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Adaptation of Transportation Infrastructure to Climate Change Impacts

The projected effects of climate change could have significant implications for the nation’s transportation system. Rising sea levels, increasingly extreme temperatures, changes in the frequency and intensity of storm events, and accelerating patterns of erosion could damage infrastructure, flood roadways, and disrupt safe and efficient travel. Certain effects, such as sea level rise and increases in storm intensity, present obvious challenges. However, subtle changes, such as those expected in temperature, will likely necessitate a shift in the design, construction, and maintenance of infrastructure toward incorporation of materials and building techniques that can withstand temperature extremes.

Some climate change effects may positively impact transportation, as higher average temperatures in certain regions could reduce safety and maintenance concerns associated with snow and ice accumulation. Although mitigating the effects of climate change through reductions in greenhouse gases is an important element of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) climate change strategy, FHWA places equal importance on acknowledging that certain changes may require appropriate adaptation strategies. Recognizing the need for adaptive transportation systems, FHWA has developed several programs and initiatives that can provide transportation agencies with the data and tools needed to adapt infrastructure to ever-increasing climate change threats.


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