Transportation agencies should conduct comprehensive assessments of climate change risks in order to receive federal funds, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
According to Investing in Transportation Resilience: A Framework for Informed Choices, released Aug. 5, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation should include resilience benefits in its benefit-cost analysis (BCA) for project justifications. These assessments should be integrated into environmental impact statements or other evaluations, the report states.
The new report finds that resilience is measured and assessed inconsistently, even when it is a prominent factor in the investment planning process. Instead, resilience should be measured and assessed using an analytic framework that incorporates detailed inventories of existing and planned transportation assets.
“Storms, floods, droughts and other natural hazards are combining with sea level rise and other effects of climate change to disrupt the functioning of the nation’s transportations systems,” said Joseph Schofer, associate dean at the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, and chair of the committee that wrote the report, in a news release. “Investing in resilience will require us to make carefully considered choices about how we spend money today to generate benefits that may not be realized until long into the future.”
Additionally, the report recommends that Congress direct the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to study what types of data transportation agencies need for resilience analysis.
The report notes that “transportation agencies should be encouraged to take a multi-hazard approach to resilience analysis. Too often, agencies still focus on a repeat of the most recent disaster or focus on only a small set of relevant hazards.”
Agencies vary widely in how they measure costs of environmental events, the report says. For example, San Diego International Airport includes the consequences to the wildlife habitat that it maintains, while the Colorado Dept. of Transportation “monetizes the consequences of damage and disruption by computing the annualized owner costs (e.g., asset replacement and cleanup costs) and user costs (e.g., value of time lost to delays and travel costs of detours).”
Carol Lurie, regional aviation director for VHB, says the firm is “pleased” by the federal government’s commitment to sustainability and resilience. “Design life must take into account structure vulnerability, future climate risks and other natural hazards,” she says. “The federal government’s investment in today’s infrastructure will lay the groundwork for a more sustainable, equitable and resilient tomorrow, and we are fully supportive of that effort.”