The design and management of transport infrastructure are highly dependent on environmental impacts and factors. Climate change is causing variations in weather patterns making it more extreme. This will affect the life-cycle performance and maintenance of infrastructure elements like culverts, earthworks, pavements, and other structures, according to the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) circular report.
New studies on infrastructure adaptation in the transport sector show a strong focus on risk. Most of the transportation and infrastructure sector’s approach to climate change impact and adaptation is based on risk management, an approach also endorsed by the adaption community, the report says.
The sector is already familiar and has been using a risk-based approach in the past. The report cites the AASHTO Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) Bridge Design Specifications that “incorporates risk into the calculations of bridge design parameters and “design storm” or the “100-year flood” which uses risk-based parameters as an example.
The report also states that “many transportation agencies and organizations around the globe have leveraged their familiarity with risk-based practices to develop risk-management frameworks that address climate change adaptation planning”.
The purpose of this TRB circular, Risk-based Adaptation Frameworks for Climate Change Planning in the Transportation Sector, A Synthesis of practice, is to “synthesize the current state of adaptation planning and evaluation in the transportation sector, with a focus on risk-based frameworks.”
The report identifies several risk-based climate adaptation frameworks from around the world in two categories.
The first group contains the adaptation frameworks that address general infrastructure system of which transportation is one component.
Some examples of adaptation frameworks mentioned in the circular include three from Australia: its climate change risk to its coasts; climate risks for its coastal buildings and infrastructures; and infrastructure and climate change risk assessment for Victoria. Climate adaptation frameworks from other countries are mentioned as well, such as Canada, Scotland and the United States.
The second category contains risk-based adaptation frameworks that specifically address transportation infrastructure and management activities.
Two adaptation frameworks from New Zealand Transport Agency: climate change effects on the Land Transport network volumes 1 and 2, and one from Transit New Zealand adaptation: climate change uncertainty and the state highway network: A moving target, are cited in the circular as examples under this category.
The report concludes that although several limitations exist among the organisation and agencies’ frameworks, the report revealed that the transportation agency had developed a consistent approach to climate adaptation planning using widely accepted risk standards as a guide.
Adaptation frameworks and strategies from these organisations will allow for information sharing among agencies. They will help support those who are new to adaptation planning while helping those agencies with mature frameworks to refine their practices, the report says.
The circular and the information contained will be useful for individual practitioners in state and local transportation agencies, researchers in academic institutions, and other members of the transportation research community.
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