The National Academies

NCHRP 20-117 [Completed]

Deploying Transportation Resilience Practices in State DOTs

  Project Data
Funds: $1,076,200
Research Agency: WSP USA Inc.
Principal Investigator: Ms. Paula Hammond
Effective Date: 6/16/2017
Completion Date: 9/30/2020

Although comparatively large public- and private-sector investments have been made to improve transportation system resiliency over the past decade, the 2013 TRB Report on Critical Issues in Transportation concluded that “[T]he performance of the transportation system is neither reliable nor resilient, yet transportation’s role in economic revival and in global economic competition has never been more important.” This finding was echoed by AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Research (SCOR) which noted that “[a] major performance issue across all modes is the inadequacy of preparation” for natural and human-made disasters as well as for extreme weather events when it identified resilience as the number one NCHRP Emphasis Area for FY2017. SCOR also noted that the application of resiliency engineering in the transportation sector is still in its infancy. This finding is echoed by the USDOT, the National Research Council, AASHTO’s Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management and others that have indicated the need for more work to be done in implementing systemic resilience-based approaches in surface transportation. TRB cooperative research projects have produced a wealth of resiliency-related studies, products, guidelines and effective practices aimed at those responsible for system operations and performance. Those research projects have included recommendations for implementation but have not had dedicated resources to carry out a systematic program of implementation support. Consequently, in spite of this large collective research effort, successful “on-the-ground” deployment has been ad hoc, inconsistent, fragmented, and slow. The fundamental problem is that new guidelines and effective practices developed by these and other programs are not being deployed by the state DOTs in a timely and uniform manner, leaving travelers, businesses, and governments at greater risk than necessary. Research is needed to develop a set of implementation support tools and services to assist state DOTs and other entities in deploying resilience-based innovations and effective practices found effective at the state, local, tribal, and territorial scales.
The objectives of this research are to assist state DOTs and other entities in achieving a resilience-focused culture in their organization through developing (1) a Transportation Resilience Guide and Toolkit (with associated model curricula) and (2) a national summit and peer exchange on transportation resiliency. The resilience guide and toolkit should present the state of the art and the state of the practice. The national summit and peer exchange should showcase effective practices across the transportation enterprise, particularly focused on implementation within the varied policy environments of state DOTs.
The major components of this resilience project should encompass slow-onset continuous stresses as well as emergent shock events.  The resilience guide and toolkit should support development of consequences-focused transportation resilience goals by state DOTs in a programmatic, sector partnership such as practiced in the development of the National Unified Goal (NUG) for Traffic Incident Management (TIM). In addition to drawing on completed and concurrent work under other TRB Cooperative Research Program projects, the resilience guide and toolkit should provide support for: (1) developing the business case and institutional framework for a systems approach to resilience, (2) developing, enhancing, and maintaining a culture of resilience, (3) a comprehensive self-assessment tool useful for benchmarking enterprise resilience, and (4) identifying next steps for state DOTs to undertake to improve resilience across the transportation enterprise.
In addition, the resilience guide and toolkit should include model resilience curricula for state DOTs covering
      • design & engineering
      • construction
      • social considerations
      • economics
      • prioritization
      • maintenance
      • a tutorial on funding, with case studies on how funding packages are put together to address transportation systems resilience. Relevant examples of potential case study subjects include
      • Locks and Dams 52 and 53
      • FEMA’s Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA)
      • the comprehensive approach employed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)
      • the extensive regional plan and investment to modernize commerce and military movements in marine, rail, aviation, trucking, and increased passenger safety around Exit 14 on the New Jersey Turnpike (NJTP) and its numerous sea, land and air ports
      • stakeholder engagement for planning to address sea-level rise in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Model curricula suitable for adaptation by university programs should also be developed.  A significant component of this project will be to organize, provide intellectual and logistical support to, and document a national summit and peer exchange on transportation resilience to be held in 2018 and co-sponsored by TRB, AASHTO, FHWA, FEMA, DHS, and other interested parties. NCHRP anticipates the workshop will engage senior AASHTO, TRB, and Federal Highway Administration officials as well as state agency CEOs. The summit and peer exchange are anticipated to include a poster session featuring posters from all participating state DOTs sharing CEO policy statements; effective practices; and remaining challenges. The centerpiece of the national summit and peer exchange will be a showcase of effective resilience practices presented by public and private participants, including authorities and state, local, tribal, and territorial transportation organizations that demonstrate sustainable resilience practices—a practical blend of proactive and reactive approaches. Resilience practices of interest should include a strong consideration of the processes and decision-making that led their adoption. Resilience is not a “one and done” checklist activity; it includes periodic reassessments of barriers and identification of ways to overcome them. Practice profiles should include the barriers they addressed (and did not address), the process and partnering undertaken, resources leveraged, and implementation issues. Resilience practices of interest may include the topics generated in NCHRP Project 20-59(54) Transportation System Resilience: Research Roadmap and White Papers; NCHRP Project 20-59(55) Transportation System Resilience: CEO Primer & Engagement; and the four Rs of Resilience: Robustness, Redundancy, Resourcefulness, and Rapidity.


 Accomplishment of the project objective will entail delivery of at least the following products:

 Product 1. Summit and peer exchange plan. In consultation with NCHRP and AASHTO leadership, identify topics to be the basis for discussions at the national summit and peer exchange on transportation resilience

 Product 2. Summit and peer exchange execution. Provide logistics support, facilitate discussions, and document the event. 

 Product 3. Summit and peer exchange documentation. Prepare a draft report summarizing the results of the summit and peer exchange that can be used to inform CEOs and other senior officials about the discussions.

Product 4. Resilience guide and toolkit. Prepare a detailed outline and a draft report that can be used by state DOTs and other entities to organize their plans and programs at the enterprise level that includes practical, effective methods of measuring risk reduction and increased resilience.

STATUS: Complete. Published as NCHRP Research Report 970: Mainstreaming System Resilience Concepts into Transportation Agencies: A Guide.

Supplemental materials to the report include a Posters Compilation and the Program Agenda from the 2018 Transportation Resilience Innovations Summit and Exchange, and a PowerPoint Presentation on resilience.

Conference presentations from the Transportation Resilience Innovations Summit and Exchange (RISE) 2018 are also available.

TRB sponsored the Transportation Resilience Innovations Summit and Exchange (RISE) 2018 on October 9-10, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. A panel meeting was held in conjunction with the RISE.This event convened all 50 state transportation departments for a unique conference to implement risk and resilience practices within daily and emergency management operations. Resilience has many different dimensions and relates to activities ranging from planning through design and construction to operations and maintenance. It also includes social, economic and funding considerations, and depends on the participation of a diverse set of agencies and organizations. 

The Summit Program was structured around the following three key themes:

  • Enhancing an Organization’s Capacity for Incorporating Resilience into its Activities
  • Recognizing Infrastructure Dependencies and Fostering Partnerships
  • Making the Case for Resilience

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