There is an increasing emphasis among transportation infrastructure providers to ensure that new capital investments and improvements are resilient to impacts from climate change and extreme weather events; however, methods and procedures for maximizing resilience from new investments in a cost-effective manner are not well documented. The benefits of resilient infrastructure accrue across the lifetime of an asset but are most typically measured as potential losses avoided rather than revenues gained. Given that assertion, Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) is a potentially useful method for balancing gradually realized, unconventional, and risk dependent benefits with upfront financial costs of adaptation investments. If appropriately applied, BCA can help airport administrators better understand and demonstrate the tradeoffs of investing in climate adaptation measures in the context of recognized uncertainties.
There are, however, significant, unique challenges to conducting climate risk-enhanced BCAs in the airport context. These challenges include the diversity of available funding and financing mechanisms as well as specific climate-related risks facing a given facility. These challenges also include how to address quantifiable versus hard-to-quantify benefits and costs when evaluating alternative investment strategies. Airport conditions reflect the individual characteristics of an airport, and the issues an airport faces with respect to climate resiliency are affected by that particular context. Methods to identify and apply evaluation techniques that can incorporate unique airport conditions or characteristics would be useful in establishing a procedure for effective investment evaluation.
The objective of this research was to develop a BCA handbook for airport infrastructure projects designed to improve resilience to long-term impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. This research should recognize, enhance, and adapt insights and procedures identified from related research currently available or under development affecting both airports and other infrastructure projects. The product of this research is designed to provide guidance to airport technical staff as well as administrators (including necessary tools and techniques) that is designed to improve the process by which infrastructure investment strategies are evaluated in the context of ensuring climate-related resiliency. It also includes procedures for presenting assumptions and results transparently, and for implementing the process.
To meet the objectives of this study, a two-phase research plan was developed to address the following.
1. Evaluate State of the Practice
This component of the research should begin with a detailed literature review including, but not limited to, previous studies prepared as part of the Cooperative Research Programs, including not only Airports but Transit and Highways as well. Evaluate existing models and analytical approaches currently in use, and address both traditional components of a BCA as well as social and environmental consequences of climate-related risk and uncertainty.
2. Prepare Draft Handbook
This component should include a preliminary draft of the handbook. It should provide guidance for different types and sizes of projects and for a range of airport sizes. The handbook should consider the treatment of dedicated resilience projects (e.g., those planned specifically to enhance resilience) vs. standard capital or operating projects into which risk management measures are incorporated. Climate resiliency strategies included should consider potential chronic and acute impacts to airport infrastructure.
3. Project Application—Proof of Concept
An approach to “proof of concept” is an important element of this research. It should include a process to demonstrate the practical nature of the handbook. Proof of concept should incorporate partnering with multiple airports of varying sizes to review and test application of procedures developed. As part of the proof-of-concept approach, the research plan should build at least two BCA concepts entailing varying levels of effort and expertise for applications of differing scales (e.g., smaller vs. larger investments or more or less robust climate projection information).
4. Finalize Handbook and additional Final Products
STATUS: The final report has now been completed and includes the following: A Handbook for Airports, a set of MS Excel models to support the decision-making process, a video tutorial, a report summary, and an executive briefing. All components are available through the following link: https://www.trb.org/main/blurbs/179275.aspx