being developed as a resource). The first round of five pilot projects[6], conducted in 2010-2011, tested FHWA's climate change vulnerability assessment conceptual model. A second round currently underway includes both pilots focused on vulnerability assessments, and pilots focused on analyzing adaptation options. The 19 pilot teams will share with each other their experiences and lessons learned throughout the process.[7] The pilot projects are expected to be completed in 2014.

The experiences of these pilot projects will inform updates to FHWA's Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework. The Framework guides transportation agencies through the process of conducting a vulnerability assessment and processing the results (FHWA 2012c). The Framework discusses ways to incorporate vulnerability into decision making, which include identifying, analyzing, and prioritizing adaptation options; incorporating assessment findings into transportation programs; and engaging stakeholders both within and outside the agency.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is also sponsoring a related series of adaptation pilots, focused on transit. As one of the largest transit adaptation grant opportunities to date, the FTA Climate Change Adaptation Assessment Pilot program is funding seven pilot projects to evaluate climate system vulnerabilities to climate change and opportunities for adapting to the identified climate risks. Through these pilots, feasible immediate adaptation efforts have been identified, including improvement on data collection and strategies for managing right-of-way flooding.

Several California municipalities are addressing climate change impacts in their local Climate Action Plans. Transportation is one of the sectors being considered in many of these adaptation plans. Most of these plans are forthcoming; when they are available, they will provide insight into how local municipalities are planning on preparing their transportation networks for the impacts of climate change. Sonoma County and Marin County are two of the municipalities currently considering adaptation strategies in their local Climate Action Plans.

Updated: 3/27/2014
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