Climate Change Impact Assessment for Surface Transportation in the Pacific Northwest And Alaska

AUTC project number: RR10.04


Ming Lee

  • Washington State Transportation Center
  • Start Date: Oct 1, 2009
  • End Date: Dec 31, 2010

Project Summary

The states in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska (the region) share interconnected travel networks for people, goods, and services that support the regional economy, mobility, and human safety. Regional climate change has and will continue to affect the physical condition and serviceability of these networks, yet the nature of the changes and their potential impacts on the regional transportation system and its use are very poorly understood. The widely diverse topography, climate regimes, and localized variability of impacts within the region complicate efforts to understand and plan for adapting to the potential impacts of climate change on the regional transportation system. The rising costs of building and maintaining reliable transportation infrastructure place tremendous pressure on transportation planners, engineers, researchers and policy makers to deliver resilient transportation systems and maximize return on investment. As such, there is an urgent need to synthesize information to characterize the regional impacts of climate change to support the development of economical and resilient adaptation strategies. The objective of this research project is to conduct a preliminary assessment of the risks and vulnerabilities climate change poses to the surface transportation infrastructure system in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska region. The research will: ynthesize data needed to characterize the region — such as its physiography and hydrology, land use, past and projected climate, current population and trends, and multimodal surface transportation infrastructure, identify critical infrastructure vulnerable to climate change impacts, and provide recommendations for more detailed analysis as appropriate to support managing risks and opportunities to adapt multimodal surface transportation infrastructure to climate change impacts. The research will address the potential impacts of climate change and their associated adaptation opportunities throughout the region, giving equal deference to inland and coastal areas as well as all modes of the regional surface transportation system. The research team will focus on identifying opportunities that the Departments of Transportation and University Transportation Centers in the region can collaborate to: incorporate climate change in long-range multimodal transportation planning, collect data needed to monitor conditions and assess climate-related impacts, and develop more robust probabilistic analysis tools to support transportation infrastructure, planning, design, operation, maintenance, and relocation.