The National Academies

NCHRP 20-125 [Active]

Strategies for Incorporating Resilience into Transportation Networks

  Project Data
Funds: $600,000
Staff Responsibility: Lawrence D. Goldstein
Research Agency: Metro Analytics, LLC
Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Harris
Effective Date: 12/20/2019
Completion Date: 3/29/2022



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. 


Proposers are asked to present a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objective.  Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time, including an indication of how proposed research will make use of and build on current requirements and practices.  Proposals must demonstrate in sufficient detail an understanding of the issues and a sound approach to meeting the research objective, including prioritizing critical issues.  It should also include a review of other related studies in general and NCHRP research studies in particular. 

The research team should give special attention to the recently completed NCFRP 50 study: Improving Freight Transportation Resilience in Response to Supply Chain Disruptions, and the earlier NCHRP Report 732: Methodologies to Estimate the Economic Impacts of Disruptions to the Goods Movement System.  These studies were designed to help agencies improve freight transportation system resilience by developing guidance on identifying and mitigating disruptive events, describing the broader fundamental analytical tools that currently exist.  Building on that fundamental guidance, NCHRP Project 20-125 should develop a framework and the appropriate tools and analytical techniques for testing and implementing comprehensive strategies to identify and mitigate the potential effects of disruptive events on the freight transportation network in the context of available resources.  It should apply to broad geographic areas over an extended period of time, and it should incorporate a comprehensive, strategic approach to risk and uncertainty analysis coupled with an understanding of the effects, both qualitatively and quantitatively, that resilience program alternatives can have on regional and local economies.  Transportation networks are the circulatory system of the broader development economy, and disruptions can have both short- and long-term effects on future growth and development.  Every effort should be made to minimize those impacts through effective strategic planning and implementation.

The research plan should delineate the tasks required to develop the tool kit and supporting guidance comprising a program to improve the resiliency of the multi-modal freight transportation network.  The plan should encompass a broad range of measures to enhance the resilience of the transportation network to address supply chain requirements for key industries and minimize impacts to economic performance at different geographic levels, near- and long-term: 

1.      Define the components necessary to understand effects of disruption of supply chains—a full spectrum of disruptive event types, including cyber security and other information technology disruptions, should be considered;

2.      Identify and consider:

a.       Necessary steps to minimize and mitigate disruptions;

b.      Challenges and opportunities for implementing mitigation steps, including, e.g., costs to implement and knowing when not to implement;

c.       Existing practices, strategies, and applications, including what has worked and has not; and

d.      Factors affecting acquisition and updating relevant data.

3.      Describe how organizations and institutions at various levels would apply existing or develop new strategies and applications to strengthen resilience of necessary transportation infrastructure (a variety of modes, industries, and commodities should be considered); and

4.      Develop a stakeholder outreach plan, including an identification of appropriate entities, to help define relevant issues, procedures, strategies, and techniques.

The research plan for building the tool kit and the guidance should be presented as a two-phase effort and should describe specific detailed tasks for each phase, including interim and final deliverables. 

Phase I

Phase I should delineate steps required to build the tool kit, formulate the supporting guidance, and identify the components.  Work in this phase should also propose an approach to validate the tool kit in Phase II. 

Products of Phase I should include an interim report presenting a detailed framework for improving or building a multi-modal freight transportation network resilience program, delineating initial steps to develop the tool kit and supporting guidance:

1.      A review of known and anticipated issues and practices, including public and private sector risk management and business continuity analyses;

2.      Surveys and/or case studies to illustrate current understanding of the issues as well as strategies and approaches to strengthening transportation network resiliency;

3.      Prototype(s) for proposed components of the tool kit; and

4.      An annotated outline of a proposed guidance for agencies responsible for implementing transportation network resilience. 

The interim report will also include the detailed scope of work for compilation of the tool kit and the supporting guidance in Phase II.  The NCHRP panel will meet with the research team at the end of Phase I to review the interim report, prior to moving on to Phase II.  NCHRP approval of the interim report is required before proceeding with Phase II. 

Phase II

Work in Phase II will complete development of the various components of the tool kit and supporting guidance, and demonstrate its usefulness and applicability through a workshop or other means to engage practitioners.  This validation process will also help refine and improve the tool kit and supporting guidance. 

Products of Phase II should include:

1.      The supporting guidance, any proposed tools and analytical model(s), and other innovative resources to develop effective multi-modal freight transportation network resilience programs;

2.      A discussion of strategic approaches to and risks associated with multi-model freight transportation network resilience in the context of disruptions affecting supply chains;

3.      A detailed plan on how to translate the components of the tool kit into a broader multi-model freight transportation resilience management program; and

4.      Recommendations for disseminating the research results, including presentation materials to enhance decision-making.

The research plan should build in appropriate checkpoints with the NCHRP project panel including, at a minimum, (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the contract’s execution date; (2) the face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting to be held at the end of Phase I; and (3) at least two additional web-enabled teleconferences tied to NCHRP review and approval of any other interim deliverables as deemed appropriate.

Note: The cost of teleconferences, in-person meeting venue, and NCHRP panel member travel will be paid by NCHRP.

Final Deliverables

Final deliverables will include at a minimum:

1. A tool kit, including proposed analytical model(s), and implementation guidance for identifying, minimizing, and mitigating impacts of disruptions, in support of a multi-modal freight network transportation resilience program;

2. Final report that documents the entire research effort, including examples, assumptions, and description of results of the program validation applications;

3. Recommendations for additional analytical methods and tools;

4. Stand-alone executive summary that outlines the research findings and recommendations;

5. A presentation aimed at local, regional, and state departments of transportation (DOT) staff and senior management that simply and concisely explains why the tool kit and supporting guidance are helpful and how they will be used; and

6. An executive-level brochure/infographic highlighting findings of the research to facilitate dissemination to a broad audience, including economic development agencies.  

Note: Any models developed as part of the research program will be open source using readily available software. 

Final deliverables will also include a stand-alone technical memorandum entitled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.”  See Special Note B.


A. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the brochure, "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals"  (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf). Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.

B. The NCHRP is a practical, applied research program that produces implementable products addressing problems faced by transportation practitioners and managers. The benefits of NCHRP research are realized only when the results are implemented in state DOTs and other agencies. Implementation of the research product must be considered throughout the process, from problem statement development to research contract and beyond completion of the research. Item 4(c), "Anticipated Research Results," must include the following: (a) the "product" expected from the research, (b) the audience or "market" for this product, (c) a realistic assessment of impediments to successful implementation, and (d) the institutions and individuals who might take leadership in deploying the research product. The project panel will develop and maintain an implementation plan throughout the life of the project. The research team will be expected to provide input to an implementation team consisting of panel members, AASHTO committee members, the NCHRP Implementation Coordinator, and others in order to meet the goals of NCHRP Active Implementation: Moving Research into Practice, available at


C. Item 5 in the proposal, "Qualifications of the Research Team," must include a section labeled "Disclosure." Information relevant to the NCHRP's need to ensure objectivity and to be aware of possible sources of significant financial or organizational conflict of interest in conducting the research must be presented in this section of the proposal. For example, under certain conditions, ownership of the proposing agency, other organizational relationships, or proprietary rights and interests could be perceived as jeopardizing an objective approach to the research effort, and proposers are asked to disclose any such circumstances and to explain how they will be accounted for in this study. If there are no issues related to objectivity, this should be stated.

D. Proposals are evaluated by the NCHRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively very knowledgeable in the problem area. Selection of an agency is made by the project panel considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) diversity and inclusion of the proposer's approach, including participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (small firms owned and controlled by minorities or women); and (6) the adequacy of the facilities. 

Note: The proposer's approach to diversity and inclusion as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 12 of the proposal. 

E. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors

Status: This study is now underway.




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