Transportation network resiliency is one of the most important aspects of determining the range of economic impacts that result from disruptions caused by natural and man-made disasters. For many public sector agencies, supporting the economic vitality of their region is part of their mission, and that mission includes ensuring that supply chains on which key industries rely can be sustained through and after a major disruptive event.
Examples of how supply chains have been disrupted to the detriment of industries and regions abound at the global, national, regional, and local levels, as do examples of where response and planning have helped mitigate the impacts. For example, the 2001 Howard Street Tunnel fire in Baltimore, Maryland, disrupted rail freight service along the East Coast; however, with the assistance of another freight railroad, time sensitive rail freight was able to continue to move. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 disrupted supply chains when cargo originally destined to the Port of New York and New Jersey was diverted to Norfolk where transportation organizations then needed to quickly devise alternative modes and routes for shipments. The 2017 I-85 bridge fire in Atlanta and 2007 I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis disrupted local and regional roadway networks requiring significant re-routing of trucks and cargo shipments. What emerges from these and other examples is that the rate at which a network (i.e., infrastructure) can bounce back directly affects the level of economic impacts. If a commercial highway corridor or rail line that is disrupted can be restored or affected traffic diverted in a short period of time because of advanced planning and/or system redundancy, the economic impacts are likely to be less than what might be experienced as the result of disrupted link or links that cause weeks of delay. Some of these delays can be significantly longer as has been experienced as a result of the recent fires in California, and in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricane Maria.
The problem is exacerbated when public sector infrastructure managers are unaware of the supply chain requirements of their users and the impact their resilience-related decisions have on complex supply chains. At the same time, supply chain managers may have limited opportunity to influence public infrastructure reliability and investment decisions affecting resilience. The economic implications of this disconnect can be profound – research has found that 30 percent of all companies that experience a catastrophic loss fail within the first two years after the disruptive event, with another 29 percent failing after that time. When businesses and industries fail or falter, the communities that they serve and the workers that they employ can experience serious and long-term impacts.
The objective of this research is to develop a toolkit and supporting guidance to improve the resiliency (as defined by the National Academies) of the multi-modal freight transportation network at various geographical levels. This tool kit should incorporate strategies and applications to minimize and mitigate the impacts of disruptive events. It should support the development of transportation network policies and programs that enhance infrastructure, operations, resource management, institutional collaboration, and investment decision-making. Specific tools and techniques could include, but not be limited to, scenario planning, economic forecasting, institutional options, and analytical models.
Status: The research team initiated Phase II under new leadership. The project final report is undergoing editing and publication is anticipated in mid-to-late 2023.