Transportation plans to require consideration of climate change

March 2, 2015

On February 20, 2015,  the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM)  that would establish a process for state departments of transportation (state DOTs) to include consideration of climate change and extreme weather-related risks in the development of asset management plans, which are required under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). 

MAP-21 amended the Federal-Aid Highway Program to encourage more efficient expenditure of federal transportation dollars with “performance-based” asset management requirements. Section 1106 of MAP-21, called on state DOTs to develop risk-based asset management plans that lay out a strategy by which the state can meet asset condition and performance targets.  Asset management plans are designed to help state DOTs identify the best investment options for managing assets in light of critical risks, to achieve and sustain a state of good repair over the lifecycle of the asset.

FHWA’s notice of proposed rulemaking lays out the requirements by which states must implement MAP-21’s mandate for risk-based asset management. Under the proposed rule, state DOTs would be required to establish a management plan that identifies risks to assets and the highway system, including those associated with current and future conditions such as extreme weather events and climate change.  The risk analysis would need to account for roads and bridges that have required repeated repair or reconstruction as a result of emergencies.  State DOTs would be required to identify high priority assets and develop a plan to address and monitor risks to those assets. The proposed rule is designed to ensure that state transportation asset management plans are truly risk-based, as required by MAP-21, by ensuring that states have the information required to minimize impacts and increase asset and system resiliency.

The rule also proposes to require state DOTs to establish a process for conducting life-cycle cost analysis for classes of assets that considers information on current and future conditions including extreme weather events and climate change. State DOTs would then be required to consider life-cycle cost and risk analyses in developing investment strategies to manage state transportation assets. States would have to document these and other required processes within their asset management plan, which must be certified by FHWA. These plans must address physical assets (highway pavements and bridges) that are part of the National Highway System, although FHWA encourages states to include other public roads in their plans as well.

The proposed rule was issued on February 20, 2015, and is open for comment until April 21, 2015. State DOTs must submit their state-approved asset management plans to FHWA for certification within one year of the effective date of the final rule, unless they opt for a phase-in option provided for in the proposed rule.