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Sustainability

Recent Developments

This section describes recent developments related to transportation-related sustainability. If you would like to suggest a recent development on this topic, please submit a short description to AASHTO (including any pertinent links) on the  Share Info with AASHTO form.

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IPCC Releases Climate Change Mitigation Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group III has released a report assessing “the current scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change.” According to the IPCC, the report, a product of four years of scientific cooperation among hundreds of authors, provides a “comprehensive, objective and policy neutral” review of the knowledge related to the mitigating climate change. In addition to the report, IPCC has released a summary for policy makers, which was approved by member governments during the 12th Session of the IPCC Working Group III in April 2014. For more information, link to the report. (4-13-14)

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FHWA Launches Human Environment Weekly Digest

The Federal Highway Administration has launched a weekly email news digest to share the latest information from a range of sources addressing transportation and its relationship to the human environment. The digest includes a summary of the content under key topics and hotlinks for further details. Through this information exchange, FHWA hopes to foster dialogue at all levels and continue to further the state of the practice on these important topics. For more information and to sign up for the digest, link to http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability/he_digest/.

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Alaska Ferries Receive Green WATERS Program Certification

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has announced that Alaska Marine Highway System ferries have acquired the Passenger Vessel Association’s Green WATERS (We Are Taking Environmental Responsibility/Stewardship) Program certification. The voluntary program’s goal is to reduce waste and provide for a cleaner and more sustainable marine environment. To acquire Green WATERS Program certification, the Alaska ferry system developed a Ship to Shore Environmental Guide, which provides information that allows staff to quickly respond to environmental concerns. For more information, link to Alaska State Ferries Join Green WATERS Program. (4-9-14)

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Report Describes Impacts of Climate Change in Washington State

The University of Washington, Climate Impacts Group, has issued a report describing the state of knowledge concerning the likely effects of climate change in Washington State and surrounding areas of the Pacific Northwest. The report, Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Washington State: Technical Summaries for Decision Makers, emphasizes research since 2007 and describes projected impacts on, and vulnerabilities in regard to, climate, water resources, forests, ecosystems, coastal areas, infrastructure, agriculture, and human health. The report also reports on observed changes to date and makes recommendations for further research. For more information, link to the report. (3-31-14)

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IPCC 2014 Report Focuses on Impacts, Adaptation, Vulnerability

The Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group II contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5) was approved and the underlying scientific and technical assessment accepted at a meeting of the working group in Yokohama, Japan. The IPCC said higher global temperatures are already having a “significant” impact on the planet that include diminishing access to freshwater and the acidification of the ocean in many parts of the world, and the increased frequency of extreme weather. Unchecked, the changing climate could lead to major challenges for human populations, especially in poor countries, the IPCC warned. For more information, link to the IPCC Working Group II Contribution to AR5. (3-30-14)

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Report Analyzes Effects of Policy Proposals, Travel Demand on Greenhouse Gases

The Mineta National Transit Research Consortium has issued a report that discusses various policy options for achieving greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions in the transportation sector. The report, Transportation Futures: Policy Scenarios for Achieving Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets, uses the Argonne National Laboratory’s VISION model to estimate life cycle GHG emissions for vehicle miles travelled to analyze three scenarios: road pricing, transit-oriented development, and increased transit service. The report also provides results from three sensitivity analyses for each scenario that describe the effect on travel demand. For more information, link to the report. (3-26-14)

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FRA Releases Report Offering Strategies for Improving Rail Energy Efficiency

The Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Research and Development has published a report highlighting best practices and strategies for improving rail energy efficiency. The report incorporates experts’ input and information gleaned from a comprehensive literature review to recommend model corporate sustainability plans, rail equipment upgrade opportunities, and system-wide best practices. In addition, the report documents successful efforts to improve energy efficiency performance measures that also included environmental and economic benefits. For more information, link to Best Practices and Strategies for Improving Rail Energy Efficiency. (3-18-14)

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Obama Announces Climate Data Initiative to Empower Resiliency Efforts

The Obama Administration has launched the Climate Data Initiative, which encourages the private sector to utilize openly available federal data to support national climate-change preparedness efforts. Part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan announced in June 2013, the initiative envisions the private sector leveraging federal data sources to build tools that increase communities’ resiliency. The initiative also asks the private sector to build cross-sector partnerships to maximize the usefulness of resiliency tools. For more information, link to Fact Sheet: The President’s Climate Data Initiative: Empowering America’s Communities to Prepare for the Effects of Climate Change. (3-19-14)

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Washington State DOT Issues Pilot Study on FHWA's INVEST Tool

Washington State DOT has issued a report documenting its use of the Federal Highway Administration’s Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST). WSDOT tested the tool on three recently completed corridor planning studies and one project which was still in the development phase. WSDOT found that the System Planning module of INVEST, with some modification, would support a stronger sustainability focus in corridor studies. WSDOT plans to include relevant planning recommendations from INVEST in its updated planning guidelines, as well as in the guidelines that will be developed during a study for integrating demand management into agency planning and programming. While WSDOT decided not to use the current form of the Project Development module of INVEST for project development, it found that with modification the tool could help engineers systematically identify and consider more sustainable project practices. For more information, link to the Washington State Department of Transportation INVEST Study. (3-6-14)

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FHWA Extends Deadline for Additional Projects to Use INVEST Sustainability Rating Tool

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a second call to state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations, and Federal Lands Highway divisions for projects that can utilize the Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST 1.0). This second round solicitation is for a variety of projects. Priority funding is being made available for projects applying the INVEST Operations and Maintenance module, since this project type was underrepresented in the first round of funding. Letters of interest are due March 28, 2014. Funding decisions will be announced in spring 2014. For more information, link to the Solicitation for INVEST Implementation Projects and FHWA’s Sustainable Highways Initiative website. (2-20-14)

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Obama and Foxx Detail Four-Year Transportation Reauthorization Proposal

President Obama and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx have laid out the administration’s proposal for a four-year surface transportation reauthorization that provides federal funding for highways, transit and passenger rail. About two-thirds of the $302 billion proposal would be dedicated to highway maintenance and safety programs. Obama said he would increase highway funding by 22 percent annually. The transit account would receive a huge boost, with annual funding increased 70 percent annually to $72 billion over four years. In addition, Obama's proposal would provide $19 billion in dedicated rail funding, about a quarter of which would go to high-speed rail projects. The president's plan would provide $9 billion in funding for competitive grant and loan programs, including $600 million for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) 2014 program. For more information, link to FACT SHEET: President Obama Lays Out Vision for 21st Century Transportation Infrastructure. (2-26-14)

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FHWA Publishes Summaries of Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Efforts

The Federal Highway Administration has released summaries of its climate adaptation and climate mitigation initiatives. FHWA’s climate adaptation efforts originally focused on how transportation networks would be affected by climate change. The next phase of FHWA’s climate change adaptation efforts focused on the development of tools and other information that enabled states to examine vulnerabilities. Current adaption efforts scrutinize strategies to enhance resilience while also integrating climate resilience into FHWA’s current programs and policies. FHWA’s mitigation efforts have generally assisted state and local partners in developing strategies and tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The summary also describes programs under development at FHWA to further incorporate GHG emissions into highway planning. For more information, link to Summary of FHWA Climate Adaptation Initiatives and Summary of FHWA Climate Mitigation Initiatives. (2-21-14)

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First EPA Great Lakes Green Infrastructure Grant Goes to Duluth, Minn.

The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Duluth, Minn. a $250,000 Great Lakes Shoreline Cities Green Infrastructure grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The grant will fund green infrastructure projects, such as stormwater management features, that enhance the Lake Superior Basin’s water quality. EPA will award Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants to 15 other cities seeking to improve water quality. For more information, link to Duluth receives U.S. EPA’s first Great Lakes Shorelines Cities Green Infrastructure Grant. (2-20-14)

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Comprehensive Practitioners Guide Offers Adaptation Strategies for Transportation

Strategies to help transportation practitioners adapt to the likely impacts of climate change are provided in a practitioner’s guide issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP Project 20-83(05). The report, Climate Change, Extreme Weather Events, and the Highway System: Practitioner’s Guide and Research Report, is the second volume of the NCHRP Report 750: Strategic Issues Facing Transportation. The Practitioner’s Guide provides strategies for adapting to climate change impacts through 2050 in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of infrastructure assets in the United States (and through 2100 for sea-level rise). The research also produced a software tool that runs in common web browsers (or in a spreadsheet format) and provides specific, region-based information on incorporating climate change adaptation into the planning and design of bridges, culverts, stormwater infrastructure, slopes, walls, and pavements. It also includes two spreadsheets that illustrate examples of the benefit–cost analysis of adaptation strategies. For more information and access to the research products, link to the research report website. (2-14-14)

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GAO Offers Strategies for Reducing Exposure to Climate Change through Increased Resiliency

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has released its written testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee describing ways to limit the federal government’s fiscal exposure to extreme weather events while also improving the nation’s resilience. The testimony, presented by GAO official Mark Gaffigan, covers ways to increase resiliency and reduce fiscal exposure to climate change through assessing infrastructure vulnerability, updating property and crop insurance programs, addressing disaster aid funding, and through increased technical assistance for state and local governments. The report stressed that infrastructure practitioners “have not systematically incorporated climate change impacts in planning for roads, bridges, and wastewater management systems” and highlighted earlier recommendations for the federal government to help state and local officials develop actionable infrastructure adaptation plans. For more information, link to the report. (2-12-14)

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FHWA Newsletter Discusses Efforts to Promote Health in Transportation

FHWA’s February 2014 Successes in Stewardship newsletter provides information on promoting health in transportation. The newsletter details FHWA’s involvement with creating the Health in Transportation Working Group, which has produced a brochure offering information on existing programs related to promoting wellness in several focus areas such as air quality, bicycle and pedestrian planning, and noise. In addition, the newsletter covers FHWA’s planning process for healthy communities and its partnerships with other federal agencies to improve health outcomes. For more information, link to the newsletter. (2-10-14)

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FHWA Report Compares U.S. and Swedish Livability Approaches

FHWA has released a report summarizing two webinars that explored U.S. and Swedish approaches to different livability issues. The October 2012 webinars, coordinated by FHWA’s Office of International Programs and the FHWA Livability Team, provided a forum for government and academic participants to discuss varying strategies to overcoming similar livability issues. The report draws on each country’s unique approach to livability to offer lessons and describe best practices for both U.S. and Swedish transportation practitioners. For more information, link to Livability in the U.S. and Sweden Summary Report. (1-3-14)

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ODOT Report Details Energy Efficiency Strategies for Highway Maintenance Facilities

The Ohio Department of Transportation has published a report examining various renewable energy sources and energy efficiency methods for the department’s highway maintenance facilities. Strategies outlined in the report reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offer cost advantages. A University of Cincinnati research team devised a three-phase screening tool to scrutinize technologies with the potential to provide renewable energy benefits at highway maintenance facilities. In addition, researchers created a decision support tool to help practitioners navigate the screening tool’s three phases. For more information, link to Evaluation of Renewable Energy Alternatives for Highway Maintenance Facilities. (1-23-14)

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CDC and APA Develop Healthy Community Design Toolkit

The American Planning Association, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, has developed a Healthy Community Design Toolkit. The free resource includes a health community design checklist, a ready-to-use health community design PowerPoint presentation, a guide for creating a neighborhood health profile and a guide for planning health resources. For more information, link to Healthy Community Design Toolkit. (1-16-14)

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State Department Releases 2014 Climate Action Report

The Department of State has issued the United States’ Climate Action Report for 2014. Presented to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the report provides information on the United States’ actions, both at home and abroad, “to mitigate, adapt to, and assist others in addressing climate change.” The report also outlines the United States’ plan to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions trends through 2020. For more information, link to the report. (1-1-14)

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Case Study Explores Vermont's Attempts to Increase Resiliency after Hurricane Irene

A Georgetown Climate Center case study examines Vermont’s efforts to use federal disaster funding to repair transportation networks devastate by Hurricane Irene in August 2011. The case study also examines the challenges Vermont officials faced when attempting to use federal disaster funding to increase the resiliency of their transportation networks. According to the case study, Vermont officials chose to rebuild roads and bridges with enhanced standards, which prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deny reimbursement claims. Appeals were filed and FEMA has so far agreed to reimburse one locality that utilized higher road and bridge standards. For more information, link to the case study. (12-20-13)

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Federal Funding Opportunities for Urban Heat Adaptation Detailed in Compendium

The Georgetown Climate Center has released a compendium compiling information about federal funding opportunities for urban heat adaptation. The center evaluated more than 40 federal programs for their potential to offer urban heat relief in the categories of transportation, energy, environment, community development and public health. The compendium includes information related to eligibility, possible funded activities and average grant awards for several Department of Transportation programs that can be used for urban heat relief, including the Interstate Maintenance Program, Highways for LIFE, National Highway Performance Program, State Planning and Research Grants, Transportation Alternatives and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Program, among others. For more information, link to Federal Funding Compendium for Urban Heat Adaptation. (12-20-13)

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FTA Announces Funds to Enhance Resiliency of Transit Agencies Affected By Sandy

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a program to enhance the resiliency of public transit agencies damaged by Hurricane Sandy. FTA will distribute approximately $3 billion to public transportation providers in states declared a federal disaster area after the October 2012 storm. FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said, “Our goal is to advance the best regionally coordinated projects, so taxpayers won't have to pay to restore the same transit services a second or third time.” Proposals are due March 28, 2014. For more information, link to The Notice of Funding Availability for Resiliency Projects in Response to Hurricane Sandy or to a related press release. (12-23-13)

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Report Summarizes Workshop Exploring Biofuels' Impact on Human Health

The Institute of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, has published a report summarizing the proceedings of two-day workshop that explored biofuels’ impact on human health. During the January 2013 workshop, presenters offered sessions exploring how production and use of biofuels affects climate change, air, water, land use and society and the consequences of those changes on human health. The workshop also included a discussion of a case study exploring palm oil’s impact on human health in Malaysia. For more information, link to The Nexus of Biofuels, Climate Change, and Human Health: Workshop Summary (2013). (12-15-13)

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FHWA Issues Assessment of Climate Change Adaptation Measures in Transportation

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a report highlighting adaptation actions that transportation agencies around the world are pursuing. The report, Assessment of the Body of Knowledge on Incorporating Climate Change Adaptation Measures into Transportation Projects, discusses strategies, examples, and best practices for evaluating the costs and benefits of adaptation. For more information, link to the report. (12-20-13)

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FHWA Posts First in a Series of Climate Change Adaptation Case Studies

Six climate change adaptation case studies have been posted by the Federal Highway Administration. The case studies detail the five projects from the first round of FHWA’s vulnerability assessment pilot program as well as a case study on addressing climate change in NEPA. FHWA said the case studies represent the first in an extensive FHWA series of case studies on climate change adaptation and resilience in the transportation sector. (12-20-13)

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TRB Circular Explores Risk Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation Frameworks

The Transportation Research Board’s has issued an E-Circular providing a synthesis of leading risk-based adaptation frameworks from the international transportation community. It focuses on common elements of the frameworks, including the underlying motivation for initiating climate change adaptation planning, the foundational risk management standards and principles used to develop the frameworks, the focus and approach of the frameworks, and the barriers and limitations identified by the transportation agencies and organizations. It also includes suggestions for future research priorities. For more information, link to TRB E-Circular 181, Risk-Based Adaptation Frameworks for Climate Change Planning in the Transportation Sector. (12-12-13)

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Federal Agencies Issue Updated Sustainability Plans

The Department of Transportation and three dozen other federal agencies have released updated plans for meeting a series of sustainability goals over the next year. The DOT plan describes the launch of the department’s “DOT Sustains” initiative as a means of demonstrating its commitment to sustainability in both internal operations and its program areas. The department’s sustainability policies include a reduction in petroleum consumption for the department’s vehicle fleet and an increase in alternative fuel use. The plan also notes that, in fiscal year 2012, the department has lowered greenhouse gas emissions over 30 percent from the 2008 baseline for one level of reduction goals and 14 percent for another. DOT also indicated that it plans to increase energy efficiency in its buildings and to procure more green products. For more information, link to the DOT plan and the federal sustainability web page. (12-5-13)

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Obama Memorandum Details New Renewable Energy Guidelines

President Barack Obama has signed a memorandum directing federal agencies to purchase 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. The memorandum, part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, triples the amount of power federal agencies are currently required to obtain from renewable sources. The new renewable power requirements, according to the memorandum, will be incrementally phased over a five-year period beginning in federal fiscal year 2015. For more information, link to the Presidential Memorandum and fact sheet. (12-5-13)

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TRB's TR News Focuses on Environmental Sustainability in Transportation

Transportation Research Board’s TR News magazine devoted its September-October 2013 issue to the topic of environmental sustainability in transportation. The issue includes articles related to applying the Eco-logical framework, roadside vegetation and green infrastructure, developing soundscapes, quieter pavements and recycled materials. The magazine also features an introductory article about the intersection between quality of life improvements and environmental sustainability in transportation. For more information, link to TR News, September-October 2013, Number 288. (11-25-13)

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WSDOT Recognizes Three Projects with Environmental Excellence in Design Award

Three projects were recently honored with the 2013 Environmental Excellence in Design Award by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The award recognizes projects for their environmental benefits and outcomes, avoidance and minimization of environmental impacts and ability to build collaborative partnerships. The new U.S. 195 Cheney-Spokane Road interchange won the transportation improvement category. There were two winners in the environmental improvement category: the U.S. 97 wildlife connectivity project north of Goldendale, Wash., and the State Road 20 Skagit River Permanent Restoration project. For more information, link to Environmental Excellence in Design Award. (11-20-13)

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FHWA Launches Web Page on Renewable Energy on Highway Right-of-Way

FHWA’s Office Planning, Environment, and Realty has launched a web page with information for practitioners on alternative uses of highway right-of-way. State departments of transportation increasingly are using highway right-of-way to host renewable energy technologies. The web page discusses the benefits of accommodating renewable energy projects, such as solar arrays, along highway right-of-way and includes links to additional resources. For more information, link to Alternative Uses of Highway Right-of-Way. (11-20-13)

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Federal Agencies Win GreenGov Awards for Climate Workshops, Sea Level Rise Tool

Winners of the fourth annual GreenGov Presidential Awards include two awardees in the Climate Champion category. The General Services Administration won for its series of climate preparedness workshops for federal facilities to review potential climate impacts on government infrastructure. In addition, a team of federal agencies was honored for partnering to create an interactive mapping and calculator tool to help communities understand future sea level rise as they weigh Hurricane Sandy reconstruction. The Sea Level Rise Tool for Sandy Recovery allows state, regional, and local planners to better estimate the risk of sea level rise on facilities and infrastructure. For more information, link to the White House press release. (11-5-13)

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New Executive Order Instructs Federal Government to Prepare For Climate Change's Impacts

The President has signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to prepare the United States for climate change’s impact. The executive order, which comes one year after Hurricane Sandy’s landfall along the northeast seaboard, calls on the federal government to manage efforts to “improve climate preparedness and resilience” with input from state, local, tribal and other relevant stakeholders. In addition, the executive order establishes the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which comprises several federal agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Defense, State, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. For more information, link to the Preparing The United States For The Impacts Of Climate Change Executive Order. (11-1-13)

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EPA Seeking Comment on Watershed and Estuary Adaptation Workbook

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries program has released a public draft of a climate change adaptation planning workbook. EPA, which is seeking comments on the draft, designed the workbook to help environmental professionals and related practitioners develop climate change adaptation plans for coastal and watershed resources they oversee or manage. For more information, link to the workbook or to the Climate Ready Estuaries News and Events webpage. (10-22-13)

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FHWA Posts Material from Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Webinars

Recordings and transcripts of four webinars devoted to climate change and extreme weather vulnerability assessments are now available on FHWA’s website. A May 16, 2013, webinar introduced listeners to the basics of vulnerability assessments, provided information related to the potential of climate change to impact transportation networks, and described FHWA’s Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework. A May 30, 2013, webinar provided information on transportation asset information and climate projections to identify vulnerabilities in transportation infrastructure. The third webinar, held on June 12, 2013, discussed merging assessment results into decision making frameworks. In addition, a June 20, 2013, webinar discussed Hurricane Sandy and its effect on future extreme weather preparations, recovery strategies and planning for long-term resilience. For more information, link to Transportation, Climate Change & Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Webinar Series. (10-29-13)

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EPA Announces Grants For Green Infrastructure in Six Communities

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced $400,000 in funding to help six communities expand use of green infrastructure to reduce water pollution and boost resilience to the impacts of climate change. Grants will go to Providence, R.I.; Detroit, Mich.; Lincoln, Neb.; Gary, Ind.; Pima County, Ariz.; and Spartanburg, S.C. The funding is in support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which directs federal agencies to identify climate-resilient investments such as agency grants and technical assistance for communities across the country. The agency also released a related report, Case Studies Analyzing the Economic Benefits of Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure Programs. For more information, link to EPA’s Green Infrastructure page. (10-25-13)

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FDOT Mapping Tool Provides Analysis of Sea Level Rise

The Florida Department of Transportation has released an interactive planning tool that can provide valuable information for conducting statewide and regional assessments of the vulnerability of transportation infrastructure to sea level rise. With the development of higher resolution data sets, the tool also allows for analysis down to the level of a metropolitan planning organization (MPO). The tool, developed by the University of Florida, provides analysis of projections of sea level rise at various rates. Inundation layers use the simple “bathtub” method enhanced by including a hydroconnectivity rule. This combined method increased the accuracy of the vulnerability inventory. The map viewer allows users to produce modeled inundation layers and view affected transportation facilities for planning horizons up to the year 2100. For more information, link to Development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) Tool for the Preliminary Assessment of the Effects of Predicted Sea Level and Tidal Change on Transportation Infrastructure. (10-7-13)

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