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FHWA/AASHTO Climate Change Adaptation Peer Exchange - December 2009

7 State Roundtable

7.1 California, Sue Kiser, FHWA, California Division

7.1.1 California Adaptation Efforts

To respond to the challenge of climate change, Governor Schwarzenegger and the State Legislature passed the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32). The Act caps California's greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2020. By 2050, the Governor has established a goal of reducing emissions to 80 percent below 1990 emission levels in 2050. In addition, the Governor has issued five Executive Orders concerning climate change.

On November 14, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-13-08 directing state agencies to plan for sea-level rise and climate impacts. Key components of the Executive Order are: developing a statewide Climate Adaptation Strategy (CAS) (recently approved); developing a final California Sea Level Rise Assessment Report; and developing a report assessing the vulnerability of transportation systems to sea level rise. A Preliminary Transportation Assessment was released February 2009. In response to this direction, California State Government has dedicated significant resources to address climate change and adaptation activities.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has participated with other state agencies on the California Climate Action Team – which provides a forum and clearinghouse where high level representatives from numerous State agencies can coordinate climate change activities within their respective agencies. In addition, last year, California legislation created the Strategic Growth Council composed of members of the Governor's cabinet charged to coordinate funding to be allocated through various California state agencies relating to climate change and smart growth activities.

7.1.2 Initial Successes

The 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy was released by the Governor on December 2, 2009. This report is the first of its kind – a comprehensive multi-sector analysis that will enhance the state's management of climate impacts – specifically adaptation efforts.

The report provides a high level review of the latest science on how climate change could impact the state and provides recommendations on how to manage those threats. It focuses on seven different sectors – public health, biodiversity and habitat, ocean and coastal resources, water management, agriculture, forestry, and transportation and energy infrastructure. This CAS includes the preliminary report from February 2009 on assessing the vulnerability of transportation systems to sea level rise.

California statute requires the California Transportation Commission to prepare guidelines on the development of Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) – commonly known as elsewhere as Metropolitan Transportation Plans or Long-Range Transportation Plans. The RTP Guidelines are currently being updated to address California Senate Bill 375 (SB 375). Passed in 2008, SB 375 requires the California Air Resources Board to develop a regional greenhouse gas emission target for each of the 18 MPOs in California. The MPOs in turn will prepare plans – as part of their RTPs to address these targets. The MPOs will also have to include a comprehensive plan to include land use scenarios as part of their long-range transportation plan. SB 375 is a significant shift in how California MPOs conduct their planning – which primarily focused on transportation - to also include efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a regionally balanced approach to housing and where future growth should take place.

The RTP Guidelines will also address adaptation, in that all regional agencies in California will need to address how climate change may impact their respective regional transportation system over the next 20 plus years. This discussion will also include plans on how the regional agency could ensure that future transportation projects would be minimally impacted by climate change.

California has also established the Climate Action Team or CAT. The CAT, operating under the direction of Cal EPA, is responsible for coordinating state-level climate change actions. It is comprised of members from the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, Dept. of Food and Agriculture, Resources Agency, Air Resources Board, Energy Commission and the Public Utility Commission. The CAT completed their current draft "Climate Action Team Biennial Report" in March 2009.

7.1.3 Barriers to Adaptation

Ms. Kiser identified three major barriers to adaptation in California: costs, complexity, and changes to "business as usual".

The costs to address the impacts to California's transportation will be very high. A recent report prepared by the Pacific Institute titled: "The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast" estimates the cost to replace property at risk of coastal flooding due to sea level rise to be approximately $100 billion (in year 2000 dollars). For example, both the San Francisco and Oakland airports will be impacted. Sections of highways, plus local streets and roads will be impacted by sea level rise as well.

Ms. Kiser noted that getting positive movement on climate change issues has been complex and difficult at the state agency level. The State government has had to increase its level of coordination and coordination among these state agencies. The workload of California's MPOs has increased in order to gear up for new SB 375 planning requirements. Some locally elected officials have also not been too accepting of climate change and the new state requirements. Cities and counties will bear a considerable burden following the Governor's and State legislature's efforts in California to address climate change, but California is seeing some positive results.

Changing the way the California government conducts their business has also been difficult. For example, as a result of the land use component of the SB 375 legislation, cities and counties overall are not too happy with the perceived notion that their land use authority is being challenged: the MPOs are being challenged to be able to meet the new planning requirements; and the State government is focused on developing the overall guidance on how to implement SB 375.

7.1.4 Information Gaps

The largest information gap that California has experienced thus far has been the lack of specific data on climate change and the resultant need to adapt to climate change impacts. There are efforts to prepare scientific papers on climate and adaptation impacts. California State government has been working with the data that is currently available, but more data is needed. For example in California, a statewide analysis of the specific impacts to the State's transportation system needs to be conducted.

7.1.5 Lessons Learned

Several key lessons learned have emerged in California. The first is that addressing climate change must have support at all levels of government and the public, communication and cooperation are the keys to success. Changing how business is conducted takes time, and climate change adaptation is an ongoing activity. At the state agency level, there must be a clear sense of direction, along with the dedication of staff and resources to make it happen. Ms Kiser identified several key efforts to encourage collaboration:

7.2 Florida, Lee Ann Jacobs, FHWA, Florida Division

7.2.1 State Adaptation Efforts

The frequency and severity of the hurricanes and storms of 2004 and 2005, and their direct impact on Florida pushed the issue of climate change to the forefront of planning. Governor Crist has been supportive and very active in addressing climate change. The State's Climate Change Action Plan was completed in October of 2008. While the Plan deals primarily with mitigation, it provides a framework for adaptation strategies. The adaptation-related policy recommendations of the Plan address a wide array of issues such as ecosystems, beach, community and infrastructure protection, beach and water management, and emergency response.

Florida's Climate Change Action Plan identified rising temperatures, increases in more intense heavy rainfall and hurricanes, and rising sea levels as potential impacts to Florida from climate change. Florida's location and topography make transportation infrastructure along the coast and in low lying areas susceptible to damage from sea-level rise, storm surge, erosion and flooding.

The Action Plan also acknowledged the need for additional scientific data, analyses, mapping and predictive modeling to understand how Florida's climate is likely to change, the consequences of change and possible solutions. Recommended activities include:

FDOT has been addressing adaptation within the broader context of asset management, by using the process of monitoring the transportation system and maintaining, upgrading and operating physical assets to strengthen the transportation infrastructure to withstand the impacts of hurricanes and other extreme weather events. FDOT routinely monitors and maintains state roadways and bridges to achieve established preservation and maintenance standards, and the state's investment policy is to fund their preservation needs first before investing in capacity improvements.

FDOT is currently engaged in activities to decrease the vulnerability of state bridges and roads at risk from extreme weather events, and retrofits infrastructure damaged by hurricanes, flooding, etc. to withstand future events.

The Department also obtains weather data and trends collected from other state and federal agencies (e.g., to incorporate into the design of roadways and bridges), as well as other efforts, to decrease vulnerability of infrastructure. Some examples include:

FDOT has also been conducting partner outreach to inform and engage them about current climate change activities and related requirements in state law and expected federal legislation. Beginning the dialog about how transportation partners can work cooperatively to address climate change issues has included several MPO and regional peer exchanges and meetings over the last year. The recently begun update of the FTP will provide an excellent forum for discussing these and other topics. The FTP will be drafted by a Steering Committee of partners, supported by public and partner outreach. During the development of this plan, Florida's transportation partners will discuss how to protect Florida's transportation infrastructure from current and projected climate changes and impacts, as well as other important transportation issues facing the state (e.g., safety).

The key adaptation topics to discuss during the development of the 2060 FTP, currently underway, will include:

Florida's Action Plan and information about other climate-related activities are available at

7.2.2 Barriers to Adaptation

Ms. Jacobs identified a number of barriers to adaptation in Florida, including a lack of standardized climate projections, lack of coordination on data that is available and the politicized nature of the issue of climate change. As noted in Florida's Climate Change Action Plan, improved and more precise data and forecasts about sea level rises, storm surges, etc. are needed. Global forecasts have limited utility, local predictions are needed. State agencies and water management districts should ultimately be working from the same assumptions about sea rise and other anticipated resulting impacts from climate change. Ideally, all local governments and modal partners would be using the same assumptions or forecasts, as is done with population forecasts used in state, MPO and local government comprehensive plans.

7.3 Maryland, Donald Sparklin, Maryland DOT

7.3.1 State Adaptation Efforts

In April 2007, an executive order established the Committee on Climate Change. Three working groups developed the Climate Change Action Plan and eight strategies on transportation and land use were assigned to Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT). While the State has developed a lot of mitigation activities, there have also been some adaptation efforts. The asset management program is developing a geographic information system (GIS) tool to help show climate impacts on different areas (for sea level rise in particular). The State has also formed an adaptation team – the team is waiting for the results of the GIS model to identify vulnerable assets/areas to figure out next steps of how to deal with impacts. .

7.4 District of Columbia, Maurice Keys, District of Columbia DOT

7.4.1 State Adaptation Efforts

The District recently completed a GHG emissions inventory to help in assessing the types of sources contributing to greenhouse gases. As part of the Climate Action Plan, the District is currently conducting research to determine the potential impacts of climate change on the District's resources. The District will set goals in the Climate Action Plan for incorporating climate change adaptation strategies in future planning.

Specific implementation of climate change adaptation strategies is not currently underway in the District, but the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is currently developing an agency Climate Change Plan. Other considerations of climate change include an enhanced awareness of flood risks as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and Context Sensitive Solutions is now a part of the DDOT Design Manual.

7.4.2 Initial Successes

Mr. Keys identified a number of successes for the District related to climate change:

7.4.3 Barriers to Adaptation

Major barriers to adaptation in the District include a lack of awareness or concern about climate change (among staff and among the public), lack of cooperation with other agencies and Federal partners, and a lack of available resources. Mr. Keys identified a number of needs for the District, including: revising land regulations to include both transportation demand management (TDM) and transit oriented development (TOD), modifying the Environmental Management System (EMS) to include climate change, and mainstreaming transportation alternatives.

While there is a lack of locally-specific data, the District and the Washington region are working to develop projections.

7.4.4 Lessons Learned

Mr. Keys identified a number of lessons learned regarding adaptation: the District needs adequate resources to take the next steps; transportation must be a part of a comprehensive strategy; land use planning and transportation planning are inextricably linked; and climate change does not end at the District's borders.

7.5 Illinois, John Fortmann, Illinois DOT

Illinois has mostly focused on mitigation rather than adaptation.

In 2006, an executive order created the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group to make recommendations to the Governor concerning a full range of policies and strategies aimed at the reduction of GHGs in Illinois. The group was tasked with making recommendations with the goal of reducing Illinois GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The full report to the Governor detailed 24 policies aimed at reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector, the power and energy sector, and the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors.

Mr. Fortmann identified a number of Illinois climate change mitigation activities, including:

7.6 Washington, Nancy Boyd, Washington DOT

7.6.1 State Adaptation Efforts

Governor Christine Gregoire's Executive Order 09-05 on Climate Change (effective 5/21/2009) directs the Department of Ecology to invite the Washington State Association of Counties and the Association of Washington Cities to collaborate in conducting an evaluation and develop recommendations for addressing climate change impacts. The Executive Order calls for the evaluation of the potential impacts of sea level rise on the state's shoreline areas, including: the potential increases in storm surge and coastal flooding; increased erosion; loss of habitat and ecosystems; and developing recommendations for addressing these impacts.

Ms. Boyd also identified E2SSB 5560 – State Agency Climate Leadership (effective 07/26/2009) – which directs the Department of Ecology in consultation with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and other agencies to develop an integrated climate change response strategy and plan of action to prepare for and adapt to climate change impacts. This response strategy will include:

7.6.2 Initial Successes

WSDOT is leading the Built Environment/Infrastructure and Communities Topic Advisory Group (TAG) as part of the interagency statewide adaptation effort to consider all infrastructure (utilities, rail, other public works) and interface with other topics, particularly on water issues. This will provide an opportunity to ensure infrastructure interests are articulated and considered in the integrated strategy. WSDOT is also looking at vulnerable facilities (and GIS mapping of vulnerable infrastructure), prioritizing facilities, and what is need to best address priorities (legislation, etc.)

7.6.3 Barriers to Adaptation

There is a lack of available scientific data and analysis on climate change impacts at the local level in Washington. However, the legislature funded a multi-disciplinary study on climate changes impacts in the Pacific Northwest, which was released in February 2009 ( Data gaps have prevented statewide vulnerability mapping in Washington because the current data is often at a very coarse scale. The State is working with other state and local agencies to pool the data. Financial barriers are also a major issue in Washington, as adaptation efforts place additional burden on already strained budgets.

7.6.4 Lessons Learned

Ms. Boyd noted that messaging is especially important for this issue – it is important to communicate that the global climate and regional climates are already changing, and that these changes have the potential to continue to accelerate in the coming decades (e.g., sea level rise will be experienced as a series of escalating disasters). An awareness of adaptation needs and risks will result in better long-term decisions.

7.7 Massachusetts, Frank A. Tramontozzi, Massachusetts DOT

Mr. Tramontozzi identified several climate change issues for Massachusetts. The State has a large number of coastal communities, with 1,500 miles of seashore and over 1,000 miles of coastal roadways. These coastal communities will experience issues with wind, storms and sea level rise.

7.7.1 State Adaptation Efforts

The Global Warming Solutions Act was signed in July 2008, which outlined GHG emissions reductions – 25% by 2020, 80% by 2050. Massachusetts also has some ongoing adaptation-related efforts in the near-, mid-, and long-term.

Near-term (within the next year) efforts include monitoring bridges through the Bridge Inspection program and Scour program to ensure safety and develop measures (armoring) to protect the structure until proposed replacement. Mid-term (2-5 years) efforts include:

Long-term (5-20 years) efforts include continuing the development of engineering standards with FHWA and AASHTO, and progressively adapting standards as more data becomes available and climate change impacts are realized (modeling will produce more accurate predictions).

Additionally, projects are being addressed on a case-by-case basis where flooding issues have been identified. Bridge projects with low-chord below 10-year flood are subject to more intense review. In several cases, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) has required bridges at or near 10-year to be raised by as much as two feet. There is no set standard yet. Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is also finalizing the "Stream Crossing Handbook" – this was developed primarily to address fish passage but will aid in the design of culverts for increased capacity.

7.7.2 Initial Successes

Mr. Tramontozzi identified a number of successes for the State of Massachusetts:

7.7.3 Barriers to Adaptation

A major barrier in Massachusetts is public perception, especially how to justify additional expenses for impacts that may not be seen for 50-75 years. To respond to this issue, the State will need to educate and inform the public and elected officials more about climate change and adaptation and the need to act now. The raising or relocation of bridges and roadways may result in increased environmental and cultural impacts. This will require the State to coordinate with environmental regulators to develop streamlined reviews and design standards or best management practices. As longer bridge spans and bigger culverts will require more funds, there will be less funding available for other projects. The advisory committee is considering a mileage tax and/or registration fees based on fuel efficiency which may provide some additional funding.

7.7.4 Information Gaps

A program-wide effort is dependent on better mapping and predictive modeling with standardized climate change scenarios. Better mapping of assets is needed – though the LiDAR survey will address this issue. Though FEMA maps are getting updated, they will still be considering past data sources (historic trends), and will not provide a prediction for the future. The process needs to be flexible and adaptable so as more information becomes available modeling can be more accurate.

7.7.5 Lessons Learned

Better information – specifically mapping and modeling – is needed to manage assets in a cost effective way. In addition, it is important to educate all stakeholders so they understand the consequences of no action. Every project will require trade-offs, and it will be important to balance options and include careful consideration on a project by project basis.

7.8 Michigan, Gregory C. Johnson, Michigan DOT

The major climate change issues that were identified for the State of Michigan were: changes in storm intensity, flooding (100-year storms are now occurring every 10 years), and less freezing of lakes (the constant lake-effect snow in the Upper Peninsula as well as western Michigan).

7.8.1 State Adaptation Efforts

Mr. Johnson noted that in 2007, the Governor signed an executive order to establish the Climate Action Council. Michigan published their Climate Change Action Plan in March 2009; however, the document is focused on mitigation. The State has been involved with adaptation with various operational, engineering and policy efforts.

Operational activities have included reexamining snow and ice removal strategies and having more snow/ice removal trucks on the roadway to prepare for storm events. Michigan is also involved in a regional effort with Minnesota and Wisconsin to look at winter practices and discussing whether they should continue "business as usual". Michigan is also partnering with Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin on examining the needs for the I-94 corridor.

The State is employing technology to improve the road weather information system and communicating key information to operations staff (e.g., how much salt to put down for snow/ice removal) as well as to motorists (e.g., alternative routes). In Detroit, older low-grade freeways are being flooded and pump stations are being overwhelmed by precipitation events. To address this issue, they are resizing pump stations and adding more stations to deal with the excess stormwater.

Engineering activities have focused on slope erosion and bridge scour issues. More intense storm events have created slope erosion issues and depressed freeways, which has also led to water quality problems. In response, the State is looking at armoring slopes, alternative plantings, and reducing mowing. Lower lake levels have caused damage due to wave action in lakes, creating erosion of lakeshore roads (e.g., US 41). For bridges, the State is looking at scour countermeasures and plans of action for all scour critical structures. In some cases, piers are being taken out of waterways to avoid scour.

In terms of policy, Michigan is working with FEMA on purchasing floodplain properties (low-lying properties subject to flooding), as well as working with MPOs and land use entities to look at good locations for facilities. The State is also examining the increased maintenance activities related to storm events (e.g., ditch cleanup, catch basin clean up).

7.8.2 Barriers to Adaptation

Mr. Johnson identified financial barriers as the biggest issue in the State of Michigan. In addition, there is also the issue of jurisdictional control – the Michigan DOT only owns about 10% of the roadways in the State. While Michigan DOT was involved in the development of Michigan's Climate Change Action Plan, the operations people were not, so adaptation was not addressed.

7.9 Colorado, Richard Gabel, Colorado DOT

7.9.1 State Adaptation Efforts

Mr. Gabel noted that the State of Colorado has no formal adaptation goals or state efforts right now. The State is currently concentrating on reducing GHG emissions and other mitigation efforts. Aside from the mitigation efforts, however, the State is identifying scour-critical bridges and developing a plan of action for each, and is also conducting an inventory of culverts (though climate change is not a focus of either effort). The State DOT's environmental section has proposed some research projects to identify climate change issues.

7.9.2 Barriers

A major barrier to adaptation in Colorado is that there is no support at the state level – by the legislature or the transportation commission. This is, in large part, due to an information gap – educating the legislature and transportation commission on climate change adaptation would be useful.

Updated: 10/20/2015
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