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Integrating Climate Change into the Transportation Planning Process

Chapter 7: Climate Change Adaptation in Transportation Planning

The threats that climate change poses to transportation systems–including flooding, changes in average temperatures, and extreme weather events–are clear. But MPOs and DOTs have little if any information on precisely what impacts they can expect, where, and in what time frames. As a result, agencies are largely not acting to adapt the transportation system to climate change, or are waiting for further guidance on the topic. But agencies can still take preliminary steps to study the issues.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is in the very early stages of a research study on the potential impacts of climate change on Bay Area transportation infrastructure. The study will examine the risk from sea level rise, coupled with storm surge. MTC is conducting this study in coordination with a regional partner, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. It is not yet clear how the study will feed into long range planning processes.

Puget Sound Regional Council

Puget Sound Regional Council is not currently taking action to adapt the transportation system to a changing climate. Deciding how to incorporate adaptation into the LRTP is a particular challenge. Like many MPOs, PSRC is an agency that plans for and coordinates the efforts of local jurisdictions; the agency has no implementing authority. It is not clear what the role of the agency should be in establishing protective measures.

Still, PSRC specifically recognizes the need to consider adaptation to climate change in the LRTP including impacts on the transportation system such as:6

New York State DOT

New York State DOT (NYSDOT) in interested in thinking about adaptation, but has yet to focus on it within transportation planning. They have created a working group for climate change issues, which includes MPOs and the NYSDEC, that is considering a number of issues and conducting an assessment to decide what issues to focus on. Adaptation is being considered within this group. If NYSDOT had the resources, the agency would like to conduct a study on regional sea level rise and climatic changes, similar to the U.S. Climate Change Science Program's recently released Gulf Coast Study.7

  1. 6 "Transportation Planning and Climate Change,” Presentation by Kelly McGourty, PSRC, to the WSDOT Transportation Planning Symposium, November 14, 2007. Available at:
  2. 7 U.S. Climate Change Science Program (USCCSP), Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, Phase I. Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.7, March 2008. Available at:
Updated: 12/23/2016
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