Summary Report: Peer Workshop on Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts
2.0 Key Workshop Themes
While several DOTs (mainly those in states already experiencing climate change impacts) have ongoing infrastructure modernization and repair activities that will help certain facilities become more resilient in the face of climate change, few of the DOTs represented in the peer exchange are addressing transportation system adaptation to climate change as a distinct policy or program area.
DOTs and their partner agencies are evolving toward "risk management" approaches to asset management and investment programs. In a limited resource environment, a process that seeks to understand and manage the risks to the transportation system from climate change, rather than continuing with a "worst first" approach, is key to ensuring the most critical infrastructure continues to function adequately.
DOTs believe key technical assistance and research needs include identifying, inventorying and managing critical transportation infrastructure, risk management approaches and methodologies, and flexible design standards that can account for changing conditions. Dissemination of and access to best practices and related information on these and related topics would be of great value to states, MPOs and others. Any federal policies or guidance flowing from related research should ensure states and localities have enough flexibility to account for their unique situations.
Approaches and strategies for climate change adaptation should be developed through partnerships and cooperation, both within and across governmental levels. Of particular importance are approaches that integrate different disciplines within DOTs (e.g., design, engineering, planning, finance, etc.) into adaptation strategy development. Partners in these efforts also need to be proactive and agree on near-term actions and investments that have long-term (e.g., decades in the future) benefits for the system and society. Inter-agency and inter-governmental efforts may require an agency or level to be designated as implementation "lead," but this designation should be secondary to achieving a cooperative and collaborative decision-making process.
DOTs and other transportation agencies need access to robust, reliable and geographically-relevant data on climate change forecasts and impacts. These data are essential for adequate and cost-effective planning of adaptation investments and management of long-range risk to facilities and systems. These data are also important for assessments of Environmental Justice-related issues associated with adaptation strategies and for educating land use decision-makers on risks associated with planning and development decisions.
There remains a need for extensive education and outreach on climate change and its associated impacts directed at the public and policy-makers nationwide. It is difficult for a DOT to pursue a specific climate change adaptation initiative if decision-makers and their constituents do not have a common understanding of climate change impacts and implications for the transportation system, particularly when there are so many immediate priorities competing for limited funds.