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Talking Freight

Climate Change

June 17, 2009 Talking Freight Transcript


Laura Feast:
Good afternoon or good morning to those of you in the West. Welcome to the Talking Freight Seminar Series. My name is Laura Feast and I will moderate today's seminar. Today's topic is Climate Change. Please be advised that today's seminar is being recorded.

Today we'll have three presentations, the first given by Rob Ritter, of the Federal Highway Administration Office of Planning, Environment and Realty. The second presentation will be given by Rob Hyman, of Cambridge Systematics. The final presentation will be given by Alan Clark of the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

Rob Ritter was recently selected as the Team Leader of the Sustainable Transport and Climate Change Team in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Human and Natural Environment. The Climate Change Team provides leadership and policy development on climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation and sustainability issues. The Team works throughout DOT and with other federal agencies on research and education initiatives and provides outreach, education and technical assistance to FHWA offices, departments of transportation and other stakeholders.

Prior to moving to the Sustainable Transport and Climate Change Team, Rob spent more than 6 years as a Team Leader in FHWA's Office of Planning. He is a licensed professional engineer and certified planner with experience in both private and public transportation agencies.

Rob Hyman has worked at Cambridge Systematics since 2002 on a variety of transportation issues, with a particular focus on air quality and climate change, from both the emissions reduction and adaptation perspectives. He is a co-author on the Gulf Coast Study on which he will be presenting today. Mr. Hyman holds Masters Degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering and also in Technology and Policy from MIT, and a B.A. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University.

Alan Clark is the Director of Transportation Planning for the Houston-Galveston Area Council. He is the Director for H-GAC's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which is responsible for development of the region's multimodal transportation plans. The MPO's Transportation Policy Council approves the programming of all federal highway and transit funds in Harris and the adjacent seven counties. Mr. Clark's responsibilities also include coordinating the Houston-Galveston area's response to mandates contained in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

In 2005, Mr. Clark was named a member of the Transportation Research Board's Policy Study Committee on Climate Change in US Transportation. In 2006, Mr. Clark was also appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee on Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure-Gulf Coast Case Study. He is currently a member of the National Academy of Science's Oversight Committee of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2).

Joining Alan is Amy Boyers. Amy will be on the line to answer questions you may have. Amy is a Senior Environmental Planner with H-GAC. Ms. Boyers has ten years of experience in the environmental field. Her projects include extensive coordination with local governments on environmental enforcement issues and source reduction and recycling projects, administration of state solid waste grants, and coordination of nonpoint source pollution education workshops. In 2008, Ms. Boyers served as lead staff for the H-GAC Foresight Panel on Environmental Effects which involved working with local governments and academia to develop policy recommendations for climate change adaptation. Prior to her work at H‑GAC, Ms. Boyers had two years of environmental consulting experience, conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessments for public and private clients and producing NEPA documents for the Texas Department of Transportation and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

I'd now like to go over a few logistical details prior to starting the seminar. Today's seminar will last 90 minutes, with 60 minutes allocated for the speakers, and the final 30 minutes for audience Question and Answer. If during the presentations you think of a question, you can type it into the smaller text box underneath the chat area on the lower right side of your screen. Please make sure you are typing in the thin text box and not the large white area. Please also make sure you send your question to "Everyone" and indicate which presenter your question is for. Presenters will be unable to answer your questions during their presentations, but I will start off the question and answer session with the questions typed into the chat box. Once we get through all of the questions that have been typed in, the Operator will give you instructions on how to ask a question over the phone. If you think of a question after the seminar, you can send it to the presenters directly, or I encourage you to use the Freight Planning LISTSERV. The LISTSERV is an email list and is a great forum for the distribution of information and a place where you can post questions to find out what other subscribers have learned in the area of Freight Planning. If you have not already joined the LISTSERV, the web address at which you can register is provided on the slide on your screen.

Finally, I would like to remind you that this session is being recorded. A file containing the audio and the visual portion of this seminar will be posted to the Talking Freight Web site within the next week. We encourage you to direct others in your office that may have not been able to attend this seminar to access the recorded seminar.

The PowerPoint presentations used during the seminar are available for download from the file download box in the lower right corner of your screen. The presentations will also be available online within the next week. I will notify all attendees of the availability of the PowerPoints, the recording, and a transcript of this seminar.

We're now going to go ahead and get started. Today's topic, for those of you who just joined us, is Climate Change.

Our first presentation will be given by Rob Ritter, of the Federal Highway Administration Office of Planning, Environment and Realty. The second presentation will be given by Rob Hyman, of Cambridge Systematics. The final presentation will be given by Alan Clark of the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

As a reminder, if you have questions during the presentation please type them into the chat box and they will be answered in the last 30 minutes of the seminar.

Rob Ritter:
Welcome everybody and I appreciate your attention this afternoon or this morning for those in the West. I would like to take a few minutes to talk about freight and climate change. It's important to recognize that transportation contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is significant. Transportation is the second largest source of greenhouse gases in the US; we're a pretty significant portion of this issue.

This slide is focusing on the freight modes. Passenger modes in the US produce three quarters of the gas emissions. Two and a half percent are from freight and smaller percentages from ships and aircraft. These numbers have remained stable over the last few years. Although greenhouse gases declined slightly in whole, the greenhouse gases from medium and heavy duty trucks have increased slightly over the last year.

What can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? That's the first question we need to answer. All of these topics are being investigated and evaluated simultaneously. We refer to a four legged stool as there are four ways we can reduce transportation greenhouse gases. We can raise the vehicle efficiency, and there is a national debate on that. We could also reduce the carbon content on fuels so that we release less carbon into the air. We can reduce VMT. By that I mean - the growth in vehicle miles traveled we expect to happen in the future. The last leg is to improve vehicle and system operations. All four of those legs of the stool are going to be important to achieve our goals and to get up to the portion of the emission reductions to meet our targets. The Federal Highway Administration is especially concerned with improving vehicle systems and operations so that jobs and recreation are closer together and to shift travel to more efficient modes. Whether it is on the passenger side or the freight side, increasing funding for transit and promoting non-motorized strategies will assist in reaching our goal.

This chart indicates that we need to do more than just the first two legs of the stool. If you look at the blue line on this chart, that's projected carbon dioxide emissions with the CAFE standards that are already in place. The green is the target we need to meet, internationally accepted target that we need to accomplish by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The VMT is projected to grow and will overwhelm all of the other reductions from the other legs of the stool. If we could manage to improve the other legs of the stool based on fuel efficiency, vehicle and energy efficiency and not do anything about VMT, those improvements will be overwhelmed by the VMT growth. We need to address that issue as well.

The potential for impacts to our infrastructure are costly. We maintain and care about the transportation system throughout the United States. It's essential to our nation and our economy. It is threatened by the impact of climate change. Federal Highway has led studies of impact on transportation, including the Gulf Coast study that Rob Hyman is going to give you more information on in a few minutes. We supported recent transportation research studies on impacts and adaptation. The climate changes our infrastructure and forces us to evolve in order to handle new conditions. I talked about both sides of the climate change coin so far. Mitigation and adaptation are really the two issues. Mitigation is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Without mitigation, we're going to see higher sea levels, higher temperatures, climate impacts, flooding, and pavement deterioration. Adaptation is actions we take to avoid, withstand, or take advantage of the current and projected climate changes and impacts.

We really need to focus on adaptation. What we can do now to prepare for the climate changes that we know are going to come, and the ones that we suspect we'll be seeing in the next 50 to 100 years? This could vary by region and could include higher sea levels for our coastal areas. Some examples include: increased storm surges from hurricanes, more intense varied precipitation, increased temperature, increases in the number of hot days, stronger winds, and changes in freeze/frost cycles. Some of these impacts might mean: a permanent inundation of roads, bridge approaches, weakening of the land substructure, temporary flooding of roads, increased stream flow and bridge scour, and pavement cracking. All of these are impacts that we need to think about, review, and prepare for when we think about the climate change issue.

These are a couple of maps of why this is important and what we need to look at. This map shows the top 20 water ports vulnerable to sea level rise. We need to begin to prepare for the impact of climate change. Even the interior ports need to be concerned about changes in stream flow, changes in precipitation, changes in temperature that are expected due to climate change.

Rob Hyman is going to talk about the Gulf Coast in his presentation. In this slide, in the blue, are areas that are vulnerable to two and four feet of sea level rise. All of which are impacted by the range of sea level rise, which, if we don't reduce greenhouse gases will be inundated by climate change. Federal Highway has tried to get a sense of what's happening - the state of the practice. I'm going to talk about what we found when we surveyed state DOTs to try and understand what kinds of adaptation activities are underway. Significant inconsistencies exist across states and regions, including MPOs, on their goals and action plans on the climate change. Certainly greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts don't understand those boundaries. In terms of climate change action plans which many states, if not all states, have in place; the DOTs are sometimes not a part of the state level action plans strategies and developments. This means that they don't know what the goals are necessarily that are in those plans. They don't have an opportunity to discuss what the goals should be. In some cases, some of those goals that are set are extremely difficult to achieve in terms of the contributions that the transportation sector could make to the overall greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to be part of the debates that are going on right now. Most of the focus of the states right now is on greenhouse gas mitigation with little focus on adaptation.

We did survey specifically about adaptation in 2008 and found there are only about 13 states that have actions taking place and another 15 with actions or activities under discussion. We are trying to move those numbers and promote the discussion of adaptation discussions to take place in terms of preparing for climate change.

What are some of those adaptation options that need to be discussed? They generally fall into four categories. One thing we can do is what we've been doing so far : continue to try to maintain and manage our existing infrastructure. Higher maintenance costs will result and in some cases there are going to be significant challenge to maintain what we've got. Another option is to protect and strengthen. A lot of that has happened already. Sea walls, buffers, design changes that might make for bigger storm water pipes, higher bridges that would better withstand changes that will occur. Another option is relocation. You can see a map on which California proposed moving US 1. We need to understand our key facilities so that if one portion of the system goes down for a period of time, there are options that we can offer to continue to reach people, continue to provide the access and the economic development that the transportation system provides for our country. Alaska is a leader in adaptation activities partly by default. They have to be; they've been subject to an awful lot of climate change. They've seen a loss of shore sea ice as well as melting permafrost, and these pose major threats to the infrastructure. Shore sea ice off the coast in a particular storm can break away over about an hour or two. The governor established a state level adaptation advisory group including a focus on public infrastructure which includes shoreline protection programs and evacuation route planning. Discussions going on in Alaska and Louisiana and some other states about whether or not we really need to pick up communities and move them from where they are now because there's simply no way to protect them from what's going to happen. Permafrost protection as well as the expanded data collection and collaboration is also being discussed.

California has had a number of activities in adaptation. They've got a plan for sea level rise in extreme weather events and they are working on that now. Their climate change action plan includes adaptation options. To support infrastructure vulnerability assessment, all states should consider really taking a look at where the infrastructure is. Try to get an understanding of the climate change impacts. Find out what is vulnerable to those impacts so you can determine and prioritize what kind of actions need to take place.

What are the implications of adaptation and decision-making? There are implications for every stage: design and construction and operations and maintenance. We need to be thinking about climate change at every step and how we can adapt to the climate change which we can reasonably expect to occur. In some cases this may be design standards. For example, if a current practice is designed for a 50 year event. We're seeing that 50 year events happen frequently. E may need to change that design event or update what the definition or factors are in considering a 50 year storm and we need to adopt risk base design approaches. Developing multiple designs and making decisions in a risk analysis framework where we really understand where the potential for a particular design or particular scenario to happen or a particular design to be vulnerable to future climate change and make our decisions based on that decision.

Federal Highway has a number of activities underway. They help state DOTs and MPOs that are struggling with these decisions. We are developing a strategy to address adaptation to climate change effects. We'll be creating an interim framework to assess the impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure that can be reasonably assumed by the practitioners. This framework will include data needs, gaps and other considerations. As we move forward with that framework, which we hope to have available in a draft form soon, we look to pilot the framework for conducting the assessments with a number of states or MPOs or construction districts that are interested in addressing these issues and have made some progress already. If anyone is interested in partnering, get in touch with me after this presentation so we can work on that in the future. We're also developing guidelines for consideration of climate change impacts and adaptation in the project development and environmental review processes. We are also working with other federal agencies, such as the national weather service and the new national climate service if it should come in to place; so we're getting the most up to date science and information.

Rob is going to talk in a moment about Gulf Coast study phase one where we looked at potential impacts in the Gulf Coast region. We will take a detailed look in a more particular community or MPO city within the Gulf Coast region to try to do detailed vulnerability assessments and analyses on the transportation system. You can then use this assessment in the decision-making process. That should get underway in the next couple of months. We are also working on potential regulations and consider any updates that are necessary in order to help all of you to focus on climate change and adaptation issues.

I am going to give you a couple of resources for more information. You can see the websites available. The US DOT has a clearinghouse where you can find all of these reports and more information. Last December, we conducted with AASHTO an adaptation peer exchange report. We talked to 11 or 12 state DOTs on what they were doing on adaptation activities. You have that link for that report. I didn't update this slide to indicate a new report that just came out. It was released yesterday by the US Global Change Research Program called Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. This is a government-wide, sector-wide report about how the climate has already changed, likely changes in the future, and impacts throughout the United States. I encourage you to search the Web or go to for the climate change reports that was done by about a dozen or so federal agencies and was released yesterday.

Laura Feast:
Thank you Rob and thank you to those of you who posted questions. We'll address your questions at the end of the seminar. We'll now move on to Rob Hyman of Cambridge Systematics.

Rob Hyman:
What we're going to talk about this Gulf Coast study is on the adaptation side of the mitigation, reducing emissions and then adaptation how to deal with climate impacts. This is a case study of those climate impacts that Rob discussed in a general sense; a case study of one specific region, the Gulf Coast region of the United States named Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure Phase One.

A little bit about why we started this study. This was a DOT USGS study. When we started it little research had been done on transportation impacts compared to the amount of work that had been done on mitigation, and the amount of work that had been done on reducing greenhouse emissions. So it's a climate change, and the infrastructure may need to evolve to these changing conditions. The idea was to do a study of one particular region and see what those impacts would really mean. The Gulf Coast region was chosen for the study. It is coastal swap of the central Gulf Coast region stretching from Houston, Galveston the on the left to the New Orleans in the center and over to Biloxi and Mobile, Alabama. It is a four state region. So why study the Gulf Coast in particular? From the freight point of view, the Gulf Coast is actually a nationally significant area. Forty percent of the US marine tonnage is carried through the area. The area's inland waterways carry 90% of the US inland water way tonnage. Six out of seven of the class one railroads come through the area. There is a major east/west interchange point where the western railroads and the eastern railroads change their cars. This area also includes 17,000-miles of highway, and 56 million passengers at the three largest airports.

So what we did in this study is took a look at essentially four major climate impacts that we decided were deemed were the ones with the most significant impacts for this area. Those were sea level rise, increased storm surge and storm intensity, changes in temperature, and changes in precipitation.

We were lucky enough to be working with very good scientists at the US Geological Survey. We were able to come up with very sophisticated modeling projections. Twenty one climate models were used in order to statistically average these results together with a range of temperature and sea level increases that we might expect over the next 50 to 100 years. What we found is that a few different findings. One is that temperature is going to go up. That's a very robust finding because it is something that all the models were in agreement on. The increase is one to five degrees Fahrenheit over the next 50 years. As far as transformation is concerned the increase in very hot days, the extreme temperatures. Days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit may increase as much as 50%. Extremely daily high temperatures are also increasing with the greater than 50% chance of 21 days exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As far as precipitation, the model showed mixed results. The intensity of rain fall events is likely to increase.

We also came up with numbers for sea level rise and hurricane vulnerability. These are robust finding. The projections show that relative sea level rise will increase one to six feet. Relative sea level rise includes traditional sea level rise, the increase in sea level due to melting ice, and melting glaciers. The central Gulf Coast is fortunate enough to have another problem, which is subsidence. The sinking of the land masses in the Gulf Coast. This is a natural process. Slowly compact over time. It is something that will worsen their vulnerability over time. Hurricane vulnerability is high in that area already and likely to increase with storm intensity. This is due to changes in the sea surface temperature in the Gulf of Mexico which has been trending upwards over the years. One thing to note about the impact is the timing is not clear. There's also the possibility of abrupt changes in the system. So that's something that we have to be cognizant of. What are the implications for? They are for highways, rail, reports and waterways, and long range planning and investment. What we've done is essentially took our analysis and overlaid it on infrastructure maps in the region to see what this would mean. What we have here is a map of what would four feet of relative sea water rise mean to the area? In the present day there are areas below sea level with the most significant one being in New Orleans.

There are a few caveats I do need to say about this findings. This analysis of impacts is based on land elevation rather than the height of facilities. That data was not readily available and this would demonstrate the issues planners will face in attempting to deal with climate impacts. There was a welcome of good data. It is important to realize that given the connectivity of intermodal system, even having one segment flooded can render or block access to it. Many transportation facilities depend on local roads which are not elevated. You could have a situation in which your highway is out of reach of the water but all the entrance and exit ramps are not.

Since we're talking about freight is a similar map for ports Rob had shown something like this as well. You can see that essentially, all of the ports in the area are vulnerable to sea level rise in one way or another. This may not be, in many cases, the land side structures the terminals, warehouses, those things are not elevated or protected and are at risk to sea level rise.

There are many things at risk of flooding. There are more than 2,400 miles of roadway which are at risk of permanent flooding. That is not including local collector roads. We only look at the interstate and arterial miles. There's also the issue that you have temporary flooding in low lying areas. Including this increase in precipitation intensity, it will be compounded by the rising sea levels which will make it harder for the water to drain off the land.

This is highway 90 bridge in which shows the effect of storm surge and wind. So we did a similar analysis here. What we looked at is the vulnerable of a storm surge of 18 feet. That's a strong category four or five storm. Hurricane Katrina came up with 28 feet. So 18 feet is not such an extreme assumption by any stretch of the imagination.

This map shows freight rail lines that are vulnerable to a storm surge of 18 feet. What actually happened during Katrina was that this area, about 30 miles of track in this area, was washed out. It took six months and 250 million dollars to repair it. In addition, the major interchange point in the New Orleans area was underwater as a result of the storm. From the different six class one railroads that have tracks in the area, they come through all this vulnerable area and so they are all at risk.

In terms of total numbers, what does this mean? About half of the interstate miles, and virtually all of the port facilities can be affected. The port facilities are probably not a surprise to anyone. A third of the rail miles operated and 43% of the freight facilities could be affected. There are 22 airports under 18 feet of elevation rather. The airports are typically built in coastal areas or wetland areas that weren't used so they're particularly vulnerable. There is potential damage for offshore pipeline facilities.

There are also impacts from temperature and precipitation. Clearly sea level rise and hurricane vulnerable are the heavy hitters here. There are implications for maintenance and construction practices from high temperatures. You can't put work crews out on very hot days or you have to limit the time they work. Increased energy consumption for refrigerated storage is a vulnerability due to temperature change. For the rail network, issues for a potential rise in rail buckling for changes in local and national markets and travel demand. This is particularly interesting for this area which sees a lot of the US' agricultural output comes through the Mississippi region. You can imagine that if there are changes in different agricultural products are grown or shipped due to precipitation patterns and if the harvest season changes, this will have major impacts on the major water system. If produce comes through and there are major problems for the freight shipping system it would be hard to move the produce elsewhere. Precipitation has implications and the main one is dealing with storm water. So there would be changes to storm water retention and facility treatments. What are the implications for transportation planning? Well one of the things to note is that generally impacts of climate change are not considered in planning, as Rob noted already. We have a current practice focused on a 20 year planning horizon which is not well suited to the best climate impacts. You can see what happens when you have current transportation planning process over here. If we start doing engineering and design and construction, we typically base it on historical climate data which is from the previous 30 year period. If we expect this facility to stay in service for 50 or 70 years which can happen for a bridge, what will happen is as the facility progresses through the life it will be in a climate for which it was not designed.

So what can we do to prepare for this? The future is uncertain. You may have noticed that all the numbers they give you are ranged are expected temperature and sea level rise. We need to have reliability under a range of conditions in order to have a robust transportation system. These are just some approaches to decision-making: scenario planning, using probabilistic approaches, and the need to be able to consider incremental and abrupt change. This leads to an approach that Rob also alluded to which is a risk assessment approach that leads us to our adaptation response. This Gulf Coast study that we talked about represents the risk assessment for this whole area. How vulnerable is the area's transportation structure to climate impacts? The next step is deciding what your adaptation response is. Whether you relocate once you put in place that adaptation response leads to greater resilience, but the climate does not stop changing. This become as never ending process. You need to continually update your risk assessments. It's also important as we do this, we don't live in a world of unlimited resources so you have to decide where your adaptation dollars should go first. You should have some way of prioritizing what are the most important facilities. You need to have more than just the degree of risk, not just what is most likely to be hit by climate impact. But also how important are these facilities to your system performance. The critical facilities are of course the ones that are both high risk and of critical importance like major bridges and things like that. A good example in California with their seismic bridge retrofits. They decided they wanted to retrofit all their bridges to be able to withstand earthquakes but they had an inventory of bridges in their system to decide where the dollars should go first. They came up with different levels of resiliency that were needed. They wanted to make sure more minor bridges could be reopened within six months. Developing this kind of mind set is needed to deal with climate impacts.

The study we talked about is available on the web. It was done at the climate change program. You can also contact me with any additional questions with it. With that, I'll turn it back over to Laura.

Laura Feast:
Thank you Rob. Our final presentation will be given by Alan Clark and Amy Boyers of the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

Alan Clark:
Since we got started back in 1966, our organization has provided a venue for local governments to respond. In November 2007 H-GAC Board of Directors established an expert panel to develop recommendations for local governments to adapt to potential changes in the region's climate and the associated environmental effects. The foresight panel was known and charged to recommend sound strategies to local government so they could adapt to the effects of climate change should these changes occur. You can see from the nature of the panel, it had a variety of academic, government, transportation, persons covering a wide range of disciplines from policy, engineering, climate change, gee owe science, flood control etc.

We worked from much of the material that you saw printed earlier, particularly the Gulf Coast study. From that study, we attempted to pull some of the major climate effects that could be faced by our region. Summarized here are the four principle ones, the temperature increase, sea level rise, periods of drought and the potential for heavy rain fall events and the possibility of increased intensity if not frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms.

When we look at our region and consider a five foot level increase in sea level. That's a combination of increase in actual water height but also the fact that our region experiences some of the greater rates of substance in the Gulf Coast region. The heavier blue areas on this map show those that would be inundated by a 5 foot sea level rise. We zoom in a bit to one of our areas. Here you can see the area that includes the Port of Freeport, one of the regions fastest growing water ports. This heavy blue line that you see is the alignment of the Gulf Coast intercoastal waterway. That waterway serves Texas and was the principle roots for the movement or routes of barge movement in our region. This is at a great risk to such a level of sea level rise.

The report in terms of its recommendations looked four major strategies that we could deploy. These are similar to earlier presentations. First strategy is managing the facilities that we have. This strategy is the one which we can perhaps implement the soonest. One of the things we looked at is the effects that were not only to infrastructure, but to the potential effects on human health and welfare, emergency management types of activities. One of the keys to dealing within these areas is to strengthen the mutual aid agreements, especially with major weather events. Not everyone is going to be at the same time.

But as our region continues to grow and we're anticipating the addition of another three to three and a half million people in the next 20 to 25 years, we need to make sure that this new growth that happens in a way that it's going to be more survivable for major storm events, avoids some of the impacts of climate change.

One of the comments made earlier is that in transportation planning, we have traditionally looked at a 20 to 30 year time period. With the vision exercise we might look as far as 50 years into the future, but with climate change, we need to have a much longer vision. The foresight report looks at conditions as they might be at the end of the decade, 2100. So many of the transportation infrastructure investments was said that not only in and of themselves have potential live of 50 or maybe 100 years, but the land use changes resulting from those decisions will have a very long lifetime.

How can we finance the recovery process? Can we finance it with insurance? FEMA and other financial resources that you might be aware of are not only inadequate for this scale of reinvestment that's often needed, but sometimes limit your ability to do more than just simply replace what facility you lost.

Here is some of the management. The report took a very sort of ground level approach to this in that we still think that historical data is useful, but we now want to introduce some of the information from climate change in that decision-making. Very short term things that local governments can do to help mitigate affects of climate change like heat wave management plans. Although the principle focus of this report was adaptation, we are looking for those strategies that you can also have the benefit of reducing the contribute factors to climate change, particularly greenhouse gas emissions.

This slide shows some things we're looking at in terms of growth. Our recent experience with Hurricane Ike illustrated the difference between structures that had been developed with modern design standards and construction methods as opposed to older structures that were far less survivable. Reinvestment is a decision that is often linked to significant and community changing kinds of activities. Today, the city of Galveston is trying to consider how it should not only restore the damage that's occurred but how it should grow to look in the future. Their reinvestment strategies are not only going to take this longer term view of the infrastructure but also looking at infrastructure in a connected and broader way. For example, how will the transportation infrastructure be affected by the loss of electrical power to an area? The roads can be unblocked, can be passable, but if we don't have the power to turn on the traffic lights at the intersection, how do we operate them safely? Then in the recovery process, we're asking ourselves as a regional council of governments how we can assist our local government. A simplistic idea of how we'd like to do this is in that planning obviously should be an immediate and early activity that's used to develop guidance documents as climate change as we respond to climate change and as we attempt to give direction to future growth. The investment in things like transportation infrastructure would need to follow in a way that's consistent with that planning process. One of the most significant decisions is a decision to relocate some elements, for example, of the transportation infrastructure because of their significant potential impact of land use. Not all infrastructure has the same impact, but for example, if we relocate Interstate 10 to north of the current location closer to the regional US 98 alignment that would have far reaching and dramatic impacts across all our local governments. For one thing I would say about this chart is it's extremely optimistic. As we've learned from Hurricane Ike, sometimes the logical sequence for planning, investment, and major decisions can be compressed into the immediate here and now as a consequence of Mother Nature.

For continuing the work following our development of this initial effort with some of the activities you see here. Mention briefly the last one, working with the Texas A&M Bush School, they've been discussing with the elected leadership in our region and others their knowledge of climate change of the work of the foresight panel and any changes or new decision-making that has occurred as a consequence of that or actions they may have initiated. I think one important fact or factor for us to keep in mind is that it's very difficult for local governments to get their hands around these decisions. Their timeframe for most decision making is very short term. Usually capital improvements programs extend five or six years. Dispute their general knowledge of climate change it's difficult for them to make this in their decision-making process. Look forward to hearing your questions. Laura. I'll turn the presentation back to you.

Laura Feast:
Thank you Alan.

I'd now like to start off the Q&A session with the questions posted online. Once we get through those questions, if time allows I'll open up the phone lines for questions. We'll note that Diane from FHWA has been posting responses in the chat box for us. We'll scan over the responses as we go through these. I turn your attention to some of the chat box questions that may have been answered by Diane. Thank you for handling that.

Question and Answer

L. Feast:
Are the assessments that Rob Ritter mentioned to be used for climate change and infrastructure eligible for FHWA funding?

R. Ritter:
Yes. As you all know, I'm sure, there's a variety of types of federal aid funding all with different rules and requirements and other uses. These studies are certainly eligible for certain categories of federal funds. If you have specific questions about how to go about using those funds I encourage you to check with your federal highway division office. So I'll follow up with you Bethany and provide you some additional feedback to work with your DOT and MPO on your assessments.

L. Feast:
I believe Diane has addressed this question, but I will go over it. Are we still using the pre-recession prediction for 2035 levels of freight demand? As shown in your map with the Level of Service F for rail in much of the Gulf Coast area. Given the depth, length, and the worldwide scope of the current recession I think it is really time for a new look at freight growth assumptions that are much more constrained.

Diane Turchetta:
I just want to say while we were online, I checked with our freight operations office. The forecast they're using is prior to the recession. We'll check if they're going to revise any of those forecasts because of the economic downturn. As it stands now; those forecasts are prior to the recession.

R. Ritter:
Just a quick thank you to the new climate change team and Diane Turchetta who helped put together the presentation I went over. Thank you Diane.

L. Feast:
If there is a 50 year event happening every three years should the 50 year event be redefined?

R. Ritter:
That's a very good question we're asking as well. I'm not a hydraulics person. I can not tell you how the 50 year event is defined. But, one of the things we're starting to think about is whether we should be redefining that 50 year event. We're working with the other federal agencies to look in to those kinds of questions right now and to think about how we need to review those definitions, and how future climate change might play into some of those definitions as well. Whether or not those definitions change, how does that impact the standards of the practices that we advocate here at Federal Highway?

R. Hyman:
I'll add to that. As far as how it's defined, that's based on historical data. The rainfall events of the past 50 or 100 years define it and it is becoming less and less accurate for today's world.

Ralph Rizzo:
The URL for the report released yesterday that Rob mentioned is

Kathy Daniel:
The Highways and Climate Change website that Rob referred participants to for the FHWA-AASHTO peer exchange doesn't have a link to a report, which all of the other entries have. This is all we have on the website: ''FHWA/AASHTO Peer Exchange on Climate Change Adaptation - FHWA, in partnership with AASHTO, conducted a Peer Exchange on Climate Change Adaptation in December 2008. The peer exchange was an opportunity for senior representatives of selected State DOTs to share experiences and learn from one another regarding adaptation issues. For more information, contact Rob Ritter ( or 202-493-2139).''

D. Turchetta:
The December 2008 FHWA/AASHTO Peer Exchange report can be found at:

L. Feast:
Ralph Rizzo was nice enough to give you the link for the report that Rob Ritter mentioned at the end of his presentation. That listing is provided for you in the chat box. In the state of Alaska, a few coastal community haves been relocated in association with the US Army Corporation of Engineers. That's something that's going on in Alaska. So we'll go on a quick note about the website that Rob mentioned. Giving the details of what's on that website.

R. Ritter:
I think Diane saved the day here and responded with an update to our URL and where you can find the report for that adaptation change.

D. Turchetta:
We'll get that posted to our climate change website so that connection is obvious.

L. Feast:
Alright, now back to the questions. Are statistics being cited based on study area or are they nation as a whole?

R. Hyman:
That's correct. Those are limited to a 48 county study area that we did. All statistics were for that area.

L. Feast:
Is it anticipated that the new federal transportation authorization will include funding to port authorities for physical and programmatic solutions to address their vulnerabilities to climate change and mitigate some of their role in climate change?

R. Ritter:
All of these are be ingdebated within the administration and Congress right now. I couldn't say, but I think those kinds of issues where we provide the funding and what's required in terms of planning and addressing what's in store for climate changes. I don't think we have answers yet.

D. Turchetta:
Let me add to that. Further down in the box that Kathleen Bailey of EPA provided a URL that EPA did a white paper on planning for climate change impacts on US ports. That doesn't answer your reauthorization question as Rob explained. We don't really know that. It does highlight the connection between ports and climate changes and the impacts that are expected.

Kathleen Bailey:
To help raise awareness, last summer EPA published a 13 page white paper, Planning for Climate Change Impacts at US Ports, which is available on

L. Feast:
We had a question, which I think, Diane has also addressed a little bit. Does anyone have a nation-wide map listing showing any of the seaports and how it would be affected at various levels of sea rise? I believe that we definitely do have maps showing all the seaports in the US and we could overlay the seaport map with information with a two or four foot sea level rise as well as a storm surge if there's anything else anyone would like to add to that.

D. Turchetta:
We certainly have all the seaports listed in the US. We could overlay that with some of the information from the Gulf Coast study. The maps that Rob Hyman presented and kind of get an idea of what the ports should look like with storm surge and sea level rise.

A. Clark:
The only thing to add to that is missing is the West Coast ports could be in a very different situation because opposed to subsidence; they experience elevation of the land area. So it's not quite as simple as saying the water would be this much higher for everywhere.

L. Feast:
Okay. We had a request to please recommend reports or resources that would be appropriate for states located in the interior the West and the Mid-West. I'm sure the presenters could follow up with some recommendations.

R. Ritter:
I think the website we mentioned, DOT climate change clearinghouse has a number of reports you want to take a look at. One that was not mentioned and would probably be worthwhile is the National Academy of Sciences Report 290 where they went through a wide variety of potential climate change impacts and what that means to a broad range of transportation infrastructure both on the coast and interior.

L. Feast:
What are the likely funding sources for the necessary adaptation studies and projects?

R. Ritter:
At the moment, there aren't funding sources specific to adaptation studies and projects. I don't know if there would be programs that are designed specifically for that. As I mentioned in my presentation, we need to consider adaptation at every point in the decision making process. We have funding for each of those points. You are using your standard planning funds to address adaptation there. Whether or not you want to use a 50 year storm event or different storm event when you are considering what the appropriate design for a project is, you have better have funding available for that design. Operation and maintenance also have the same sort of issues.

L. Feast:
I will bring up some pictures from hurricane Ike scroll through them as she's giving the instructions on how to ask a question over the phone.

At this time if you would like to ask a question over the phone leans press star one on your touch tone phone. Your name is required in order to introduce your question. To withdraw your request press star two. One moment please.

The first question comes from Caitlin Hughes. Go ahead with your question.

Caitlin Hughes:
I am from the Maryland Department of Transportation. I had a follow up request to my request for an overlay of sea level rise on ports across the nation. That is, could we try to do something similar on the rail side? I'd love to see the rail lines.

D. Turchetta:
One slide Rob had shows the information in the Gulf Coast. We didn't do it for the whole United States but that would be something we could look into.

C. Hughes:
Sure. I think especially as it pertains to a nation-wide vision for freight it would be important to see what parts of the country are compromised than others.

At this point there are no further audio questions. To ask a question press star one.

L. Feast:
We did have a quick question if you could repeat the answer about redefining a 50 year event that you gave earlier.

R. Ritter:
I can try, but I'm not sure I remember exactly what I said. You'll have to go back to the audio recording for that. My point is that a lot of designs are based on 50 year and 100 year storm events, which as Rob indicated, are based on historical data. We're seeing changes based on climate change, seeing changes to precipitation that are not straight line changes from historical events and we're not seeing the same kind of storms, same intensity or frequency that we have seen for the last 50 or 100 years. It may be appropriate to not use the 50 year event in some particular cases. We at Federal Highway are certainly talking with some of the federal agencies to do some evaluations of what the 50 year or 100 year event should be considered and whether or not we should be updating that information so that as you're moving forward and making decisions about designs or changes to existing infrastructure you are using different information. It is ongoing now as you all can appreciate. There are a lot of ramifications to those changes. We want to make sure we're using the appropriate science and have the most up to date information before we make these decisions and put out information for you.

L. Feast:
Thank you all for attending today's seminar. The recorded version of this event will be available within the next week on the Talking Freight website.
I'd like to give a brief mention about the FHWA Freight Peer to Peer Program. The Freight Peer-to-Peer Program (P2P) puts public sector freight transportation professionals in touch with experts in the field and provides technical assistance in order to enhance overall freight skills and knowledge. The program is available to public entities, including State departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). To learn more about the program or to arrange a peer exchange, or to discuss participating as a peer/expert please visit the Freight Peer to Peer web site.
The next seminar will be held on July 15 and will be about the Credit Crunch and Impacts on Freight Transportation.

If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to visit the Talking Freight Web Site and sign up for this seminar. The address is up on the slide on your screen. I also encourage you to join the Freight Planning LISTSERV if you have not already done so.
Enjoy the rest of your day!

Updated: 1/31/2017
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