Emergency Management & Security Summit Set for November

Business integration firm Critical Ops will be hosting a Transportation Emergency Management and Security Summit & Exchange November 15-16 in Washington D.C. to share insights, best practices, and lessons learned in the field regarding how to improve the resiliency of mobility networks, covering everything from natural disasters to cyberattacks.

[Above image via TRB]

Critical Ops is hosting this summit on behalf of the Transportation Research Board’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) to provide a platform for thought leaders, policymakers, and practitioners to collectively shape the future of transportation security.

Chelsea Treboniak, president of Critical Ops, said in a statement that the event will feature a diverse array of presentations, roundtable discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities designed to facilitate collaboration and foster an environment of knowledge-sharing.

“We are excited to host this summit & exchange,” Treboniak added. “In today’s rapidly changing world, it is essential that we come together to share our knowledge and experiences. This summit is a unique opportunity for transportation leaders to stay ahead of the curve and strengthen the resilience of our vital networks.”

More information about this summit is available by clicking here.

Video: How State DOTs Address Risk and Resilience

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently issued a video report on a “risk and resilience” knowledge session held during its 2022 Annual Meeting in Orlando.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

That knowledge session – sponsored by the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA) – examined how state departments of transportation address risk and resilience through their asset management plans.

Josh Beakley, ACPA vice president of engineering, moderated a panel of state DOT executives who shared their risk and resilience strategies as part of the knowledge session.

Those panelists included: Jennifer Carver, statewide community planning coordinator for Florida DOT; Pam Cotter, acting administrator of planning for Rhode Island DOT; Sandy Hertz, director of the Office of Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation at Maryland DOT; and Nathan Lee, director of technology and innovation at Utah DOT.

Risk and resilience are two issues the state DOT community regularly addresses as part of their strategic planning initiatives and are part of the key emphasis areas of AASHTO President Roger Millar, who is also the secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation.

Making the nation’s transportation system more resilient has been a major focus for Millar for much of his career.

He explained during a recent roundtable discussion at the 2023 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting that “resiliency” involves more than just toughening up infrastructure to withstand severe weather events and natural disasters.

“Resilience is a broad part of what we do in my world,” Millar said. “Many think of resilience in the context of climate change and natural disaster response, but to me, it is also about the need to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions such as shifting demographics, an aging population that will drive fewer cars, and economic changes such as moving from extraction industries like forestry and mining to technology and software companies.”

ETAP Podcast: NYSDOT Details Transportation Resilience Efforts

Marie Therese Dominguez (above), commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, recently joined the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast to discuss how her agency is working to build a more resilient transportation system.

[Above photo by the New York Governor’s Office]

Dominguez talked about how her agency tries to strengthen her state’s transportation system to better withstand severe weather events such floods, droughts, hurricanes, and in New York State’s case, winter storms.

Recently, the U.S. experienced a wave of winter storms that struck many regions of the country extremely hard – including upstate New York in and around the city of Buffalo. Dominguez shared with the ETAP Podcast how NYSDOT worked to help the region respond and recover from that storm, as well as the takeaways from the experience so the agency can apply what it has learned from its storm response to make the transportation network more resilient in the future.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

State DOTs Participate in Resiliency Roundtable

Five state transportation agency executives shared their thoughts on how to make the nation’s mobility networks more resilient to a variety of challenges during a roundtable discussion at the 2023 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

Roger Millar – secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation – moderated the roundtable. He has also made improving resiliency a key emphasis area for his one-year term as the 2022-2023 president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

That session – entitled “Developing a Resilient Transportation System for a Rapidly Changing World” – featured four other state agency executives: Toks Omishakin, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency or CalSTA; Patrick McKenna, director of Missouri Department of Transportation; Marc Williams, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation; and New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.

“Resilience is a broad part of what we do in my world,” Millar said. “Many think of resilience in the context of climate change and natural disaster response, but to me, it is also about the need to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions such as shifting demographics, an aging population that will drive fewer cars, and economic changes such as moving from extraction industries like forestry and mining to technology and software companies.”

He said resilience also encompasses the need for transportation systems to become “smarter” as well. “Now we are moving to be stewards of our multimodal transportation system rather than builders,” Millar added. “There is no way that we can grow our highway system to keep up with increasing congestion and [travel and freight] demand – there is no way we can build our way out of this. So we need to think about our transportation infrastructure in smarter ways – ways to get more out of what we have. When we need to add capacity, we need to be strategic about it and multimodal about it.”

Yet when it comes to “smart,” that can mean many things, noted Gutierrez-Scaccetti.

“Being ‘smart,’ for example, is using glass-infused foam concrete for key bridge deck replacements,” she said. “That helps improve bridge decks while diverting glass from our landfills. It’s an example of doing all we can to use natural and recycled materials in our work to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Gutierrez-Scaccetti also emphasized that state DOTs today are taking a much more multimodal view of the transportation world versus the past – developing a broader range of transportation options for people and goods; options that give the overall system more resiliency.

“Transportation is a means to an end, so when we build today, we need to be more holistic about the process,” she explained. “When we build light rail, we look at it as a way to improve access while relieving congestion on our roads. We have to think differently to be successful.”

“Resilience is a huge topic state DOTs deal with every day,” echoed Williams. “If our system is unable to function during severe weather and other catastrophic events, then we’ve failed. Energy, emergency services, and food products desperately need an efficient and reliable transportation system, especially as we deal with more extremes in weather.”

From that perspective, planning for disaster is becoming an even more critical discipline for state DOTs. “One of the things we talk about is that the time to figure out what to do in a disaster is not when a crisis happens,” he said. “We must plan ahead in terms of coordination with other state agencies and local governments – and we must do it every year, as we always have new people coming into our organizations.”

That’s why McKenna emphasized that finding the next generation of transportation workers, while improving support for current employees, is absolutely critical from a resiliency perspective.

“It is very important to develop the next generation of transportation workers, whether they go into the public or private sector,” he stressed. “This is the generational challenge. It is so easy to look [at] how to fund capital improvements, but it can oftentimes be very difficult to find the right support for the people doing that work. If we do not support them, we will not have the resiliency we need.”

McKenna added that the total state DOT workforce nationwide consists of only about 200,000 employees who help run the vast multimodal expanse of the U.S. transportation system. “We have to be able to make an investment in the people that do this critical work,” he pointed out. “We must never forget they are the ones that are going to drive us forward.”

State transportation agencies must also never forget that safety must remain their number one priority as they work to make mobility systems more resilient, emphasized Omishakin.

“Everyone on this panel is very concerned about safety; just two states up here [California and Texas] represent 20 percent of all roadway fatalities in America,” he said. “In California, we are up to 12 people a day killed on the transportation system, and statewide 30 percent of those fatalities are vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists.”

That’s why Omishakin stressed that safety must become more than “talking points” in the transportation community – they must become “living points.” “Every single thing we do we must do through the lens of safety,” he said. “We all need to take responsibility and design roads that are safe for people inside and outside of vehicles.”

Delaware DOT Illustrates Resiliency Strategies at Hearing

During a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on September 21, Nicole Majeski – secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation – detailed her agency’s efforts to incorporate resiliency into infrastructure projects statewide.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

That hearing elicited testimony from states and localities regarding ongoing implementation efforts related to the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, enacted in November 2021.

“Having this bill [the IIJA] finalized gives state DOTs and our contractor community certainty that we will continue to make needed infrastructure investments in the years ahead,” Majeski noted in her testimony. “The $1.6 billion in federal funding that Delaware is receiving through [the IIJA], along with our committed state resources, will allow us to deliver our largest capital program ever of $4.45 billion over the next five years.”

She explained that federal funding would be particularly critical to helping her agency deal with the effects of climate change.

“As the lowest-lying state in the nation, Delaware is seeing firsthand the effects that climate change and sea-level rise are having on our state,” Majeski noted. “We are increasingly seeing roads in our coastal areas overtopped with water not just during significant storms but with tidal flooding on sunny days. We estimate that we have $1 billion worth of infrastructure vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

Secretary Majewski – Senate EPW video still

To cope with such issues, Majeski said Delaware Governor John Carney (D) spearheaded the development of a Climate Action Plan in November 2021; a plan that led to the creation of a resiliency and sustainability division within Delaware DOT to centralize the agency’s efforts to improve the resiliency and sustainability of its transportation network.

“This division is focusing on the impacts climate change and sea-level rise are having on our transportation infrastructure; incorporating resiliency and sustainability measures in the construction and maintenance of our projects; implementing the electrification of our infrastructure and fleet; incorporating the use of alternative energy; and minimizing the environmental impacts caused by our transportation system,” Majeski noted.

“It will guide our work to develop solutions for these impacted areas and lead initiatives such as the broader electrification of our infrastructure to support and encourage the use of electric vehicles in Delaware,” she added. “Newly created formula funding through [the IIJA] will allow us to move forward with these critical projects.”

For example, in March, Delaware DOT initiated a plan to make the state’s road systems more resilient to climate change by tapping into the additional $160 million over five years the IIJA will provide to Delaware’s main highway programs.

The agency also received a $6.5 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity or RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in August to begin designing an ambitious plan in the Route 9 area near New Castle. That project would reduce the number of through lanes on Route 9, with that “saved” lane space used to improve pedestrian and bicycle, and bus facilities as well as extra green space.

Video: Hawaii DOT Talks Transportation Resiliency

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently released a video highlighting how the Hawaii Department of Transportation incorporates resiliency into its infrastructure strategy.

[Above image via AASHTO]

AASHTO’s Transportation TV interviewed Edwin Sniffen, Hawaii DOT deputy director for highways, as part of its “2 Minute State DOT Update” video news series that illustrates how state departments of transportation build, maintain, and improve America’s multimodal transportation network.

During the interview, Sniffen explained what making a transportation system “more resilient” means and how Hawaii DOT incorporates that philosophy into its infrastructure planning, construction, and delivery processes.

Sniffen is a recognized state DOT leader on the topic of resilience. For example, he participated in a knowledge session on infrastructure resilience hosted during AASHTO’s 2022 Spring Meeting in New Orleans.

Moderated by David Sweeney, president and CEO of engineering and architectural firm RS&H, the panel explored how “resilience” is becoming a critical factor in extending the overall lifecycle of infrastructure assets while also hardening them against potential damage from both natural and man-made disasters.

That knowledge session also included Marc Williams, executive director of the Texas DOT; Will Watts, assistant secretary for engineering and operations at Florida DOT; and Aimee Flannery, a surface transportation analyst from the Office of the USDOT Secretary.

NYSDOT Begins Roadway Flood Control Project

The New York State Department of Transportation recently began construction on a flood resiliency project in Oswego County; part of the state’s Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative or REDI.

[Above photo via the NYSDOT]

The project, which includes improvements to sections of County Route 89 in the Town of Oswego, received nearly $1.3 million in funding to improve the drainage and enhance public safety by providing a safer roadway that does not require closure due to flooding.

The agency noted that, during the “historic” flooding that occurred in 2019, sections of County Route 89 roadway flooded – cutting off residents from their homes and forcing emergency vehicles to reroute.

As a result, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) created the REDI program in the spring of 2019 to combat an “extended pattern of flooding” along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Five REDI Regional Planning Committees comprised of representatives from eight counties – Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga, Oswego, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence – work to identify “at-risk” infrastructure and public safety concerns.

The County Route 89 project’s flood mitigation measures also include:

  • Replacing the existing culvert with a larger culvert to increase drainage;
  • Reconstruction and elevation of flood-prone sections of the roadway;
  • Minor profile adjustments to the roadway; and
  • Installation of new guiderail, signs, and pavement markings.

“By enhancing the resilience of our transportation network with strategic investments like this, we help keep people and goods on the move, despite the impacts of severe weather,” noted NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez in a statement.

Other state departments of transportation are also involved in a range of flood-mitigation efforts.

For example, in May, the North Carolina Department of Transportation activated a new flood-warning system that relies on a network of 400 river and stream gauges to help analyze, map, and communicate in real-time any flood risks to roads, bridges, and culverts.

FHWA Issues PROTECT Formula Program Guidance

The Federal Highway Administration issued guidance on July 29 for a new $7.3 billion in formula funding created by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA enacted in November 2021 to help states and local communities better prepare for and respond to extreme weather events such as wildfires and flooding.

[Above photo by the KYTC]

The Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation or “PROTECT” program provides funding over five years to help states focus on resilience planning, making resilience improvements to existing transportation assets and evacuation routes, and addressing at-risk highway infrastructure. 

In general, eligible projects include highway and transit projects, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and port facilities including those that help improve evacuations or disaster relief. States are encouraged to work with regional and local partner organizations to prioritize transportation and emergency response improvements, as well as address vulnerabilities, noted Stephanie Pollack, deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration.

“We see the effects of climate change and extreme weather play out across the country every week, with extreme temperatures and rainfall and resulting flooding and wildfires that damage and in some cases destroy roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure,” she said in a statement. “The PROTECT Formula Program will help make transportation infrastructure more resilient to current and future weather events and at the same time make communities safer during these events.”

FHWA said eligible resilience improvements could involve adapting existing transportation infrastructure or new construction to keep communities safe by bolstering infrastructure’s ability to withstand extreme weather events and other physical hazards that are becoming more common and intense. Eligible project choices may include the use of natural or green infrastructure that acts as a “buffer” against future storm surges and provide flood protection, as well as aquatic ecosystem restoration.

PROTECT projects can also help improve the resilience of transportation networks that serve traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly during natural disasters and evacuations, the agency noted.
FHWA added that its new guidance applies to the PROTECT formula program only, with the agency planning to release a notice of funding opportunity for the program’s discretionary grant initiative later this year.

State departments of transportation consider formula funding to be a critical aspect of national efforts to improve infrastructure resiliency.

Edwin Sniffen, deputy director of highways for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, highlighted that viewpoint in a Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing in May 2021.

Sniffen – who also serves as chair of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Committee on Transportation System Security and Resilience – said that traditional formula funding processes play a key role in helping states implement resiliency plans.

“When considering funding for resilience, the current core formula program eligibility could be expanded to consider resilience improvements,” he said. “Or formula funding could be set aside to focus on resilience-related planning, coordination, and evacuation; or, a discretionary grant program for adaptation strategies could be established.”

Sniffen added that additional funding and an expedited project delivery process would “greatly aid” getting more resilience initiatives out of the theoretical stages and into practice on the nation’s streets, bridges, runways, and harbors.

“The Hawaii DOT is currently approaching building resilience into our systems using a variety of approaches, including pursuing green infrastructure such as carbon mineralized concrete and adding recycled plastics to asphalt mixes,” he noted. “Investing in resilient infrastructure on a federal level will enable us and other transportation agencies to implement better and greener infrastructure.”

Video: AASHTO Highlights Resilience in Knowledge Session

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently released a video providing an overview of its knowledge session on infrastructure resilience during its 2022 Spring Meeting in New Orleans.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

The “Special Report” compiled by AASHTO’s Transportation TV details how “resilience analysis” has become a cornerstone of the infrastructure decision-making process for state departments of transportation and federal transportation agencies alike.

Moderated by David Sweeney, president and CEO of engineering and architectural firm RS&H, the panel explored how “resilience” is becoming a critical factor in extending the overall lifecycle of infrastructure assets while also hardening them against potential damage from both natural and man-made disasters.

The knowledge session included Marc Williams, executive director of the Texas DOT; Ed Sniffen, deputy director for highways at the Hawaii DOT; Will Watts, assistant secretary for engineering and operations at Florida DOT; and Aimee Flannery, a surface transportation analyst from the Office of the USDOT Secretary.

Announcing Center for Environmental Excellence Resilience Webinars

The Center for Environmental Excellence in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration invites you to join in parts two and three of a three-part webinar series on Resilience. The webinars will include speakers from various state DOTs as well as FHWA and AASHTO. Find further description and registration, as well as recording and meeting materials from the first session below:

Reducing the effects of climate change on transportation infrastructure using natural and nature-based solutions (5/9/22)

Recording and meeting materials: https://environment.transportation.org/past-event/resilience-webinar-series-reducing-the-effects-of-climate-change-on-transportation-infrastructure-using-natural-and-nature-based-solutions/

Integration of climate change projections in hydrologic and hydraulic design in transportation projects (5/31/22)

Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Fv4Y68VwTHa9MBe1-lI-gQ

Future climate conditions, including increased precipitation and sea-level rise, are anticipated to impact the structural performance, and therefore, the functionality of our transportation facilities. As such, the integration of climate considerations into the design of transportation facilities is an important step in ensuring that target levels of facility performance are met as climate conditions change. This integration, however, is not yet a standard practice included in hydrologic and hydraulic design. Engineers can benefit from being provided with methods and tools that facilitate the integration of climate considerations, especially of scientific advances that have proven to be effective in engineering decision-making. This webinar will feature selected methods and tools used by transportation agencies in the United States and overseas to account for climate data in the hydrologic and hydraulic design of transportation facilities.

Integrating Natural Hazard Resilience into the Transportation Planning Process (7/6/22) also from 1-2:30 EST

Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_lpclw6-jTOqLHhRhSLBB6w

Climate change and other natural hazards may threaten lives, property, and other assets. Often, natural hazards can be predicted. They tend to occur repeatedly in the same geographical locations because they are related to the weather patterns and physical characteristics of an area. At whatever stage a planning agency is in its planning cycle, there are resilience-related actions that can be taken in order to begin appropriately integrating natural hazard considerations into the transportation planning process. Currently, there has been a resurgence of interest in resilience-based planning activities due to the frequency of natural disasters, the global movement to fight climate change, and even due to the emphasis on planning for resilience in the recent federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This webinar will provide an overview and integrate key examples showing how transportation planning agencies can most appropriately and effectively integrate resilience into the transportation planning process.