Adaptation Examples: Transportation
Adaptation Examples in Transportation
On This Page
- Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities addresses changes in permafrost
- California Department of Transportation realigns Highway 1
- Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is piloting projects to minimize permafrost melting under roads.
- California is re-routing parts of Highway 1 that are at high risk of erosion and sea level rise.
- Piscataqua Regional Estuary Partnership in New Hampshire is identifying roads and culverts that are likely to be sensitive to increased precipitation and storms.
- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has created a conceptual model to help local transportation officials evaluate vulnerability of local transportation infrastructure.
- EPA, Climate Change: Alaska Impacts & Adaptation, The U.S. Navy Prepares for a More Navigable Arctic
- IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group II
- NRC America’s Climate Choices: Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change
- Department of Transportation, Climate Change Adaptation (PDF)
- Transportation Research Board, The Potential Impacts of Climate Change on U.S. Transportation (PDF)
- Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse
- Transportation Research Board and Climate Change
- Federal Transit Administration, Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation (PDF)
- Georgetown Climate Center: Adaptation Clearinghouse
- Federal Highway Administration, Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure - The Gulf Coast Study Overview
- USGCRP, Synthesis Assessment Product 4.7, Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure -- Gulf Coast Study
Sea level rise, more intense storms, and thawing permafrost are some of the impacts of climate change that are likely to affect transportation systems. To learn more about how climate change can impact transportation systems, visit the Transportation Impacts section.
Federal, state, and local agencies are taking steps to protect transportation systems from climate change impacts. Adaptation measures across the country are shaped by local impacts. Specific adaptation approaches include:
- Raising the level of critical infrastructure
- Changing construction and design standards of transportation infrastructure, such as bridges, levees, roads, railways, and airports
- Abandoning or rebuilding important infrastructure in less vulnerable areas
The following case studies, examples, and related links are illustrative of transportation adaptation actions and not intended to be comprehensive. Another example of adaptation related to transportation–the plans being made by the U.S. Navy to deal with the loss of sea ice in the Arctic–can be found in the Alaska Impacts & Adaptation page.
Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities addresses changes in permafrost
Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT & PF) manages a vast and complex network of transportation infrastructure, including over 14,000 miles of public roads, numerous bridges, rural airports, and harbors. This network is exposed to a variety of changes in climate that result in climate change impacts.
The Northern Region Maintenance and Operation agency of ADOT & PF spends approximately $10 million each year (PDF) to address damage to roads from the melting of frozen soil—also known as permafrost. The ADOT & PF is piloting the use of an alternative advanced cooling technology to absorb heat from the frozen soil and prevent thawing. The agency is also evaluating a method of permafrost protection that increases air circulation to maintain freezing temperatures below the road surface. This technology is currently being tested on the University of Alaska’s Fairbanks campus, through a partnership between the University and ADOT & PF. These efforts will help inform planning for the construction of new roads that can be protected against the adverse effects of thawing permafrost.
To learn more about adaptation measures in the region, visit the Alaska Impacts & Adaptation page.
California Department of Transportation Realigns Highway 1
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is integrating climate considerations into its strategic planning. In San Luis Obispo County, Caltrans is moving part of Highway 1 inland due to current and projected coastal erosion and sea level rise. Caltrans expects this realignment to protect the iconic road for the next 100 years. In addition, the realignment is designed to minimize impacts to coastal resources by taking into account existing land use and conservation agreements.
Piscataqua Regional Estuary Program in New Hampshire pinpoints sensitive roads and culverts
The Piscataqua Regional Estuary Partnership, supported by the EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries program, used various evaluation methods to analyze and pinpoint the roads and culverts affected by changes in rainfall and extreme storm events. The project also estimated the costs of replacing and strengthening existing infrastructure, which can help decision-makers make an economic case for pursuing adaptation.
Federal Highway Administration assesses the vulnerability of transportation networks
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed a conceptual model for assessing the vulnerability of transportation systems to climate change. FHWA is working with five teams of transportation planners that are testing the model. These teams include the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in San Francisco, California; the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT)/North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority; Virginia DOT; Washington State DOT; and the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization in Hawaii. Lessons learned from these pilot projects will inform future efforts to develop guidance for other transportation agencies addressing impacts of climate change.
FHWA is also studying climate change impacts on transportation networks in the Central Gulf Coast region and evaluating adaptation options. The study is focused on:
- Understanding climate change effects on transportation infrastructure
- Identifying vulnerable transportation infrastructure in Mobile, Alabama
- Conducting detailed engineering and risk studies to identify options for strengthening critical transportation infrastructure
- Developing adaptation tools and methods that can be applied to other locations
To learn more about climate adaptation in the Gulf Coast, visit the Southeast Impacts & Adaptation page.