New Study Recommends Climate Adaptation Policies for Transportation Infrastructure

December 15, 2009

Strengthening the Transportation System’s Resilience May Reduce Long-Term Costs from Climate Change

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new white paper released today asserts that short-term efforts to increase the transportation system’s resilience will reduce long-term costs from climate change and proposes federal policy options for the Administration and Congress to address the impacts of climate change on the transportation sector. A significant amount of the nation’s roads, rail lines, and airports are located in coastal zones most vulnerable to climate change. As the world community gathers at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to discuss climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, the study highlights needed research on the predicted impacts of climate change on transportation to address this growing problem.

The paper, prepared by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project, identifies principles and key areas for federal policy action, including climate impacts and adaptation research, transportation planning processes, project development, design and engineering considerations, and federal programs and funding. The paper proposes three main vehicles for implementing adaptation policy: the anticipated surface transportation authorization, climate and energy legislation, and Executive actions.

When the recently expired surface transportation bill is reauthorized, climate adaptation strategies targeted at the federal-aid transportation system should be incorporated. Important strategies include planning requirements for climate adaptation, National Environmental Policy Act-related guidelines, and Department of Transportation research recommendations.

An energy and cap-and-trade bill could effectively address adaptation by including an adaptation title and by using revenue from allowances to fund adaptation initiatives. Research recommendations, including establishment of a climate services clearinghouse and the development of consistent forms of climate data, can be appropriated in such comprehensive energy and climate legislation.

The paper also recommends that Executive branch policies support transportation resiliency by

incorporating climate risk and adaptation data and strategies into federal policies including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and Federal Infrastructure Investment planning. The Environmental Protection Agency’s recent endangerment finding – that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare – further underscores this recommendation.

Recommendations to Congress include:

  • Fund climate research. Authorize funding for the U.S. DOT and its Climate Center to fully participate in a multi-agency, interdisciplinary, climate adaptation research program. This program would engage both the transportation and climate research communities, with research priorities determined by the information and modeling needs of decision-makers at state and local transportation agencies. This research should include development of advanced climate modeling and integrated climate data and projections, infrastructure and system design standards to improve resilience of transportation in the face of climate change, and risk analysis tools geared towards integrating climate projections with transportation planning needs.
  • Require climate adaptation to be addressed in the transportation planning and project development processes, including: Making changes to the transportation planning factors, supporting longer planning timeframes, and providing guidance on the incorporation of quantitative and qualitative climate considerations and how to address uncertainty. In addition, the planning process should require the maintenance of nationally standardized data sources and modeling techniques for transportation climate adaptation planning and for input to project development.
  • Authorize capital and planning funding support to enhance transportation resiliency, including funding states to conduct inventories of their transportation assets and locations that are vulnerable to climate change. Most importantly it should make infrastructure climate adaptation an eligible expense under the core highway and transit programs, based on a comprehensive system inventory and risk assessment.

Recommendations to the Administration include:

  • Address project development/NEPA considerations. Adaptation and resiliency considerations can permeate all aspects of the NEPA process, from shaping a project’s purpose to its mitigation. Transportation and other planning and resource agencies will require guidance and support in developing feasible and appropriate techniques to incorporate climate information at the project level. This could include developing nationally standardized practice and data sources related to emerging climate impact information (including mapping data needs), developing guidance on the incorporation of climate considerations into project development, and developing guidance on educating stakeholders on climate adaptation considerations.
  • Incorporate climate risk analysis into Federal Infrastructure Investment policies. Revise Federal Infrastructure Investment Executive Order(s) to explicitly incorporate climate-related risk analysis into infrastructure investment plans and decision-making. This could include developing inventories of transportation facilities vulnerable to climate change, and developing updated construction standards to address transportation and other infrastructure in vulnerable locations.

The study was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation. Download the study here.

A project of the Bipartisan Policy Center, NTPP was launched with the goal of bringing fresh dialogue and approaches to transportation policy. NTPP is co-chaired by former Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), former Congressmen Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Martin Sabo (D-MN), and former Mayor of Detroit Dennis Archer. In June, NTPP released its blueprint for surface transportation reform. It is the product of a broad, bipartisan coalition of transportation experts, and business and civic leaders. To learn more about NTPP, please visit www.bipartisanpolicy.org.

The content and findings of this report are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Bipartisan Policy Center, any of its projects or project members.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center:

In 2007, former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell formed the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to develop and promote solutions that can attract the public support and political momentum to achieve real progress. The BPC acts as an incubator for policy efforts that engage top political figures, advocates, academics, and business leaders in the art of principled compromise. Currently, the BPC conducts projects in the areas of transportation, health care, energy and climate change, science, and national and homeland security. For more information please visit our website: http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/.

SOURCE Bipartisan Policy Center

Source: newswire

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