175 Case Studies Show How Communities Are Preparing Our Roads, Airports, and Transit Systems for Climate Change

February 18, 2015

One hundred and seventy-five case studies by the Georgetown Climate Center demonstrate how leaders are responding to the growing threats that climate change impacts pose to America’s roads, airports, transit systems, and infrastructure.

The case studies highlight some of the most innovative approaches being adopted around the country for considering climate change at all stages of decision-making: planning, design, construction, and operations and maintenance.

Every year, taxpayers pay hundreds of billions of dollars for transportation and related infrastructure—infrastructure that is becoming increasingly vulnerable to flooding and damage from extreme heat as a result of climate change.

Case Studies of Transportation Resilience

“Putting more time and forethought into our transportation planning to prepare for climate change would save taxpayer dollars by avoiding the need to repeatedly rebuild the same infrastructure after extreme weather events,” said Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. “These case studies highlight some of the most innovative activities that are happening in the transportation sector to prepare for changes we are already experiencing, including more extreme weather and rising seas.”

The case studies can help transportation officials develop best practices for preparing transportation infrastructure for climate change and help ensure the long-term sustainability of our transportation system.  The examples are also in line with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s recommendations for building a more resilient transportation system, as outlined in the new “Beyond Traffic” report that was released earlier this month by Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Below are a few examples of some of the activities underway across the country:

  • New Jersey and the US Department of Energy are designing an electrical microgrid that will help supply reliable power to the NJ Transit system’s facilities and rail lines, including critical evacuation routes, in the face of future extreme weather events.
  • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey renovated a runway at JFK Airport using light concrete pavement instead of asphalt, which will help mitigate the urban heat island effect and significantly increase the life expectancy of the runway. The renovations also included a stormwater trench that will reduce the risk of overloading the airport’s storm sewer system during storm events.
  • The Alaska Department of Transportation has reconstructed some portions of roadway in the northern regions of the state using insulation, which may help prevent thawing of underlying permafrost (and resulting roadway instability) under future scenarios with higher temperatures.
  • The Chicago Department of Transportation is using permeable pavements and other green infrastructure elements in its Pilsen Sustainable Streets project to help reduce the urban heat island effect, manage stormwater runoff, and reduce flooding under current and future increases in temperature and precipitation.

Under cooperative agreement number DTFH61-13-H-00004 with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)the Georgetown Climate Center prepared this series of Adaptation Clearinghouse entries that contain adaptation case studies in the transportation sector. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations found in the resources on these pages are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of FHWA or the U.S. Department of Transportation.


Welcome to Georgetown Climate Center's updated website!

Thanks for your patience as we settle into our new look. Read the full announcement here. Questions? Email us at climate@georgetown.edu.