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Planning and Environmental Linkages: Climate Change and Transportation

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With heat waves, floods, and wildfires in the news during summer 2022, the environmental impacts of extreme weather events on communities has continued to be a concern for rural, small metro, and larger urban regions. These incidents are likely to continue and might become more frequent over time, as climate change continues to occur, and they will continue to have impacts on the transportation networks within communities.

Planning and Environmental Linkages

Using Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL), transportation agencies might have opportunities to consider potential impacts of climate change on transportation facilities and services in the planning process.

PEL is an integrated approach to transportation planning that, according to the Federal Highway Administration, “1) considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the transportation planning process, and 2) uses the information, analysis, and products developed during planning to inform the environmental review process.”

This flexible approach can result in enhanced relationships among partners, improved project delivery, and opportunities to design programs and projects that can serve community needs more effectively. Transportation agencies and planning organizations operating at the local, regional, state, Tribal, and federal levels can use PEL. This can include regional organizations (such as regional development organizations, RDOs, or regional transportation planning organizations, RTPOs) and their partners, who may benefit from information on transportation and climate change adaptation in rural places and smaller communities.

More information

FHWA offers access to several tools that could help in the transportation planning process, at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/sustainability/resilience/tools/. These tools include:

  • CMIP Climate Data Processing Tool Version 2.1: Spreadsheet tool that processes downscaled climate projections from the World Climate Research Programme’s Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). This tool was most recently released in 2020 with updated data.
  • Sensitivity Matrix: A spreadsheet tool released in 2015 that documents the sensitivity of a range of transportation modal facilities to climate impacts.
  • Guide to Assessing Criticality in Transportation Adaptation Planning: Released in 2015, the guide helps with defining what is critical, applying criteria, and ranking transportation assets.
  • Vulnerability Assessment Scoring Tool: Also released in 2015, this spreadsheet tool is intended for agencies assessing how parts of their transportation system may be vulnerable to climate stressors.

Other resources and information about climate adaptation are available from FHWA at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/sustainability/resilience/.

Find more information from FHWA on PEL at https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/env_initiatives/PEL.aspx.

Additional Resources

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