The National Academies

NCHRP 20-101 [Completed]

Guidelines to Incorporate the Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Measures in Preparation for Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change

  Project Data
Funds: $299,210
Research Agency: Dewberry Consultants LLC
Principal Investigator: Laurel McGinley, PE
Effective Date: 9/1/2015
Completion Date: 8/31/2018

Extreme weather events and a changing climate can result in significant costs to transportation agencies, to the traveling public, and to communities. State departments of transportation (DOTs) as well as other public infrastructure agencies are increasingly challenged with difficult decisions about whether, when, and to what extent to incorporate adaptation measures into their existing and future facilities to provide more resiliencies in the event of extreme weather or in response to the evolving effects of climate change. Given the potential costs and benefits involved in enhancing the resilience of transportation systems, the decision to implement adaptation measures is dependent on a variety of factors. Improved guidance will assist transportation decisionmakers in making informed and supportable decisions regarding their implementation of adaptation measures for extreme weather events and climate change. The return on investment will be realized from making better long-term decisions based on a more holistic analysis of the costs and benefits of implementing adaptation measures. This work is especially important at a time when transportation agencies are fiscally constrained and immediate corrective measures to transportation assets following extreme weather are usually above planned budget expenditures. Research is needed to assist in an understanding of the cost/benefit payoff of adaptation measures to allow for better decisionmaking.
The objective of this research is to provide guidance that enables transportation decisionmakers to integrate analysis of the costs and benefits of adaptation measures in preparation for extreme weather events and climate change.
Phase I
(1). Prepare a technical memorandum with a synthesis of existing tools, methods, data, and models used for analyzing the costs and benefits of adaptation/resiliency measures in preparation for extreme weather events and climate change conducted by various transportation organizations. It is expected that the synthesis will at a minimum require (a) identification of the availability and usability of models and tools; (b) identification of the availability and usability of appropriate data; and (c) identification of key information requirements and needs for actionable information for informed decisions by transportation decisionmakers employing both quantitative and non-quantitative information. The synthesis should be organized in terms of currently available tools and methods; their applicability; scalability; and data elements that could be relevant to the conduct of a gap analysis in Task 2. Of particular interest are program level and project level economic analyses and their uses for (a) internal decisionmaking and (b) external communication to funding agencies and the general public. This should include specific examples showing where concerns about the impact of extreme weather were factors in decisions, in the expectation that the examples will encourage operations, program, and asset managers to consider extreme weather as a factor when they are ranking projects and justifying decisions. Examples are welcome that demonstrate how relatively simple, practical, and affordable choices (including missed or overlooked decision points, data sets, or data points including organizational knowledge) have led to cost-beneficial outcomes. (2). Conduct a gap analysis and develop a prioritized list of practitioner needs/requirements versus the capability of available tools and the extent to which these needs can be met with those tools.Prepare a technical memorandum summarizing (a) needs that are currently satisfied with the available tools, methods, and data; (b) needs that will require minor modification to the tools, methods, or data sources; and (c) needs that will require new methods, techniques, and tools to be developed. Include information on strengths and limitations of the tools, methods, and data for practitioner use. Include a preliminary estimate of the workload, effort, and time required to close the identified gaps for items (b) and (c). Highlight the overlaps, commonalities, and data gathered but not communicated to planning and/or operations domains. Place the tools in the context of the planning and programming processes so that extreme weather and climate change are considered (see for example FHWA’s Incorporating Security into the Project Planning and Development Process). Of particular interest are novel and effective ways to illustrate relevant decision points and stakeholders involved.(3). Based on Tasks 1 and 2, develop a recommended framework and architecture to organize tools, methods, and data for planning and operations practitioner use. Organize for use by operations, program, and asset managers so that decisions can be made to (a) protect operational integrity; (b) minimize asset damage; or (c) strategically disinvest/sacrifice assets.(4). Develop recommendations to close gaps identified in Task 2. Organize the recommended activities into (a) those that can be carried out in Phase II with available resources and (b) those requiring additional resources. For the latter, provide an abstract with an estimate of additional funding needed. (5). Prepare an interim report providing (a) a summary of results from Tasks 1 through 4; (b) an updated work plan for Phase II; (c) an updated implementation plan outlining innovative outreach and educational approaches to audiences such as asset managers, board members, and funding partners; and (d) a detailed outline of final products. The interim report should be accompanied by an appendix providing any raw information collected in Phase I.
Phase II
(6). Carry out the approved Phase II work plan.(7). Prepare (a) a stand-alone document providing guidance for practitioners on methods and tools, including illustrative case studies where applicable, to: (i) efficiently mine, manage, and document existing data sources; (ii) acquire and use data from new and innovative sources; and (iii) apply, and communicate the results from, a flexible and scalable framework for analyzing the costs and benefits of adaptation measures in preparation for extreme weather events and climate change conducted by various transportation organizations; (b) a final report that documents the entire research effort and includes the research team’s recommendation of research needs and priorities for additional related research; and (c) an updated PowerPoint presentation describing the research and results suitable (upon revision) for posting on the TRB website.
STATUS: Complete. The TRB National Cooperative Highway Research Program's NCHRP Research Report 938: Incorporating the Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Measures in Preparation for Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change—Guidebook  is now available. This report has additional resources, including a web-only document NCHRP Web-Only Document 271: Guidelines to Incorporate the Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Measures in Preparation for Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change, a Power Point presentation that describes the research and the results, a spreadsheet tool that provides an approximate test to see if it would be cost-effective to upgrade assets to the future conditions posed by climate change, and a spreadsheet tool that uses existing conditions without climate change only to calculate the new return period for future conditions with climate change.

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