Improved Methods for Guiding Climate-Induced Transportation Infrastructure Adaptation Decisions

The impacts of climate change are fundamentally tied to the ability of the transportation infrastructure to maintain and restore functionality following an adverse event. With the Earth undergoing significant climate change, development of a method for determining whether and how to deploy effective transportation infrastructure adaptation strategies has emerged as an important challenge. Complications arise because of the uncertainty surrounding both climate change and the corresponding impacts induced by climate change events. Furthermore, there is variability in adaptation strategy options; they could be as modest as enhancing emergency response and continuity planning, or they could involve major capital investment to strengthen existing critical infrastructure or to relocate it altogether. Thus, we seek to answer the question: How can climate-induced impacts on transportation infrastructure be measured and factored into the adaptation decision-making process? The objective of this task is to develop and field-test a method to guide transportation infrastructure adaptation decisions in the face of plausible climate scenarios. This includes an assessment of effects to the infrastructure and corresponding economic, environmental and social impacts; whether some form of adaptation is needed; and if so, what type(s) of adaptation strategies would be most desirable. The method would be developed using a site selected from among locations where significant weather events have occurred in the recent past. Among the candidate sites are Nashville, Tennessee (May 2010 floods), New Orleans, Louisiana (Hurricane Katrina) and the Kentucky region (January 2009 ice storm). These are attractive locations because information on how adverse weather events affect the transportation infrastructure (and its consequential economic, social and environmental impacts) is more readily available. Moreover, this provides an opportunity to explore variations in the severity of the weather event by using what actually happened as a baseline. The project will be accomplished by performing the following steps: (1) Determine the impacts of the adverse event on the critical transportation infrastructure within the selected site as expressed in economic, environmental, and social terms. Damage to the transportation infrastructure will be analyzed using empirical data from the adverse event, existing damage estimation tools (e.g., HAZUS), and available information on infrastructure replacement costs and life spans. Measurement of economic, environmental and social consequences will rely on available climate impact models. Geographic information systems (GIS) technology will be extensively used in the performance of this task. (2) Develop impact thresholds associated with different degrees of adaptation that would be required. An approach to analyzing threshold response that has been successfully applied in the seismic design arena will be used as a basis for this development. A list of adaptation strategies that belong in each threshold category will be compiled from the literature, recognizing that different classes of adaptation strategies involve different investment levels and implementation periods. Determination of the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of respective adaptation measures will adopt a comprehensive approach similar to what has been published in the research literature. (3) Assimilate Research Results. The work performed in Steps 1 and 2 will be combined to demonstrate how the impact assessment and adaptation strategy identification processes come together to form a cohesive decision-support method. Each aspect of the process will be illustrated using the case study site.


    • English


    • Status: Active
    • Contract Numbers:


      CAIT 8

    • Sponsor Organizations:

      University of Memphis

      Center for Advanced Intermodal Technologies
      3815 Central Avenue
      Memphis, TN  USA  38152-3370
    • Performing Organizations:

      Vanderbilt Center for Transportation Research (VECTOR)

      Box 1831, Station B
      Vanderbilt University
      Nashville, TN  USA  37235
    • Principal Investigators:

      Dobbins, James

      Abkowitz, Mark

    • Start Date: 20110101
    • Actual Completion Date: 20111231
    • Source Data: RiP Project 27990

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01463730
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: Vanderbilt University
    • Contract Numbers: ED-08-22799-00, CAIT 8
    • Files: UTC, RiP
    • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:29PM