The National Academies

NCHRP 23-33 [Pending]

Managed Retreat To Address Extreme Weather, Natural Hazards, and Climate Impacts

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Contract Time: 36 months
Staff Responsibility: Camille Crichton-Sumners


Transportation agencies face adverse impacts from extreme weather and other climate events. Projections suggest this trend will continue. Impacts to transportation infrastructure from such events can cause immediate or longer-term changes in the way people use local infrastructure and where they choose to permanently locate or relocate. State and local governments have allowed development in high-risk areas, requiring ongoing investment from transportation agencies to repeatedly repair or maintain such assets. Such development can also exacerbate risks in neighboring areas if they displace natural protections such as wetlands or greenspace. State departments of transportation (DOTs) have financial and operational responsibility for these assets as their exposures increase.

Managed retreat—movement of assets and people away from risks—includes evaluation of alternative routes, structures, contexts, potential disinvestments, abandonment, and other considerations to more efficiently use transportation funding while preserving critical access to people, freight, and emergency services. Embedded in these decisions are social justice issues to consider and it requires a complex understanding of place attachment (person-to-place bond), the community in which the transportation system exists, the interconnectedness of the infrastructure at issue with other systems and people, and whether laws and regulations authorize a state DOT to make managed retreat decisions. Successful managed retreat approaches can decrease risk to the entire system, save resources, support communities, and protect lives. 


The research objective is to develop a managed retreat framework and guide for state DOTs to address extreme weather, natural hazards, and climate impacts that consider equity, land use, and community needs.


The research plan should (1) include a kick-off teleconference with the research team and NCHRP convened within 1 month of the contract’s execution; (2) address the manner in which the proposer intends to satisfy the project objectives; (3) be divided logically into detailed tasks that are necessary to fulfill the research objectives and include appropriate milestones and interim deliverables; and (4) incorporate opportunities for the project panel to review, comment, and approve milestone deliverables. 

At a minimum, the research plan shall include the following elements:

  • A framework and guide for state transportation agencies related to managed retreat that includes:
    • An approach to facilitate community engagement and transportation agency decision-making related to managed retreat;
    • A collection of case studies highlighting lived experiences, lessons learned, and effective practices;
    • Methods to determine and measure thresholds for consideration and implementation of managed retreat strategies;
    • Tools, resources, and novel approaches to make implementation easier; and
    • Communication tools to facilitate community conversations and engagement.
  • Engagement with state DOTs and other stakeholders in developing and reviewing the proposed framework and guide, and incorporating feedback.

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